Friday, August 23, 2013

talking the walk

Hundreds of people thru-hike the AT each year, and most of them do so quite happily without drawing any kind of publicity to themselves. From the outset, my hike was public: I announced it online and set up a wiki and YouTube account to post updates on my progress. I published this information not in pursuit of fame or fortune, but rather to show my respect to past, present and future aspirants of the Fastest Known Time.

Over the years, I’ve come to expect a small amount of media attention, and that’s fine. Every hiker has a story to tell and it’s up to him/her to tell it… Or is it? Within a couple of days of finishing, there were a few articles published about my hike. However, none of these writers contacted me. So for whomever hasn’t found it: my email is matthew.d.kirk at gmail. On a positive note, I have enjoyed working with a couple writers recently. Their articles should be appearing in forthcoming issues of the Blue Ridge Outdoors and Henderson Times-News.

If one is to make his/her hike public then s/he must not only be prepared to walk the walk, but also to talk the talk. This can be as much of a challenge as the hike itself. As I process through my experience, I feel rushed to tell a story lest it be told for me. Although it’s still in bits and pieces in my mind and hard for even me to comprehend, here’s an overview: it’s a story about a brief time spent in a special place that is both finite and fragile. And it’s a story about moving efficiently and treading lightly.

The Appalachians can be traversed by foot in a mere two months and yet we continue to use these mountains as if their natural resources are inexhaustible, much to the peril of the thousands of other species that live here. Many people have realized the intrinsic value of this region and have worked hard to protect it. An example would be Benton MacKaye and the Appalachian Trail. Every year, millions of people come to love and use this narrow wilderness corridor. In turn, this footpath has seeded other conservation efforts.

As we grow in number, trail users have become a threat to what we love, underlining the need for sustainable recreational practices. It’s easy to point fingers, but more worthwhile to reflect on what we can do to minimize our own footprint and share these ideas with one another. No one is perfect, but we should think twice before singling out hikers who move fast and light as somehow having a negative impact just because they have chosen to explore their personal limits along the trail.

As peculiar as it may sound, the closer that I got to the edge of my endurance, the closer I got to really experiencing and respecting the Appalachians. And I believe the self-supported guidelines I established for myself actually helped to improve my efficiency and minimize my impact as a hiker. This is the story I look forward to sharing and I thank you for your patience and understanding.


Scott said...

take the time to find the words. remember, in the end, these words and memories are for yourself. this is your journal, which you are kind enough to share.

excellent post, my friend.

heather said...

Well said.