Hiking the AT (or Ode to Tacos)

It was over tacos.

I decided to start hiking the Appalachian Trail over a meal of tacos.
Of course, it was over tacos.

I feel like my hiking life could be measured in tacos, defined by tacos, counted by tacos.

Five years ago, my first hike with the Hudson Valley Hikers was a Taco Tuesday hike.

At the time, my partner worked weekends and we were struggling to find a time when we could hike together. The Taco Tuesday night hike offered by Hudson Valley Hikers (HVH) was the perfect solution. Why, you ask, would anyone want to hike at night (and in the winter) with no views or scenic vistas along the way? I did it for the tacos.

After a fast-paced hike up and down a mountain, we would go to Brio’s for as many $1 tacos as we could eat. We used to joke that you could measure the hardness of a hike by the tacos. A hard hike might equal a “five taco night” and an easy hike might translate into a “three taco night”. Taco Tuesday became a weekly fixture in my and my partner’s life as we climbed most of the 35 highest Catskill Mountains by night.

It was over tacos that I fell in love with the Catskill Mountains and became an avid hiker, so it seems only appropriate that it was over tacos that I decided to officially start section hiking the Appalachian Trail.

I have dreamed of hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) since I was a youth. However, since the AT is a time commitment of 3-6 months, it has always been something that I dreamed of hiking one day in the future, when I conveniently had free time. Yet, that free time never came.

Then one day, I found myself eating tacos at the Mexican Kitchen in New Paltz. There, my friend told me how they had biked solo across New York State via the Erie Canal. They described what it was like to prepare for the journey, to bike solo in unfamiliar places, and to find a place to sleep each night.

Their story captured my imagination.

If they could accomplish their dream of soloing a bike ride across New York State, why couldn’t I accomplish mine of hiking the Appalachian Trail right now, at this time in my life?

Previously, I had decided not to piece hike the AT. My main day off, Friday, differed from that of other hikers. This reality meant that I would have had to hike by myself. However, my friend’s story had put the task into perspective: they had crossed a whole state with nothing but themself, their bike, and their gear.

Why couldn’t I hike a trail by myself if I was adequately prepared?
If not now, then when?

That week, I ordered a Delorme Inreach Two-Way Satellite Communicator, which allows you to text anytime from the wilderness and share your GPS coordinates freely. As soon as I received it, I began to solo hike the Appalachian Trail piece by piece.

The journey will take years, or decades, to complete.

Still, I have begun and am walking in the direction of my dreams.

A dream realized over tacos.

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