Hello! Nice to meet you!

If you’re reading this…

You’re curious about hiking the AT or read about the trials and tribulations of those adventurous (crazy) enough to try it. I am clearly one of those people. Trail name Daddy Long Trails (so named by my girlfriend). I was introduced to the idea by my best friend, trail name Hook, who completed the AT with his wife, Swiss Miss in 2017. Hook introduced me to Warrior Expeditions (WE), a veteran non-profit outdoor therapy program that helps veterans with transitioning their war experiences through long-distance outdoor expeditions.

I submitted my application around the fall of 2021…why not?! Fast forward to December of the same year and I got my first response! Some more ‘back and forth’ via email, a video interview and viola, I found out at Christmas last year that I had been selected!!! My official start date, along with nine other veterans, is March 26, 2023, eight days after I put up the uniform! #NOBO So that’s the “how”…let’s get to the “why”.

Picture this…

After serving in the US military since I was 17, I was conditioned to really do only one thing: military. I was willing to serve more than 30 years or until they kicked me out. In short, that was not in the cards. In fact, I submitted my WE application before my retirement was approved. The universe happened to be handing out atta boys because technically I’m still on active duty the first three months of the hike! In fact, I haven’t even started cleaning up (administrative stuff to GTFO) yet! I will officially retire sometime around Pennsylvania (hopefully) or July 1st (actually). So here I am, a 41-year-old near-retirement with a little wanderlust and a lot of time. I have the support of my family, amazing/hot girlfriend and friends. All because of some amazing people trying to help veterans reload and rewire their brains.

Oh yes, the why. As I said in my interview with WE, I can’t think of a better way to reset the noggin and transition back to civilian life than being out in nature for six months. As a combat medic with four combat tours, you could say I’ve seen and done a thing or two. While I am proud of my service, I am not keen on wearing things that no longer need to be worn. So, in Earl Shaffer’s epic and ever-so-accurate words, I want to “run the military out of my system.” There are other reasons why I choose to take a through walk, but “crossing over” is numero uno!

So what now…

Unlike the vast majority of people preparing for the AT, some choices are (fortunately) left out. All of my equipment, minus my personal items, is provided for me… ticked. So instead of pouring over the infinite supply of what package weighs that much or what shoe goes so fast or what date is best to avoid or encounter x, y, z, I can just read, research and train! I’m kind of an alpha nerd.

Reading…

Books I’ve read in the past four weeks include “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson (hilarious) and “Appalachian Trials” (will be reread closer to launch date) by Zach Davis. I’m about half way through “Pushing North” by Trey Free and I have another one in the room, “Walkin’ with the Ghost Whisperers” by JR “Model-T” Tate. If there are any book nerds out there reading this, leave a suggestion in the comments!

Journals…

My research on The Trek led me to this blogging opportunity. I’ve never blogged or journaled about anything. I had planned a journaling anyway, via IG and the written word. Again, as another facet of reconditioning my brain to live in the moment. So I thought, why not just blog it for everyone, kind of a mandatory feature to make sure I write things down!

Course…

As for training, I completely changed my routine. As you may have guessed, physical fitness is a staple of military life. While some take it more seriously than others, I’m of the serious camp. I was one of the Kool-Aid-drinking CrossFit cultists for years, starting when there was only one website. Then for shits and giggles I gave bodybuilding a shot. I was (overly) successful in every light, so paying taxes in the gym or on the street is not foreign to me.

I’ve actually had to pump the breaks with regards to my training, transitioning into functional fitness, just a few strength days and of course walking! Any current or former military person who cares will tell you that ruck marching is not something you do at a leisurely pace. I have to constantly remind myself to slow down, it’s not a race and I’m not on a clock. Although mentally different, physically, it’s fun. Like any other 20+ year veteran, I have some kinks in the gears. I plan to do a 92-mile hike in February. The Lone Star hiking trail is the longest trail in Texas and a good place to start my humble celebration.

More reasons and a few fears…

As mentioned earlier, “walk out the military,” but a few more reasons to choose to hike the AT include:

  • BAMF rights… I mean come on! I am in awe of all those who have accomplished this monumental task and hope to join the herd. Nearly 2200 miles… that’s almost double what Frodo and Sam have achieved.
  • I am a self-confessed introverted extrovert… one of my goals is to meet and talk to as many people as possible for reasons other than the day’s agenda.
  • Go back to basics. That means: disconnecting from the automated world in which we now live. Enjoy the travel type atmosphere. A conscious slowing down of my life, at least for a while.

The fears. While I may be naive or utterly foolish regarding the common fears people have of the AT, I can honestly say that my biggest fears are serious injury (I’m a bit worn out) or illness (signs…yuck). Being away from loved ones is something I have dealt with many times and much longer than the estimated AT time. Money isn’t really an issue as long as I don’t party like a rock star. Being alone (potentially) is not the same as being lonely. Bears, meh, I’ve hiked, camped and gunned in Alaska. “So I did that for me, which is nice” – Carl Spackler.

Finally…

I will be doing an equipment post in the near future so you know what the WE will offer me. I’ll keep you posted on my workouts and insights to… well, me. Keep in mind I’m not a professional hiker… in fact, I’m about to become a pro at nothing (woot woot)! This will be my first venture on a trek of this magnitude… so salty grains folks. You can also follow my workouts, meals, etc. on IG @daddylongtrails. I hope this helps someone. Finally, I would like to thank the Trek for the opportunity to publish my thoughts, processes and chatter. I think that pretty much covers it…that is, I’m running out of things to type. Happy trails!

“No sympathy for the devil; remember that. Buy the ticket, take the ride… and if at times it gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well… maybe you chalk it up to forced consciousness-expansion: Tune in, freak out, get defeated.
Hunter S.Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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