When I tell people that I want to hike the entire length of the Arizona Trail they invariably ask “why”. They’re never satisfied with my usual response: “because I want to”. In fact, that response is rather anti-climactic. Why would anyone want to walk, constantly, for 60+ days straight?
As I sit here contemplating my reasoning I’m finding it difficult to put my thoughts into words. I’ve wanted to thru-hike this trail even before I discovered “thru-hiking” was a thing but my initial intentions are far different than they are today. Originally I wanted to set a speed record; now, I just want to finish. I’m not interested in showing off or proving anything to anyone (other than to myself).
On the surface the challenge is the same. I have to overcome myriad physical and mental obstacles, some that repeat themselves often, in order to successfully complete this hike. But instead of trying to push myself to the limit to finish faster than anyone else ever has, I’ll be pushing myself to the limit just to finish, period. And when you get down to the nitty-gritty of the task, this is going to hurt – a lot!
When you ask a Marine if they liked boot camp there’s always a trepidation in their answer. The typical response is “I’d do it over, but I wouldn’t do it again”. The reason is that boot camp is comprised of two activities – suffering and sleeping. Kinda’ sounds like thru-hiking to some extent.
So what does all of this mean and why would I want to do something that seems to just be a bunch of suffering? The answer is simple – I won’t be suffering. I’ll be walking through beautiful country, at my own pace, with no other soul to serve. I won’t have to satisfy anyone else’s needs, except maybe for my dog if I bring one. I’ll bet to spend so much time in the back country that my rhythms will start to match the earth’s. I’ll only have one to focus on – safe forward movement.
Don’t get me wrong – my life doesn’t suck. On the contrary, I tend to consider myself rather lucky. What I mean is that I’m not running from, or escaping, anything . . . I’m running toward something. Ideally I’ll discover inner peace and enlightenment; failing that I’ll just have a grand time walking across Arizona, sole to soul.