Five Million. That’s a big number no matter how you slice it. That’s how many estimated steps it will take Robert Messick to hike the Appalachian Trail – all 2,190 miles of it. He begins his journey on April 15 over every mountain between Georgia and Maine. The AT, as it is known, is the world’s longest footpath and spans 14 states. Robert hopes to raise $35,000 while walking the trail for the Talbot Interfaith Shelter in Easton.
The Talbot Interfaith Shelter (TIS) has been an interest of Robert’s since its start in 2009. He has volunteered at the shelter for years. He loves hiking and decided to marry the two in an effort known as The Long Walk Home. In preparation for his departure, Robert dehydrated food for his 4,000 calorie a day trek and found time to spread the word about his Long Walk Home in hopes of gathering pledges.
While Robert is choosing to go “homeless” for up to five months on the trail, the people in the care of TIS do not chose to be homeless. “I’m becoming homeless on purpose, but the people who are homeless don’t do it by choice. We get stories from folks who are able to get their lives back on track with the help from the shelter. Talbot Interfaith Shelter is a crucial aspect to our community. We need to step forward and help them out.”
Hiking the “Green Tunnel,” as its known, is hard on even the seasoned hiker. Robert has been hiking and working out daily to prepare his body. He is mentally prepared as well, having practiced yoga for years. Robert, a yoga instructor, explains that yoga is as much about mind as body. “The AT is the perfect setting for walking meditation,” he said.
While 3,000 people attempt to walk through the trail, only 15% to 20% finish. The first few weeks are a real challenge, Robert admits, before gaining one’s trail legs. “My mental outlook is to accept what is and not fight it,” he said. It’s going to rain. It will get cold. He will stumble on rocks and roots. He might even curse the PUDs (Pointless Ups and Downs), but he will take the steady approach. He hopes to average 15 miles a day. “It’s senseless to not enjoy the journey,” said Robert, who is 62.
He will wake before dawn – rising from his hanging hammock – and hit the trail at sunrise. He will watch for the telltale white blazes on trees and follow them until near sunset. While there are shelters along the trail every 8 to 10 miles, Robert plans on setting up camp on his own. Family and friends may join him in Virginia, but a majority of the trek will be alone.
While he does worry about injury, Robert is still well connected to home, family and friends. Robert has an iPhone 7 Plus and a special GPS watch so he can broadcast daily uploads, based on reception in remote locations. Various apps will help him along the way as well. A Satellite Spot Messenger provides his coordinates at all times for family checking in on him.
Hiking the AT from start to finish is an experience like no other. To put it in perspective, it’s like hiking the world’s tallest mountain, Mt. Everest, 16 times. Robert hopes to make the hike in about five months and in only four pair of boots – three pair of Trail Runners, a specialized lightweight hiking shoe – and a pair of Gore-Tex hiking boots for the colder months. And he’ll need to swap out his cold gear in the warmer months. He has packed boxes of gear and food and will mail them to various drop points along the route at one-week intervals to restock his supplies. Food and water is heavy to carry and he plans on taking five to seven days worth of food at a time.
It will be exciting to follow Robert’s five million steps starting on April 15, at the conclusion of tax season as Robert is in tax and estate planning at The Messick Law Firm, LLC, in St. Michaels. While the AT was completed in about 1927, it took another 20 years before someone finished it as a through hike. Robert hopes to be one of the proud to make that accomplishment.
To follow Robert along the trail, visit www.trailjournals.com/LongWalkHome. Follow Robert on Twitter @RobertMessickat and Instagram at @robertmessickontheAT.
To donate to the Long Walk Home, visit https://tis.networkforgood.com. For more information about Talbot Interfaith Shelter, visit www.talbotinterfaithshelter.org.