I Hiked the Entire Appalachian Trail in My Car – The New Yorker
A few months ago, my life was a mess. I was fired from my job, my wife divorced me, and my father’s health took a turn for the worse. To add insult to injury, my wife got my old job and immediately married my father. I needed time to think and put the scraps of my life back together. So when a buddy of mine recommended hiking the Appalachian Trail, three things came to mind:
1. That’s a great idea!
2. I should do it in my car, as that will be much easier and require less effort.
3. I hate my ex-wife.
I immediately packed up my Jeep Grand Cherokee and headed for Georgia. Then I realized that Megan got the Cherokee in the divorce, turned around, unpacked the Cherokee, awkwardly waved to my dad, packed up the Wrangler, and drove south.
The Appalachian Trail is more than two thousand gruelling miles, from Georgia up to Maine, that push a hiker to his or her physical and mental limits. If people manage to complete it, it normally takes them between five and seven months.
I did it in five days. And one of those days I was just joyriding around Vermont, trying to spot Bernie Sanders. I did. Twice.
For the rest of my life, I’ll never forget my trail experiences. You’ve never seen stars brighter or more beautiful than from the top of a plateau, miles from civilization, while reclining in your Jeep Wrangler and watching a video of stars on your portable DVD player. It stays with you.
Your trail name also stays with you. The rule of the trail is that a fellow-hiker has to give you your trail name based on something you do during your journey. Like “Bird Woman,” if you always stop to feed any birds you see, or “Moron with a Car Who Is Ruining This for All of Us,” if you’re me.
At least I think that’s what they were calling me. It was hard to hear over the A/C that I had on, full-blast. But if you think I wasn’t roughing it, just know that my A/C was busted, so air only came out of five of the Wrangler’s six vents. It was no picnic. I did, however, have many picnics along the way. I mean, I didn’t bring the portable wine fridge for no reason.
In fact, it was on those frequent picnics that I cleared my head of all the negativity in my life. If Megan and my dad were happy together, let them be happy. If my office was better off without me, so be it. If several park rangers were furious at me and constantly threatening to look up whether what I was doing was even legal, that was their problem, not mine.
To me, hiking the Appalachian Trail was all about letting go of the bad energy from the past and opening myself up to the good energy of the future. And, let me tell you, my future looks bright. As bright as my Wrangler’s fog lights that I’d shine directly into the eyes of any wildlife or fellow-hikers that looked at me funny.
Speaking of wildlife, everyone always asks: Did I run into any bears on the trail? Yes, I hit two bears, but don’t worry. They weren’t hurt. They died instantly and painlessly. Jeeps are good like that.
Would I do it again? It’s hard to say. I’m not so sure that I’d learn anything more about myself from a repeat hike, and I’ve sorted out most of my problems. I got a new job. I’m dating someone great. My dad’s as healthy as an ox. (An ox that steals its son’s wife, but an ox nonetheless.)
Plus, the Wrangler’s still in the shop after I broke the horn furiously honking at Bernie Sanders, trying to get him to wave at me (he did—twice), and there’s no way in hell I am hiking the Appalachian Trail in my cramped Miata. That’d be insane.