For many years, I’ve been telling Appalachian Trail thru-hikers that, if thru-hiking isn’t the most important thing in their life at the time they are doing it, then stop doing it and go do what is. It’s sage hiking advice and the precept that kept me focused during my first thru-hike in 1985. Once I’d completed that initial thru-hike, however, thru-hiking by itself was never again the most important thing in my life. Instead, serving the A.T. and its community became my true passion and top priority, and remained so for more than two decades.
Priorities do change, though, so that I can no longer say that serving the A.T. community is most important now. I’ve shared all that I have to share, every goal that can be achieved by me has been achieved, no more A.T. challenges remain. Such being the case, I’m bidding a fond farewell to the A.T. to pursue a new mission in life that has gradually, over the past few years, become more important to me.
I end my involvement in the A.T. project with the satisfaction that comes from pride in a job well done, from knowing that my efforts have helped to preserve the A.T. as an authentic outdoor experience for millions of people, and from knowing that I have always given you my best.
I hope that you will wish me a smooth transition as I leave to be a private person again. I wish for you the same joy and happiness that I have derived from hiking on the A.T., from working to protect A.T. lands, from helping others more fully enjoy their time on the A.T., and from faithfully passing on the A.T.’s rich history, honorable traditions, and wilderness values to future generations of Americans. The Appalachian Trail is a unique recreational treasure. Take good care of it.
I’m leaving you in good hands here, since I’m turning things over to a dedicated 2,000 Miler, Bob McCaw, who is assuming the responsibilities of updating and publishing The Thru-hiker’s Handbook and developing a new Trailplace.com website. He has already updated the end-to-enders guide to the Long Trail, so I know that he will do a fine job with the handbook, continuing its emphasis on serving the needs of A.T. hikers. Also, once he has finished updating the handbook, I know he will develop the website into a fine source of dependable hiking information that honors the purpose of the A.T.
I urge all of you to give Bob the same help and support you gave me through the years. That’s the way the Appalachian Trail operates, and I know you will want to continue the tradition. —Wingfoot