I am going off Alaska today (hey, it’s my blog I can do what I want). This week marks the 75th birthday of my Unicorn. I can’t let it pass without mentioning.
Jeremy Phillips planted the concept in my head a long time ago. The unicorn is much like the fairy-book tale. The unicorn is something that is a myth, unobtainable but equally elusive. The unicorn is something that is greatly desired and just when you stop thinking it will be yours you we it out of the corner of your eye: however, if you are true to the unicorn, approach it the right way, you can capture it
My unicorn is a 2105 mile long dirt path that will take going off the grid for 6 months to walk – I neither have the money, time, expertise, or body to do it, but it is still there at the corner of my eye.
My unicorn is the Appalachian Trail.
From the first time I saw it, I was intrigued. Here was this thing that people walked … And walked … And walked. And after the stopped walking, they still had a long way to walk from there on. The trail starts on Springer Mountain in Northern Georgia, then follows the Appalachians from mountain peak to mountain peak until it reaches Mt Katahdin in north central Maine. I remember being drawn to the Appalachians in 1989 when we visited Gatlingburg, TN when I marched drum corp with the Colts. I remember hearing about the trail the first time in 1998 when I toured the Shenandoah. But it wasn’t until 2006, when hiking started to consume me, when the idea of doing the trail, being a thru hiker, doing all of it started feeding in my head. I’ve done practice hikes to pace the length I would expect in a day to day plan. I’ve bought gear that would be needed on that trail. I have read, mapped, and followed the trail from afar.
To do it though, I will need to free myself of any obligation for around 6 months. In otherwords, would have to be off work for a long time – but still have all the bills paid like I was there. Also, I would have to work out logistics of it all, getting gear at different times of the trail and different locations. Thru hikers start in Georgia in the spring, and finish in Maine in the early fall (or in rare cases, start in summer in Maine and end in the Georgian winter). Preparation for it all would be key. I could do it in sections, it’s fairly frequent (and acceptable for the hikers) to do so – taking years to complete it all; but that’s removing to some point why I want to do it at all. These are the limitations that just words like “you can do it” won’t overcome. But that’s what makes it a unicorn, doesn’t it.
But I believe in Unicorns. Unicorns are real to me because I have captured them in the past. You could say Alaska is a unicorn, but I didn’t feel it the same way my other have been. The first real unicorn, the one I am most proud of, happened when I was in high school. I spotted it the first time on a late August night on my TV watching PBS. I spotted it again somewhere outside of Kansas City in 1989. It kept appearing to me for the next two summers to come. I had it in my grasp the Thanksgiving weekend of 1991 when I drove across country to New Jersey (then almost lost it when I wrecked my car on Staten Island). But I still remember that day, when I stopped in a bathroom in Teterboro in 1992 to check a few safety pins, straighten, a cummerbund, a make sure I looked good in uniform when it hit me — I had become a member of the Cadets of Bergen County. I could go on about that experince until I am blue (or maroon and gold) in the face, but that was the first Unicorn I ever saw, and it is the one that I caught.
So, Happy Birthday AT. Keep on lying there, just out of my sight, dancing and playing where someday you can be caught. But don’t be surprised if I go on the hunt and try to catch you one more time.