Dedication and Introduction

This morning while laying in bed I had several thoughts running through my head about what I would write as an introduction to a book that I am planning on writing.  Many times when you are writing in your head you should simply get up and actually write, so I did.  I decided to share the Dedication (written last summer) and the Introduction (written this morning) with everyone.  They may change between now and a publication date in the future, but for now, this is what I have.  Enjoy.

-Seven


Dedication

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  In this case, one step at at time.  I am Scott.  I am adopting the trail name of Seven and will be hiking from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail.  It is said to take about 5 million steps to complete the journey.  Skywalker did it in about 4 million due to his height, in which case it might take me about 7.5 million given mine.  What I am doing is not unique.  Every year a few thousand start with the intention of thru hiking and about 20% complete the trek.  However, it is epic, both in distance and time.  It is about 2,200 miles and will take approximately 5-6 months to complete.  At this point it is a romantic ideal.  I have yet to deal with rain day after day where everything I own is completely soaked.  Or the roaring winds in the high Eastern Mountains that will chill me to the bone.  Or the black flies, gnats and mosquitoes that will be relentless.

This book is about that journey, but that journey is just a backdrop for what it is really about.  This book hopefully will discuss life, life lessons and perhaps some rules of life.  Plenty have written the book which is the walk from Georgia to Maine.  I could offer the same, but wish to offer some of what is behind that walk and some of what is learned from that walk.  Hopefully the reader will get a sense of the grandeur, the monotony, the trial and tribulations…as well as the solitude and possibility of thought.

This book is dedicated to my wife Leslie, without whom this trip would not be possible.  It is further dedicated to my father, brother and the other staff at Edwards Group CPAs, S.C. who have agreed to work a bit harder so that I can take the time to attempt this feat.  It is also dedicated to my sons, Steven and Shannon, whom I hope will enjoy the story, find laughter and even some wisdom in the pages and go on to complete great adventures in their lives.  Finally, it is dedicated to my step-daughter Hilary, for she has blazed her own trails in eating elephants and come out the other side better for it.

To all who are pushing elephants up the stairs, sit back a while and read what it is like to eat an elephant, no matter how big or daunting.

July 3, 2015

Introduction

{Picture of a clean cut me, with backpack taking my first step on the AT from Springer Mountain, GA}

How do we get to this point?  In contemplating an answer to that question, I ran through some of the significant points in my life.  Not sure that any one memory gives an answer, but maybe collectively they show us a glimpse of how we got to this point.  If nothing else it will provide a bit of a backdrop of who I am.

I think September 7, 1976 is when I first met my wife, Leslie.  As far as I can tell that was the first day of seventh grade.  We went to Burlington Junior High School and I remember standing at the corner of a hallway looking towards the lockers on the far side of the hall and seeing this new girl with a really really cute butt.  She had just moved into the district.  For whatever reason, well, being 12 at that time was certainly one of the reasons, I never asked her out.  Even through high school I never asked her out.  In hindsight we both think that the timing was simply not right back then.  I also remember the last day of high school, or near that day, watching her walk down the stairs and out the front door at the school and thinking “she is off to the service in Georgia and I am off to Marquette.  Well if it was meant to be I guess it will be.”  It took almost thirty full years for us to reconnect, but for now, I am getting ahead of myself.

When I think back to my formative years, I am amazed at all the things I did.  I had three different paper routes, at different times, the Milwaukee Journal, the Racine Journal and the Hi-Liter.  I seem to recall enjoying the Racine Journal route until they switched to a morning delivery.  I was not then, and sort of am not now, a morning person.   The trail will change that I think.  Once they switched, I also switched to the Hi-Liter.  I had a double route for the Hi-Liter and a friend of mine from high school, Joe Covelli asked his parents if I could drop half of the papers at his house the night before I ran the route.  I purchased a new delivery bike for this route.  It was a girls’ bike with big tubes for the frame.  I liked the aspect of it being a girls’ bike because I could jump on and off a lot easier than if it had the bar that ran from the seat to the handle bars.  With two large baskets in back it was difficult to swing your leg up and over all that hardware.  I would load up the baskets, including a very large front basket, run the first half of the route, reload at the Covelli’s and then run the second half.  I don’t know how long I did that route, but it was a weekly advertiser so I think I did it for quite a while as it only took Tuesday night to prepare the papers and Wednesday night to deliver, but memories are a bit fuzzy.  At some point during those years I also worked at the local grocery store, Sentry, as a bag boy and stocker.  I enjoyed stocking more than bagging, but both were fine.  I really liked working on Sundays because we got paid double time.

In school I participated in sports as well.  I remember going out for track in junior high.  Mr. Bolstad was our coach.  He is the one that suggested I try the hurdles, so I became the hurdler.  In high school I also went out for cross country, mainly as a way to maintain shape for track season.  I was never a very good long distance runner, but I did OK with it.  Real middle of the pack.  At the beginning of track season my senior year of high school, I was walking with Coach Underberg around the track.  The prior year the track team won the conference championship, but I did not contribute any points to the win.  So although I was a member of the conference championship team, I did not feel like I had earned that right.  So while walking with Coach Underberg I was discussing how I thought I should focus on the high hurdles that year and try to win conference in that event.  You need to understand how laughable that is in hindsight.  I am five foot six on a good day.  I had scars on my knees, both knees, from hitting the high hurdles as I would go over them.  To be a good high hurdler you would take three steps between the hurdles therefore always leading with the same leg to go over the hurdles.  I could not make the distance in three steps and needed four.  This meant I had to be able to switch legs, which was very unusual.  You normally developed a flow with one leg and became expert at that.  Anyway, I was explaining to Coach Underberg how I thought that was going to be my race that year.  He suggested that I focus instead on the 300 low hurdles.  I did not want to make that my focus since running full bore for 300 yards is difficult, and painful, but he thought that would be my race.  So, the spring of 1982 I would go to bed each night running the conference championship race in the low hurdles in my head, with me winning of course.

That track season I lost twice.  Once in an indoor meet in Racine early in the season and the second time was on purpose in the conference preliminaries as I was trying to get a certain lane assignment for the finals.  Coach Foulke, the Head Coach of the track team, was furious with me for losing that race on purpose.  Incidentally, I am not counting sectionals, which would determine who qualified for state, as I was so focused on winning conference, sectionals did not even make my radar and I lost that race easy.  Normally at the end of the season the schedule would be conference preliminaries with finals the next day, then a few days to a week later sectionals, then state after that.  However, that spring we had a late snow storm and conference finals were postponed for a week.   So the spring of 1982 we had conference preliminaries, then sectionals, then conference finals and then state.  So that strange schedule is also a reason I did not do well at sectionals, I was still focused on conference as my work there was not done.  Anyway, Coach Underberg was right.  I won conference that year and set the school record for the 300 lows.  In addition to being a team captain that season I was also MVP (most valuable) and MIP (most improved).  Needless to say, that erased my disappointment from the prior year for not being able to help the team win the conference championship.  Now I belonged.

The other thing I did during high school was Boy Scouts.  My best friend at the time, Mike Griebel, joined the troop at his church.  He asked me if I wanted to join and when he told me they go camping, that was all it took and I was in.  I had to be about 12 or 13 at the time I joined, was an Eagle Scout at age 15 and earned three palms by the time I aged out at 18.  Those years set the tone for my love of the outdoors.  Not only did we do the normal monthly scout outings, but scouts also introduced me to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota and Quentico in Canada.  Upon making Eagle, Griebs and I went to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico as celebration for making the rank.  It was my first significant backpacking trip and it set the tone for the next four summers for me.  I went back the following year and did a Philmont trek called Rayado, which is all about pushing physical and mental barriers, and then applied for staff and got a job as a ranger starting June 10th or so 1981.  That date was important as I turned 17 on June 7th, just a couple days prior to arriving at Philmont.  Back then you only had to be 17 to be on staff, but most of the time 17 earned you a base camp job.  I was a newly minted 17 year-old and had earned the job of ranger.  That was a big thing.  Today you need to be 18 to work at Philmont and looking back on it, I was probably not quite mature enough for the job that first summer.  With most crews I did fine, but there were some that for whatever reason did not work out so well.  I suppose everyone had that to some degree, but perhaps a year or two more of maturity could have resolved some of those issues where you just weren’t real sure of yourself at that age.  So I spent two summers as a ranger, basically being paid to backpack and teach backpacking skills, and one more summer working at one of the back-country staffed camps, Cyphers Mine.  I recall being told of a fellow ranger who had thru-hiked the Continental Divide Trail and thinking she was nuts!

The reason I did not go back and staff for a fourth year was I was not offered a job I desired and real life was beginning to interfere, so instead I stayed home and worked a job that paid better to help offset college costs.  I had intended to apply again for the next summer, but I never did and backpacking became something I used to do.  I took one other trip to Colorado in 1988ish and that was it until my kids were in scouting and I was able to go with them.

As my first marriage began to unravel in 2011, I had the opportunity to review my life to that point and think about what I was doing.  One of the things that kept coming back on my radar was backpacking and the Appalachian Trail.  Not that I am old by any stretch, but the years are piling up and let’s not kid ourselves, thru-hiking is a very physically demanding endeavor.  If I was going to do this, the sooner the better.

I moved out in January 2012 and reconnected with Leslie on February 14th, 2012 over cheese, crackers, wine and a Facebook chat window, almost 30 years since I had last seen her.  Over the next couple of years one of the things we discussed many times was my interest in thru-hiking the AT.   As I write this today, November 24th, 2016, I checked the on this day on Facebook and interestingly enough in 2012, I posted the following:  “Someday, and I don’t know when, I will thru-hike the AT.  Bucket list.”  Well, by 2014 or 2015 Leslie and I were discussing more about the timing of doing a thru-hike and it started to get real.  I don’t recall when we decided 2017 would be the year, but we now have a start date, April 28th, 2017, and if it all works out the picture above is me on that date.

I don’t know if that gets us to the “how” point in the picture, but alas it is a lot of the pieces that made me who I am and led to the moment in the picture, the first step of 7.5 million.