It’s Getting Real

Towards the end of 2015, I found myself in the darkest place I had ever been. I left my job suddenly. I moved back in with my parents. I had lost direction and purpose in life. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had let everyone I knew down.

I was lost.

I spent the next few months trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. What I could do with my life. I would sit in coffee shops looking through jobs for hours. I was getting nowhere.

My best friend, Rob, has always had a dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail. The whole thing. That always sounded cool to me, but was never something I thought I would do. He invited me to go on a section hike of the trail. This sounded fun. I said yes.

But it got me thinking.

What if I were to thru-hike the trail? What’s stopping me? I am in my mid-twenties. I don’t have a serious job. I don’t have kids. I’m not in a serious relationship. If I were ever to do something like this, now would be the time.

So it was on my mind.

Then, Rob had even more influence on me. He decided to sell his record collection to take his wife on a trip to Ireland, which has been a dream of hers for her entire life. Many of you know that I was a huge record collector. Seeing his success in selling his records got me curious about what my collection was worth. I calculated it and it was quite a bit more than I expected.

I still wasn’t going to do it.

It wasn’t until I went to visit my friend David in Kentucky that I really decided to hike the trail. I went down for the weekend. We had a good time, and I shared with him my struggles with purpose and direction in life. Right before I left, I told him that sometimes I just thought about taking 6 months and hiking the Appalachian Trail. His reply was simply, “What’s stopping you, man? Do it.”

The whole drive back to Ohio I thought about it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to do it. I needed to do it. Then I realized the only way I could do it financially would be to sell my records. The pieces were already in place, I just connected them on that drive.

By the time I got back to Ohio, I decided to sell my record collection and hike the Appalachian Trail.

For the first time in months, I was excited.

Thus began a journey of organizing, pricing and selling my records. I started by telling a few close friends. They were instantly supportive and excited for me. Then on my 25th birthday I made it public that I was doing this.

The support was unbelievable. So many people were reaching out, buying records and giving me encouragement. Some people gave me extra money. Some people told me I could have the records back for free after my hike. They just wanted to support me. It was incredible.

No one was more excited than Rob though. He started helping me figure out gear I needed, giving me advice, telling me things about the trail. We still had our section hike coming up. Now it had a whole new meaning.

In May of 2016, I had assembled a good amount of gear I needed, and Rob and I set out for our hike.

It was a wake-up call.

I was so out of shape. I weighed 260 pounds. With my pack I weighed almost 300 pounds. We did a section of the trail called the Roller Coaster. It’s called that because of all the upward and downward climbs back to back.

I barely made it. I really enjoyed it, and it was great. But I had serious second thoughts. What had I gotten myself into?

Afterwards, I went to my doctor. He told me I needed to lose weight. Not for the trail, for my general health.

It was scary.

I started doing a program called Couch to 5K. That and weight watchers. My mom had been trying to get me to do them for months but I wouldn’t. I finally listened to her and wow.

My mom and I ended up running our first 5k together this Fall.

5k

6 months later, I’ve lost almost 60 pounds and can run up to 10 miles. These are things I never could have imagined being able to do a year ago.

Rob and I did a second section hike through the Great Smoky Mountains. The difference in my endurance was unbelievable. This time I weighed less with my pack on than I did before without it. I was hiking faster, tackling hills, wanting to go further. It was unreal.

A year ago, I was in the darkest place I had ever been. Preparing for this hike has gotten me to a better physical, emotional and spiritual place than I’ve been in years. Maybe my entire life.

And I leave in less than 3 months. It’s getting real.

I made this website to keep everyone updated through photos, blog posts, etc.

I want to thank everyone who has been a part of this journey so far.

I start my actual hike in 3 months, but the journey has been going strong for almost a year now.

And to think, it’s only just begun.

-Ethan