I had pretty well made up my mind before I went to visit Brandon, Russ, and Will in San Francisco in mid November that I was going to hike the AT in the spring. I had done heaps of research and reading and talked to a few friends of this crazy notion I had. Many had the same question, "Are you thinking about doing this alone?" I reassured them that the AT is a very social trail, and I would hardly be alone. Plus, I had already accepted the fact that no other successful human being on the planet was going to have the ability or desire to leave work and walk through the mountains for five months. But, surprisingly, there was one.
The night I arrived in San Francisco, we were at the bar celebrating Dickbat's softball victory from earlier in the night where I got to make a guest appearance and proceeded to immediately make two errors in the outfield due to excessive beer consumption while warming up and sitting on the bench the first couple innings - on the bright side I perfected the art of playing catch while warming up for a softball game and simultaneously drinking beer - a glove makes a great koozie, BUT I digress.
We were at the bar and I'm sure I bring up the AT. It's difficult not to bring it up when it is the thing that consumes all of your thoughts all day. Hikers could talk about the AT for days. Sometimes I do. Sorry about that. But anyway, Brandon seems intrigued and says it something he has always wanted to do. Could just be the beer.
As the weekend goes on, we talk about the AT on and off. We talk about food, distance, logistics, the normal stuff. I think Brandon's just curious. My last night in San Francisco, after a few more beers, Brandon definitively says he's going to join me. He'll leave California and head back east to be homeless and jobless and wander through the Appalachian Mountains with me. I tell him he is crazy and that it is a stupid, terrible idea because it mostly is. He doesn't listen. Once you have your heart set on the AT, there's really nothing that can save you. Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Thrash, I tried to stop him. Good thing I am terrible at convincing anyone to do anything, because now I had a hiking partner and I was ecstatic.
I was not expecting to go to San Francisco and come back with a hiking partner. As for Brandon, just a few days earlier he was expecting to be living in sunny California and continue being an employed, productive member of society for the foreseeable future and sure as hell not walking through the mountains for five months.
A lot can happen in just a few short days.