AT: The Saga BeginsOpinion
OPINION — My wife and I have three sons, and like all parents we want them to succeed in life, and not end up having to degrade themselves for a living, such as by selling used cars or, heaven forbid, becoming congresshumans or reporters. So we’ve always tried to be encouraging and supportive, and we point out when they’re acting like idiots. ‘You’re acting like an idiot,’ is the kind of thing we often say to them, by way of encouragement.
Young people have always needed such guidance from their parents, and choosing a profession in life is one of the main areas where the old folks can be of help. But one thing you have to remember, as a parent, is that no matter what you tell your children, they’re pretty likely to do just the opposite of what you suggest. You might want to write that down.
So when my kids subtly indicate they’re receptive to my input, which they demonstrate by completely ignoring my existence, I drop little hints. One of the things I’ve told them is that, when they’re deciding what to do in life, they should consider what they would choose to do if money were no object at all, and do that, because money won’t make you happy. Which is great advice if you’re Barron Trump, since you’re already rolling in it.
In my own defense, I never thought my boys even heard what I was saying to them, what with the video games and smart phones and all, and I certainly never imagined they’d take my advice. If I had I’d’ve told them to become plumbers. Because no matter how bad the economy gets, people still gotta flush. You might want to write that down.
My youngest son, Leret, married a wonderful young lady almost three years ago named Emily. They have both graduated from college since then, and have been working and saving up money while in the process of deciding what to do with their lives. And a few months ago, while they were visiting us, they informed us of their decision. They’ve chosen unemployment.
Well, not as career, although that’s definitely an option, with today’s highly motivated millennial. They do plan to go back to work, at something, sometime in the future. But not for a while. Because for the next several months they’re going to be busy – they plan to hike the Appalachian Trail. All of it.
Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the enormity of the magnitude of the immensity of such an adventure, let me point out that the AT stretches along most of the east coast, from Springer Mountain, north of Atlanta, Georgia, all the way up to Mount Katahdin, near Baxter State Park in Maine. Altogether that’s more than 2,000 miles, with part of it going through the Smoky Mountains, so it’s easy to get lost, what with the smoke and all. Plus there are bears along most of the trail, although Leret informed me the bears leave the hikers alone. He did research, or something.
Above: The map of the Appalachian Trail.
Honestly, I never really expected any of my kids to undertake such an undertaking. They all enjoy camping and being outdoors a lot, which is to be expected, since that’s the kind of thing we did when they were little. While other dads were teaching their offspring to throw balls and other such useless activities, we were backpacking, canoeing, camping, hunting, rappelling, shooting, and fishing. Leret was doing 100-foot rappels off the backside of Enchanted Rock when he was five, but don’t tell his mother that. I never actually said, ‘Boys, hiking the Appalachian Trail is a lot of trouble, and stuff, so don’t do it.’ I just didn’t think it was necessary. Who knew?
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy keeps stats on how many people try to thru-hike the AT every year, probably as a way to know whether the bears are getting enough nutrition. In 2017 there were 4,224 hikers who attempted it, but only about 20 percent manage to successfully complete the trip. Some are injured along the way, some get sick and have to quit, and some come to their senses and realize they need to take a step back, reevaluate their lives, and reassess their recreational paradigms. In other words, they figure out that walking over 2,000 miles is nuts. There are spiders and snakes and centipedes all along the trial, not to mention mosquitoes and wasps and plenty of waterborne pathogens that give hikers what the French typically refer to as ‘les trotts.’ Don’t ask.
Some die, of course, but that’s pretty rare, and is usually caused by either incredible stupidity or really bad luck, or both. Hikers can get lost, or drown, or fall off mountains, or break a leg on an off-trail excursion, which is necessary often when hikers contract les trotts. Last year a hatchet-wielding psycho terrorized some folks on the AT, but they caught him, and Leret informs me he was the only one, so we’re OK there. Thank goodness.
Above: Leret and Emily are 44 miles up the Appalachian Trail in this photo.
As I write this, Leret and Emily are about 60 miles into the trip, and things are going well. So far their paradigms remain unreevaluated. They plan to walk all the way to Maine, rain, sunshine, blisters, and ax murderers notwithstanding. Their most challenging obstacle, considering the coronavirus panic of late, will probably be finding adequate supplies of toilet paper along the way.
For me, this whole experience is pretty disappointing. They never once asked me if I wanted to go with them . . .
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