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DEC. 8, 2014

One Trail Mind

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Andrew Nelson, Eagles Nest Counselor & Hante Leader

What do you get when you cross a Romantic dream with a logistical nightmare?

Easy. An AT thru-hike. This is something Benton MacKaye must have understood very well when he originally conceived the notion of a trail that runs from Georgia to Maine in 1921. Initially completed in 1936 (it was later extended in Maine and is occasionally rerouted for various reasons), the Appalachian Trail has since become a setting for thousands and thousands of endeavors made by people who hike for probably just as many reasons. There’s a lot of literature out there about the Romantically spiritual journeys experienced by some. Others hike for personal and meaningful causes. And still others simply exalt the physical challenge of traveling 2,181 miles by foot while carrying all a person needs to survive in a backpack.

My wonderful mother is likely the source of my desire to undertake a thru-hike of the AT, though I don’t remember specifically. The idea was originally planted sometime in high school when she said a thing or two about it being a dream of hers. I guess you could say I’m scouting out the real estate for when she gets her chance. Nonetheless, she planted the seed, but there are still questions that I ask myself (and will until I just get out there, most likely) of “Why?” and ”Why now?”

In regard to the former, I could say that I just want to, because that’s true. I discovered an intense love of being outside through my relationship with Eagle’s Nest and I’d like to take my outdoor experience to a milestone level. As for the latter, well, I did just graduate from college without much confidence in what exactly I’d like to do with my psychology degree, and graduation helped push me into a mentality of independence in terms of how I choose to spend my time here. But still, with all this momentum coming out of school that could go straight into a beneficial sector of the work force, there was still a feeling of imbalance in deciding to indulge in a dream of mine without connecting it to something larger.
That’s where this blogpost comes in. Some of my most emotionally rewarding experiences have occurred while working as a counselor and instructor at Eagle’s Nest. Specifically, watching the 12 participants of Hanté Rocks and Rivers 2014 learn and grow in their individual outdoor skills as well as members of a small community, over the course of a mere 3 weeks, left me hooked. The opportunity to do that again in an entirely new and fresh setting, and in a way that is relevant to my personal endeavor, is too good to pass up.

To put it concisely, I plan to fluidly implement Hanté AT Trek 2015 into my thru-hike, coming together with these young trekkers to take on a section of about 100 miles of the trail through Virginia (sidenote: credit for the idea actually goes to my Rocks and Rivers co-leader Julia Fuster as we talked about future Hanté ideas). In thinking about the various nuances of trail life I hope to have picked up by Hanté’s start, my hope is that I can use my experience to effectively integrate the trail’s lessons into the Hanté participants’ processes of getting comfortable outside and embracing the challenges of something new. So this message is really to all you future Hanté alums.

Come join me on what will be my greatest adventure yet, and let’s really make something unforgettable out of it.

Andrew Nelson, Eagles Nest Counselor & Hante Leader