My brother Carlos lives in Harlem, and like me, he has never explored the backcountry. He’s clueless about the Appalachian Trail and has exaggerated thoughts of what is needed to prepare for a long-distance hike, or am I being too carefree? Nonetheless, seven years separate the two of us and days before I leave, my kid brother is taking a parental approach at my pursuit for adventure by questioning my better judgment in the following text exchange:
Carlos – Dude, when are you leaving again?
Me – March 18
Carlos – What kind of survival gear did you get for your trip?
Me – Everything; tent, sleeping bag, portable mini stove, multitool, water bladder & more. I’ll show you what I have soon.
Carlos – I hope you got a striking flint, axe, bear mace and a foil blanket just in case.
Carlos – A machete wouldn’t hurt either.
Carlos – They come in small sizes.
Me – Yikes, I’m not going off to war! I’m bringing a couple lighters, no flint, maybe mace… but probably not. No machete or foil blanket.
Carlos – We need to talk. You gotta be prepared for everything. You’re gonna need a machete to get out of a tough spot. Bear mace is a last resort. You’re not gonna just be running into squirrels. You need to wear a holster and put the blanket in there in case you get separated from your backpack. Man, I wanna go.
Me – Backpack will be like part of my body. It’s NEVER leaving my side. Yeah, I would prefer not to do this trek alone.
Carlos – You can always be separated from your pack. A striking flint will give you a spark to start a fire just by hitting it across steel, like with a machete, which can be strapped to you. You can put the flint in the holster. Dude, you’re gonna be out there on your own.
Me – Yeah, that’s true & I’m taking precautions in case I do get separated from my pack. But, I know if I lose my bag then this adventure will be over. So, trust me when I say this bag will always be with me. It can’t be otherwise.
Carlos – I know you’re my big bro, but it doesn’t feel that way right now.
Me – What are you talkin’ about?
Carlos – I’m concerned. Not sure you’re prepared for the worst. It’s not just bears and mountain lions. There’s plenty of rednecks that won’t want you around.
Me – Ha! I don’t believe that. I’m think there aren’t any mountain lions… I think. Listen, many hike the AT and it’s super safe. It’s a trail with these white markings that I’ll follow. It’ll be hard for me to get lost. It’s not undiscovered territory. Look, if something does happen, which it won’t, but if it does, I would rather go out doing life, than allowing life to do me. But, step off, Grim Reaper, I have life plans, ambitions, Netflix to watch… so much more to do. I’ll be around kickin’ it for a spell. Oh, trust! (Read that last sentence with a diva attitude.)
Me – So, chill little brother, I got this!
Carlos – At least get a small machete. You can strap it to your chest. I’ll order it for you.
Me – No don’t… you are relentless! A multitool is enough. A machete is overkill and I’m not strapping jack to my chest. Who am I, the Punisher?
Carlos – I’m not feeling good about this, but of course, I can’t tell you what to do. Good luck… break a leg… woo, maybe I shouldn’t say that, huh? I’ll talk to you later.
Me – Hey man, I luv this life. I wouldn’t do anything I thought had the slightest chance of ending it. Don’t fret & especially don’t worry your mother. See ya.
Carlos – I won’t share my concerns. Talk to u soon.
Saturday, the day before I leave for Georgia.
Carlos – How long are u gonna be on this hiking trip?
Me – 5 months… maybe 6
Carlos – 6 months hiking?
Me – What, you thought I was going for a weekend? The AT is over 2,000 miles… it’s no joke.
Carlos – Damn, I thought 2 maybe 3 months.
Carlos – I thought you would walk fast.
Me – Not a race… I wanna enjoy it.
Carlos – It’s a race when you’re getting chased by a red neck and you don’t have a machete!
Me – Not funny.
If you’re interested in reading more about my wacky, yet adventurous AT experience, check out my memoir, ‘The Unlikely Thru-Hiker‘.