photo by  Kristen Bryant

Hi.

Welcome to The Ones Who Walk project site. I am a 2018 AT thru-hiker gathering stories along the way. 

A Change Late in Life

A Change Late in Life

In terms of age, the trail is a diverse place. Despite popular perception, the trail is not a young persons adventure land. I’ve met Mountain Goat, a 13 year old hiking with his mother. I’ve also met No Justice, who finished her thru-hike when she was 71 years old. 

Every hiker is in a different time of life. Some left their jobs and sold their house. Others are recent graduates. Many, I have found, are recently retired. 

So far a majority of my conversations are with people that have retired and embarked on this journey.  

Each story is unique, but there’s a common thread I’ve found: the AT is something they have wanted to do for much of their life but never had the opportunity, or felt it was a prudent choice.  

I met Lennaus and her brother, Razz...something. I can’t recall his trail name. I originally thought these two were a married couple. After this conversation I realized they are siblings, hiking the trail together. Both Lennaus and her brother are retired.  

 

Listen to Razz’s story HERE

 

I find it inspiring that he wanted to hike this trail and made it a priority as soon as he could. It’s not as risky as some stories to get out here, but that doesn’t make it less meaningful. I haven’t seen Lennaus and her brother in a couple weeks, but I’m hoping they are still hiking along together.  

 

I met Cahoona while I was taking a break on the trail with my friend, Toast, who has a lovely way of starting conversation with others. She asked Cahoona about his hike. He and his wife hiked a lot in the White Mountains and planned to thru-hike together. Unfortunately Cahoona’s wife has back issues and had to undergo major surgery. Cahoona decided to stay home and care for his wife instead of hike. After a year of recovery, she encouraged him to go without her. She’ll be joining him in the White Mountains for his AT section.  

Cahoona is a practical person and his reasoning for the trail reflects this. He feels that there are limited times one can take a trip like this: after school, before having a family or major job, and in retirement. 

Listen to Cahoona’s perspective HERE

I continue to experience change in my life, to the point that I can’t imagine what it’s like to work for decades, in one profession, and then set off to live in the woods for 5-6 months. It’s got to be a shock, but it seems that the hikers I’ve spoken to with this similar story were all hungry for a change. Whether or not they waited explicitly for permission from their financial guy, all had this dream and desire while they worked hard for years. 

 

I spoke to Grizzly. A big man with a perfectly white beard, and pleasant demeanor [yes he dresses up as Santa during the holidays. I saw picures]. His name either came from the bear mace he accidentally wiped onto his face, or from his jolly, warm, bear-like appearance.  

Like Cahoona, he stayed home to care for his wife. She went through cancer treatment. after years of working and caring for her, she wanted to give him a gift in return. She told him to go hike the trail. 

Grizzly is also in retirement and doesn’t miss work a bit:

 

Grizzly’s words HERE

 

There are perks and downsides to taking a hike in retirement. On the upside it’s nice to have a comfortable financial situation [most likely] and to have minimal responsibilities looming ahead of you when you get home. on the downside, it can be more physically difficult and strenuous to hike in a later time of life. To be honest, none of that makes a different though. However you get out here, you made it work. There are countless details and moments of motivation that must line up to get a hiker on the trail. At the end of the day we all made the commitment, whatever that looks like.

I was curious though, what a retired hiker would say about all the young people out here. I asked Razz.

Listen HERE

I think all hikers would agree, however you can get out here, however you can get after that dream that’s been on your min and in your heart. Do it. 

Worth the Weight

Worth the Weight

Beyond Our Comfort Zones

Beyond Our Comfort Zones