Agua Sarca Canyon at dawn, with the full moon and my little tent

Why I Did the Thru-Hike

There are many reasons why I did the thru-hike.

The first was just the adventure of it. The thrill of finding a way through. Of trying to do something that was not guaranteed, that was not already documented and reviewed and established.

I did it because it’s fun to connect trails and trailheads in a new way. It made my heart beat faster just thinking about it. It kept me up at night, woke me up at night, sent me back to the maps again and again, teasing me with the possibility of making it all the way through.

The Trailrider’s Wall, especially, captured my heart before I ever saw it. How could anyone’s heart – or at least a hiker’s heart – not be captured by something called “The Trailrider’s Wall”?

Another reason – maybe a deeper one – is that I just simply love the mountains. These mountains. My deepest, best self is a wilderness, and is at home in wilderness. It’s a relief to be out there on my own, free from all the boundaries and obligations of the human world.

I also just thought it would be fun to have a thru-hike to connect Santa Fe and Taos. God knows we have plenty of tourists. Some of them even hike. And the trails are there, and the views are there, and there’s enough water to get through. It’s a lovely hike, through lovely country. There’s a treasure out there, over the shoulder of Baldy, that more people need to know about.

That brings up another reason. I treasure the woods, and I worry about the threats to them. I worry about lands being sold off, about bad forest management, about forest fires and climate change. I worry about the animals that live within them.

If people come to the woods and spend time in them, most of them will appreciate the woods and mountains more. They will value the wilderness.

Some of them might even protect it – or they’ll vote for people who will protect it.

They won’t toss trash into the streams. They won’t say climate change doesn’t exist or it’s not our fault. Or that it doesn’t matter if the fires burn so long as peoples’ houses don’t get burnt down.

I also did this thru-hike for selfish reasons. I haven’t done much in my life; it’s likely I’ll die and disappear without much of a trace. It would be nice to leave this. I think there’s enough that’s wonderful about this hike to make up for at least some of my shortcomings while I was here.

And then there’s the real reason – why this actually got done. Why I actually swung the backpack on and headed down the trail. This project simply grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. It was the fuel I lived on for months – even when the woods were closed due to fire restrictions. It was this wild, crazy, gorgeous idea, and my dull life needed it like air.

Leave a Comment