Y’all may have noticed a disturbance in the force (er, course schedule) a few days ago, followed by an email announcing a new course. Allow me to explain.
We were approached recently by a family who is planning to leave for a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in less than two weeks, and they wanted to have sort of a “final checkoff” before they left – some practical, hands-on practice in some basic survival skills, tips on basic navigation and how not to get lost, some wilderness medicine, how to deal with wildlife, preventing injury and disease, a gear check, and more. In addition, we’d be covering some takeaways from my hard-earned lessons on the trail, like the mindset, discipline, and habits necessary for success. We won’t be covering a whole lot about gear selection or meal prep, since this family’s done a great job of figuring most of that out already. After some discussion, we decided that we could fit this knowledge into our 1-day Essentials course format.
There had been no signups for Wilderness Water Essentials, so we decided to cancel that course and replace it with this one. We had originally planned it as a private course, but with hiking season about to kick off, we decided it open it up to the whole SARCRAFT family.
The reason I’m writing this post is that this will be my first course serving as Instructor. Most of the time when you see me at SARCRAFT, I’m helping out with the course – handling the logistics to make sure everything flows smoothly, running the sales table, and offering my input when it’s beneficial. But when I told Jonathan about this course, his reaction was something along the lines of: “This one’s all you, brother. I’ve got your back, but this is your wheelhouse. You’ve got this – make it happen.”
This course will be one of the most personally meaningful things I’ve done with SARCRAFT to date, and that’s saying a lot. As most of you know, I attempted to thru-hike the AT in 2016. And it was a massive, epic, unadulterated failure. I made it 1,024 miles to Harper’s Ferry, WV. Just shy of halfway. I ruined my finances and spent money I didn’t have. I pushed through chronic injuries and did damage to my body that took the better part of a year to correct. For the last third of my trip I was pretty constantly miserable. And it’s taken almost from then until now to get over it. Failing publicly at a dream you’ve had since childhood after giving it everything you had will really mess with you. My only consolation up to now is that, to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, I “at least failed while daring greatly, so that my place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
But if I can help others on their journey, equip them with the knowledge that I wish I’d had, and illustrate the lessons of just how my trip fell apart so they can avoid them, and succeed in their own thru-hike… well, that’s just about the next best thing to succeeding myself. Maybe even better. I want to see people rise up where I fell short. Nothing would make me happier than seeing some SARCAFT alumni strike a victory pose at the iconic sign on top of Katahdin. I want to empower people with the knowledge I gained, so that all of the miles and injuries and sweat and blood I poured out only to ingloriously fail will finally be good for something. And that’s exactly what we intend to do this Saturday.
If you’ve ever had the dream of hiking the AT, Benton Mackaye, Florida Trail, Pacific Crest, or any other long trail, we highly recommend coming to this course. We know it’s short notice, but I promise it’ll be worth your time. We have four slots left. Sign up here at: https://www.sarcraft.com/long-distance-hiking-essentials