Hi everyone! Let me start out by saying that this blog page will be the mindset and personal thoughts leading up to and while I am on my hike of the Appalachian Trail. If you would just like to see the hike itself or are interested in gear and planning then you may be better served by my Youtube or Instagram. So lets get started!
So, in order for you guys to understand why I am not only willing, but wanting to go live on the move, in the woods, and throughout the small towns of the Appalachian Trail for several months, I guess you need to know some of my background. Anyone who knows me knows that I never talk about my past, not that it was traumatic, because I have had a very comfortable life, but that I just don’t believe in living in the past. So lets see if we can shed some light on the “why” I am doing this.
Ever since I was young I have moved around more times then I can count. I was born in Savannah, Georgia in December of 1993 and some of my earliest memories are are walking with my mother throughout the town. Moving from there to New York sticks out in my early memories as well. While living on several acres in a small town called Manorville, New York, on Long Island; I use to walk several paths cut thru the woods with my father and grandfather, exploring and “playing army”. Then when I was ten years old I moved to Albany, Georgia with my mother and this was the first time i was exposed to traveling for an extended period of time. I distinctly remember looking out to the mountains faintly seen in the distance from the highway and in my young mind thinking how “cool” they were. I moved within Georgia several times before the life changing decision of moving to Ohio was mentioned by my father, the reasoning behind this move isn’t very important to the theme of this post, but lets just say it had it’s fair amount of family drama involved! Even at fourteen years old this decision was not an easy one. I would be leaving almost all my family including my mother, and my grandparents on both sides of my family. However, looking back this decision alone had more of an impact on the trajectory of my life then any before or since.
So the decision was made and I was moving to Ohio. For about year prior to us moving we took several drives from Georgia to the area around Cleveland, Ohio. These 14+ hour drives took us right through the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. Mountains, that I would later learn are some of the oldest on the globe and once rivaled the great peaks of the Himalayas. Over the many millenniums since these mountains were formed they were worn down by the powers of erosion to form the majestic rolling mountains we see now. While driving through these mountains with my father I would take a handheld GPS unit I had along with us so I could measure how high we were during the ear popping drives up these mountains. Looking back these mountains weren’t very high but they were high enough to peak a slowly burning interest in the area. After these first few trips to find where we would move we decided on an area called Northfield, Ohio and the neighboring larger town of Macedonia, Ohio. (for those who are not familiar this area is about 30 minutes south of Cleveland, Ohio and about 30 minutes north of Akron, Ohio). I would start high school at Nordonia High School and attempt to find a place in life as I grew older (isn’t this the struggle of all teens?) My first thought in life was that I was going to join the military, but I didn’t know much more then this. So during my freshmen year of high school I joined and organization called the United States Navy Sea Cadet Corps. This youth organization is run a lot like the Navy Reserve and allows young adults experiences that they wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else! It started with a “boot camp” that lasted only two weeks at the Naval Station Great Lakes sharing the facilities of the actual Navy Recruit Training. During this short time we learned a lot about the military and the Navy in particular. After this you went back to your local units and were allowed to participate in monthly “drills”. Every summer and winter break you were able to participate in “advanced training” throughout the country. During this time I decided that I was going to look into the path of a Navy Corpsman. I was able to participate in many training while at the the Akron Battalion of the USNSCC, including a corpsman training, a leadership training, and an outdoors winter survival training. The one trip that sticks out the most, and looking back was very pivotal in my current situation, was a five day backpacking/ camping trip to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. During this time we were definitely an interesting sight, dressed in military fatigues and carrying older military rucksacks, we hiked approximately 70 miles in the five days and made memories that will never be forgotten. I distinctly remember laughing at all the “funny serious hikers” with their walking sticks and small packs and thinking that they were crazy! (irony is actually what is pretty crazy!)
So now you may be asking why I never joined the military. I ask myself that every day and to be honest its not something that is completely decided yet. However, During my sophomore year of high school I also joined an organization called the Macedonia Fire Department Explorers. This organization is a branch of the Boyscouts and allows teens to work along side a fire department learning how to become firefighters and EMT’s. We were actually allowed to run on calls with the fire department and have days dedicated to ride alongs. We also held training regularly where we learned all topics related to firefighting and EMS. Looking back I would recommend both organizations to any young people who are interested in either path, because they put you leaps and bounds ahead of anyone else and gives you so much valuable real world experience. After running on my first call with the fire department I “caught the bug” and I was hooked on public safety. During my junior and senior years of high school I enrolled in a career center and obtained my Firefighter II certifications and EMT-Basic certification. After this I began working part time at a local fire department and full-time as a firefighter/EMT at a steel mill, both being very good jobs (and this is why I never joined the military at the time). I moved out on my own and started my life.
As life always manages to do another curve ball was thrown my way and I ended up leaving both of these jobs to move back to Georgia with my family; once again driving thru the Appalachians, and once again having my interest peaked about these mountains. During this trip I learned of a foot path that ran near where I was driving from a local person in a random conversation. He told me that the trail meandered all the way from Georgia to Maine and if I paid attentions I may see a hiker or two on a journey of a life time. I thought it would be pretty cool but didn’t give it much more thought, because I had a career to start and figure out. I stayed in Georgia for about six months and decided that I wanted to go back to Ohio for better career opportunities. (we will talk about the unhealthy coping mechanism of packing up and moving away when there’s a problem another time!) So I did just that I took whatever I could fit in an SUV and drove back north again thru the Appalachians. I ended up in a small town called Hubbard, Ohio just outside of Youngstown, Ohio. I began working on a local fire department where I ended up becoming the EMS chief. I also moved between several local ambulances and once again was running 911 EMS. I ended up finally going to paramedic school (which is a whole post in and of itself) and meeting some of the most influential people in my life. During this time I got a job with one of the most reputable ambulance companies in the area running primary 911 in the city of Youngstown. Youngstown is a former steel and mob mecca that now sits as a shadow of its once glory. It is now known for its murder and crime rates which rival that of much larger cities! However, as a brand new paramedic this was exactly the place I wanted to be! I learned a lot more then I could imagine, both good and bad from people, some amazing some not so much, in the short time I spent in “the city” as it’s known. During this time I became a night turn shift supervisor and was responsible for the not only the safety of my crews and smooth functioning of the 911 system, but also the lives of all the residents and visitors to the city for my 12 hour shift. I spent many nights driving around the city in my Supervisor SUV thinking that between this position and my position and growing responsibilities with the fire department I was EXACTLY where I wanted to be several years ago when I decided to start in public safety. I had also enrolled in college classes and began my path, in “pre-med”, working to my ultimate goal of being a doctor. but then the question arises………. why was I still unhappy?
In this existential crisis I came to the realizations that all I have done in life was focus on my career and my future, but what about the now? What about enjoying the short bit of time between the time you’re born and the time you die? Believe me until you face life and death everyday you don’t realize how short that time truly is! So what does all this have to do with the Appalachian Trail you ask? I had always used hiking as an escape from the stress of work and being able to disappear in the mountains was always the only way to clear my mind and “reboot”. Well, in the weird ways that life works I ran into several people that really changed the way I look at things. The first I never actually met and have only conversed with on Youtube and Patreon and that is “Dixie” from “Homemade Wanderlust” (when I figure out how to tag her or give her some credit here I will, so any help with that would be great!) Dixie (which is her “trail name”) at the time I am writing this, officially completed the “Triple Crown in hiking”, consisting of the Appalachian Trail, The Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail and was a complete inspiration to me to actually begin this journey. The second is a girl named Sarah who completed the AT in 2018 after also leaving her job and showed me, more then I am sure she could imagine, that this is completely possible! The third is a man called “Bman” (also his trails name) who along with Sarah showed me the amazing people who await in the thru-hiking community!
Through the crazy ways that life works the Appalachian Trail was laid out in front of me and this journey was the light I was looking for, for sometime now. In the next post I will explain my individual motivations as to Why I am doing this trip and shed some light on the first few steps I took in planing for this!