In 2018, I left New York City to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail

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After I spent a decade living in big cities, first in Philadelphia and then New York, I was looking for the right balance of adventure and city life. I had a dream job in Manhattan, glamorous perks, and a classic Brooklyn apartment, yet I wasn’t happy, coasting by in auto-pilot.

I found my escapes in upstate NY and nearby NJ, hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail. Every hike and backpacking trip revealed a conquered comfort zone and newfound confidence.

Over time, the concept of a thru-hike manifested as the perfect opportunity to create the change I needed.

Timing was on my side and I decided to leave my job, sell what I could, and make plans to hike. Once on trail, I thrived in the daily physical grind, mental workout, challenges and rewards. I felt primed for this lifestyle, at home in the woods, a new outlook on life taking hold.

The Appalachian Trail showed me a new way to live and the lessons are priceless: living with less, carrying only what you need to get from point to point, learning self-care in fundamental ways, among countless others.

Sharing the journey became my creative outlet, bringing the outdoors into the conversation and discovering what it means to live a balanced life.

My journey didn’t happen overnight. The Concrete Hiker is the story of the journey.

They call me highlight

I like to think trail names were created to let people claim their alter-egos, allowing the vulnerable made visible.

But it’s mostly about having fun with trail culture and the community. Bestowed upon you, a good name shows a sense of humor and exposes ones’ character. In my case, it was a perfect combination of pun and forgetful consequence.

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Right before the trail started and on the flight from Newark to Bangor, Maine I brought four highlighters to make notes in my guidebook, marking hostel ideas, places to camp, etc. Trying to squeeze in any last prep work along the way. In the airport, I sat at a bar sipping an IPA, drawing neon pink arrows and underlining shelter names in blue, hardly believing the journey was already beginning.

Starting a Southbound thru-hike involves a few logistical steps, ultimately bringing you to the small town of Millinocket, just outside Baxter State Park and Mt Katahdin.

I arrive and settle into the AT Lodge & Hostel, preparing the last of my food bag for the 100-Mile Wilderness, and anxiously wait for the morning to arrive when we drive into Baxter. At this point, everything you bring into the state park must be packed out since there are no trash facilities.

After registering with the park ranger, I realized I forgot to the dump the highlighters at the hostel before we left.

I had to carry highlighters with me in the 100-Mile Wilderness

I ended up using the highlighters anyway, pulling them out to mark in yellow where I slept and pink for swimming spots, a color-coding system that would only grow more elaborate and illustrated.

I met up with other SOBOs at the Logan Brook Lean-to, including Alex, later known as Firecracker. Remarking on my personality and coloring activity, she said, “you’re the highlight of any place, and obviously, your markers…”

Seven days later, I’m out of the 100MW and hitching into Monson, Maine, the first trail town on the southbound trek. After my shakedown at Shaw’s, I decide to accept the trail name and the highlighters but ditch the green one…because now I’m ultralight. The rest is Highlight history.

 
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