In his book “Appalachian Trials,” Zach “Badger” Davis stresses that the key to the successful completion of an Appalachian Trail thru-hike is not gear or physical conditioning, but mental preparedness. Additionally, he states that “the greatest determining factor of success is purpose” and encourages anyone attempting this journey to commit to that purpose in writing. While this may seem to be a groundbreaking concept to someone who has never cracked open a business book, a written mission statement and written goals are universally accepted as the cornerstone to establishing a road map for any endeavor. So when the going gets tough, here are the lists that I will refer back to in order to remain on the trail:

 I am thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail because. . . 

  • I have dreamed about doing this hike for as long as I can remember, and now there is an opportunity to make this dream come true.
  • I have become more cynical as I’ve gotten older, and I hope that the people I will meet on this journey will restore my faith in humanity.
  • I love a challenge and want to test myself physically and mentally in the outdoors after I spent too many years slowly dying in a cubicle.
  • I love hiking and being in the outdoors, and I want to connect with like-minded individuals sharing the same adventure.
  • I want to live life to the fullest and in the present, because we are not promised tomorrow.
  • I want to share my thru-hike, through journals and photographs, with others that may have dreamed about taking this trip, but are unable to do so for one reason or another.
  • I want to show my kids that I’m a badass (they were born after my badass days) and set an example by showing them that if they can dream it, they can achieve it.
  • I want to have an epic adventure story to tell everyone at the old folks’ home.

When I successfully thru-hike the Appalachian Trail I will . . .

  • I will have made a childhood dream come true and will become a part of the community of A.T. thru-hikers.
  • I will have accomplished something that less than 600 people my age have accomplished.
  • I will have a new appreciation of the simple comforts of daily life and the unimportance of material possessions.
  • I will have my faith in humanity restored and will find comfort in the leadership potential of the next generation.
  • I will have developed life-long friendships with fellow thru-hikers.
  • I will, hopefully, be an inspiration for my kids and anyone else that has a dream.
  • I will have had an opportunity to experience awe inspiring natural beauty.
  • I will write and publish a book and photo essay of my adventure.
  • I will binge watch season seven of “Game of Thrones.”
  • (KEEP READING ALONG, MOMMA. NOTHING TO SEE HERE). I will get a well-earned tattoo of the A.T. emblem.
  • I will have the most epic and crazy stories to tell to anyone who will to listen to them.

If I give up on the Appalachian Trail I will. . . 

Well, since this is not going to happen, making a list will be an academic exercise. But, here goes.

  • I will be extremely embarrassed, since I told the world that I am going to thru-hike the A.T.
  • I will be profoundly disappointed in not accomplishing my goal and will always wish I had finished.
  • I will tremendously miss the friends that I made on the trail and will wish them success in completing their hike.

The only things that will keep me from summiting Mount Katahdin would be if I’m kidnapped by hillbillies to the sound of banjo music, I’m mauled and swallowed by a bear, I’m bitten repeatedly after falling into a rattlesnake den, or I simply die trying to get there. Seriously, the only valid reasons for me leaving the trail are that I have suffered a serious injury or sickness, or something catastrophic happens to a family member. In that event, it will be OK to walk away, but I will be planning my return as soon as possible.