Permission to Launch – An Introduction of an Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker

Who Am I?
Howdy y’all! Allow me to formally introduce myself so that you’ve got some context for my future ramblings. My title is Ryan, and as you may guess from my greeting, I’m a local Texan presently based mostly out of Austin (sure I qualify for the Native Texan License Plate). On March fifth, I shall be hitting the strategy path at Amicalola Falls and heading north on my northbound via-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
The Appalachian Trail shall be my first lengthy distance via-hike, however it’s removed from my first outside outing. Like many different via-hikers, I used to be first uncovered to backpacking once I accomplished a two week journey at Philmont again in highschool. My pack was astronomically obese and my gear was completely not dialed in (tons of cotton), however I used to be instantly hooked. My enjoyment of Philmont led to me redoubling my efforts in scouting, and I finally turned an Eagle Scout. It additionally led to me finishing the opposite main excessive journey bases that scouting supplied on the time. It was on one of these excessive journey journeys the place a university aged information first informed me about his journey on the AT the prior summer season, and I instantly turned fascinated with the path.
A a lot youthful Ryan questioning life with a 40lb pack.
After highschool, I went away to faculty on the University of Texas at Austin, however my love for the outside didn’t cease due to getting old out of scouts.  I sought each alternative to spend time outside, even going as far as to change my main to geography so as to research the processes that information and form our world. Through the geography division, I used to be in a position to take part in a 2 month analysis journey to Botswana, the place I lived out of a tent with restricted clothes and toiletries. It was throughout that journey that I gained the boldness to lastly take into account really enterprise a via-hike of the AT.
Escaping the afternoon savanna warmth in Botswana by studying within the shade.
During my time in faculty, I continued to commonly camp with my mates within the Longhorn Outdoors Club, the place I served because the treasurer and one of the founding members. Without the hand holding of scouts, I continued to hone my outside information by planning and executing group outings, making correct budgets for journeys, and helping members that had been new to tenting. I additionally turned comfy tenting alone as I might typically exit solo to scope out campsites, or to maintain first come first serve places.
After I graduated in 2018, as younger adults do, my mates largely scattered or turned too busy to go on outings, so I used to be compelled to begin backpacking and tenting solo so as to nonetheless spend as a lot time outside as I wished to. It was throughout this time that I first inadvertently turned an ultralight backpacker as I whittled down precisely what I did and didn’t use after every journey. Like many different former scouts, I at all times sought to “be ready,” however I shortly found that in lots of conditions, I used to be packing my fears. Through being concerned in my native backpacking neighborhood, I realized about UL gear rules, specialist cottage business corporations, and on-line boards which have drastically modified the way in which I strategy backpacking from a gear perspective. Becoming ultralight has drastically elevated my consolation whereas mountain climbing, and consequently it has immensely elevated my enjoyment as nicely.
Why am I mountain climbing now?
So I’ve recognized in regards to the AT since 2013, I’ve been contemplating it since 2017, and I have already got all of the gear; why haven’t I hiked it but? Unfortunately that’s a reasonably lengthy reply as nicely. My senior yr of faculty, my solely plan was to graduate, bartend at a hostel I had stayed at abroad, after which go to graduate faculty. This was all promptly thrown out the window nevertheless once I fell right into a long run relationship my senior yr of faculty. I ended up staying in Austin, we moved in collectively, I landed full time employment, and I went again to faculty to pursue a better paying profession. I turned engrossed in enhancing my profession prospects in order that we may have a pleasant marriage ceremony, transfer to our dream metropolis, purchase a home, get a canine, and many others. Essentially all of the basic American dream milestones. It additionally didn’t assist that she wasn’t into backpacking, nor was she fond of the concept of me being gone for half a yr, so I compromised and caught to shorter native hikes.

In the summer season of 2022, we each had glorious distant jobs that allowed us to dwell anyplace within the US and we had sufficient saved up to transfer. We signed a brief time period lease and commenced to plan our transfer up to the PNW in March of 2023. Unbeknownst to her, I had additionally been saving up for a hoop and a marriage. Then, barely per week after we re-signed, she got here residence in the future from spending time with mates, packed a duffle bag, informed me she was achieved, and left. A 5 yr relationship and life plans gone with out a lot as an apology or an ounce of closure.
I used to be a large number for a number of months afterwards. I may hardly eat, I ended up withdrawing from the diploma I used to be working in the direction of, and I had a mountain of unanswered questions consuming away at me. It was throughout this darkish interval {that a} fantastic thought started to emerge: why not hike subsequent yr? I already had the gear, my lease could be ending on the excellent time to begin a northbound hike, and I already had the cash saved up from my marriage ceremony fund. The items had lastly come collectively completely! I used to be staying with a pal in Seattle when all of it clicked, and I instantly selected a begin date and registered with the ATC.
What am I hoping to get out of my hike?
I’ve achieved a superb job at insulating myself from photos and movies of the AT on function as a result of I really need to expertise the path in its full glory. The chilly wet days, the camaraderie with fellow hikers, the scenic viewpoints, all of it. Other than meticulously planning out my funds and journey preparations, I do my greatest to keep away from unrealistic expectations by not over researching or creating wild itineraries. I really feel most alive when I’m out doing one thing new, residing within the second, and difficult myself mentally and bodily.
The different factor I need is the time and area to reconnect with the individual I used to be earlier than I used to be with my ex. In the 6 or so months since she left I largely have already got been in a position to, thanks to my unimaginable help community, however I’m at a crossroads of which path I take subsequent in life. Do I proceed to pursue the second diploma and excessive stress profession change? Do I keep in Texas or transfer to the PNW? Do I make a profession change to conservation or out of doors recreation? I hope to work via all of these main selections as I pursue one of my lifelong desires.
Crushing a can with a pal on the tropical shores of Lake Erie.
Cheers, and see y’all in Georgia on March fifth!

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