Well It's May 1st, and that means exactly 2 years ago I was making my way up the approach trail to Springer Mountain with the crazy notion in my head that I might actually walk for 2174 continuous miles. Hiking the Appalachian Trail had been an idea that I've had in my head ever since I was a kid and I asked someone what the dotted line on the road atlas was that went through all those states. After hiking with my good friend Pat in the Smoky Mountains, I had made the decision that the time to attempt a thru-hike was near. Add on top of all that the fact that 2005-2006 were the worst two years of my life, I knew a thru-hike was probably the only way I would be able to settle my very uneasy soul. I spent a lot of time reading peoples blogs and journals and educating myself on gear and trail info. What seemed like an impossible logistical task, slowly became a manageable reality. On May 1st, I boarded a plane in Rochester NY bound for Atlanta and took my first step onto the Approach trail just before noon. By 5pm that night, I was standing atop Springer Mountain and taking my first step on to the famous Appalachian Trail. 107 Days later I was standing on top of Mt. Katahdin in Maine with all 2174 miles under my belt and and was calling myself a completed thru-hiker!
Since then, I can't complain. I have had a great experience here in Graduate School at Penn State and made a lot of new friends and colleagues. I have had the good fortune to spend several weeks in Colorado and even squeeze in time to thru-hike the Colorado Trail last summer. This past fall and winter, I spent a few months down at a field camp in Antarctica and then got to do a few weeks of hiking on New Zealand's South Island and Stewart Island. In between all that, I've been able to get back into running and take a stab a few ultraruns. This coming summer I have my first 100 miler scheduled and I just might try to maybe squeeze in a small 2 week hike (if I can get ahead on my thesis writing).
So all in all, life is pretty good. I will be defending my Masters this fall and heading back to Antarctica. When I return, I will have decided whether or not I'm staying here at Penn State, or going to another University for PhD. Then I will spend my summer hiking again---at least that's the plan anyway ;-)
On a rather apropos note, today is the day that the 2010 Appalachian Trail Calendar is supposed to go on sale (although it is still saying Pre-Order this morning). This official ATC calendar features my Katahdin photo on the cover (and I believe for August). The ATC is now also accepting photos for the 2011 calendar as well.