When I was, oh, between 12 to 16, I had a subscription to National Geographic Magazine that my grandma was kind enough to give me as a birthday gift every year. There are three things I distinctly remember that came from that subscription. First and foremost, which will stay with me as I am sure it will so many others my age who saw it, is the famous photograph of a young Afghan girl on the front cover. I only remember it and find it important to me because she is the same age as I am, and she has intense green eyes. There but for the grace of God (and a Y chromosome) go I.
The second thing that interested me, as most won't admit to perusing but is a known fact males my age were compelled to review, was all the wonderfully exotic women, nude or otherwise, to fuel my teen fantasies. I credit N.G. for my very eclectic taste in the ladies, and for starting me down the path of my dignified, refined
form of pervy-ness. Only one photo in this regard stands out in my mind however. It was of a young south american aboriginal woman, naked but for a leather and bone waistlet and a necklace, frozen in time fording a small stream. I won't go into details here as to the nature of our relationship at that point in my life. Now, I find it a fond memory, and an example of pure natural beauty that is the human form unadulterated by commercial concepts of what is acceptable beauty. Simply awesome.
The final thing, which I still have buried in a box somewhere, is one of the many hard cover books that were offered to subscribers of the magazine. This one was all about a wonderful park that was right in my own backyard. Namely, the Appalachian Trail, or the AT as it is known. It was, at the time, the longest contiguous protected strip of land in the United States, stretching 2100+ miles from Georgia to Maine. If you want to know the details, feel free to visit the AT Conservancy website. They portrait it much better (and in more detail) than I can.
What I found intriguing was not the splendor and enormity of it (I already had a clue at that age I was a mere speck on this planet), but that people would get the funny idea in their head to hike the entire length of it. They would leave their families, lives, jobs, everything, and spend half a year walking in the woods. That was a fascinating prospect to me, as I had very few prospects at that time. I had decided to put this on my things to do list, right next to writing several novels, getting married and having kids, owning a custom built sports car, and building a house of my own design including a fully stocked fallout shelter (it was during the Coldwar after all - thank you Ronald Reagan).
Unlike my desire at age 6 to be a fireman, this one seemed to stick a little tighter, though it did not evoke a full blown passion as I have now seen well up in so many others. Not many things have brought on great passion in my life. Passion for me comes in stops and starts, and nothing has truly ever inspired me to do. One of the curses of true sight I suppose. You see the genuine relative importance of things in the universe, and all seem small and insignificant once you think about it. I found myself floating in life, and never truly accomplishing much because I found it all rather pointless. I lived mainly for the primal pleasures, which eventually made me fat, but also permitted me to help others and gain a base satisfaction in watching them reach their goals.
I have grown older, however. And like my eyesight, which has gotten progressively blurrier, my perspective on relative importance seems to be going out of focus as well. My universe is shrinking, and I seem to be paying more mind to what is important to me, not the big picture. I am beginning to understand that the universe is getting along just fine even if I waste some of the time it has given me in frivolities. It really doesn't seem to care what I do, so why not just do.
Which brings me to the here and now. Only one of those "to do" things have been achieved. I am married to a wonderful woman. The kids, well, have not yet materialized, but that may change soon. The novels, five of them so far, are well in the works but none complete. Maybe I will get one done before I have a heart attack. No sports car (yet), no bomb shelter (thank you Gorbachev), and as yet no hike, until now.
Between the years 1930 and 2000, 30 years of which I was alive, 5511 hikers had managed to hike the trail. Since the turn of the century, 6302+ folks have traversed the trail (AT Conservancy). As usual, my mind and ideas are always ahead of the curve, but my ambition lags by several decades. So the road is a little more well traveled than when I became enamored with it. The path is beaten down, blazed, and blogged to death. People are uploading their photos and memoirs via cell phone, detailing every ramen noodle they eat and every cat hole they dig. So, do I abandon yet another dream because everyone else decided it was a good idea, turning it into more of a Disney attraction than a journey? No, but I had better get onto it before they install conveyors and escalators.
Lesson to all you younger folk out there, if you have a plan, a dream, a desire that few have yet to endeavor to acheive, do something about it sooner rather than later before everyone else makes it mainstream. Then you can say, "yeah, I paved that road buddy." Otherwise you will be like me, older, cranky, and hoping there is a bathroom at the next rest stop.
But I digress...
So now, at the age of 41-ish, I have managed to get my act together and am making a sincere attempt to pull this thing off. This blog is more to give myself something to stare back at me and say, "Well? You gonna do this or what?" I am going to do all the usual things that folks do with this kinda blog. I'll talk about my trip planning, my gear, my philosophy, my aches and pains, etc, etc. I will whine, I will gripe, I will be happy, unhappy, all that crap. I will try to do it all as entertainingly as possible however.
If you like what you read, please feel free to pat me on my head and give me some encouragement. At my age and lack of physical conditioning, I'll need all I can get. Let's just hope the cholesterol in my blood hangs loose till it is over.