Blog post by guest artist and photographer, Emerald Estock
The other day I was at Damico’s discussing some framing options with Mel and John for a couple of my new pieces. Michael was passing through and stopped to see how things were going. I mentioned that a 3rd gallery had just expressed interest in representing me and that his advice was paying off. One thing led to another, and we started talking about motivation and long distance hiking.
I hiked the Appalachian Trail (AT) in 2012 as a “thru-hiker.” That means I started in Georgia and didn’t stop till I had reached the other end in Maine. The trail is 2,200 miles, goes through 14 states, and takes an average of 5-6 months to complete. I was caught off guard a bit when Michael asked me a question: what type of person does it take to complete such a feat? Usually, people ask me how to get in shape for the trail, so I started there and worked back.
I have always felt that anyone with a desire and moderate health could hike the AT. So long as you pace yourself and stay within your limits, the trail will get you in shape. You can train for a 5K by running 5Ks, but the only way to complete a 6-month hike is to actually do the hike. You have to invest in the proper preparation as far as gear and logistics. But then it’s just you and the trail.
There are Good Days and There is…Perseverance
The trail will get you in shape, but it will also eventually start to wear you down physically and emotionally. I have an incredible collection of wonderful memories from the trail and they have become an important part of my art. A recurring theme when talking with collectors of my work is that they connect with the peacefulness and tranquility that my pieces suggest.
There were also times that tested my resolve. I have one memory where the negatives just seemed to overwhelm me. I had had several consecutive days of bad weather and rough terrain. When I finally got to a smooth section where I felt I could make some good miles, my foot developed an annoying ache. Moving at a snail’s pace, it started to rain…yet again. It was at this point that I simply set up my tent mid-day, crawled inside, and cried myself to sleep. I woke up, did some stretches, made a hot lunch, and restarted my day. I managed to get a good hike that afternoon and change my outlook.
So, yes, there are going to be some days that just suck. I had read many accounts of previous thru-hikers. A common piece of advice was to not quit on a bad day. You may decide that long distance hiking isn’t for you, but make the decision when things are going well.
Appalachian Trail & Art: Pick a Direction & Start
I think, in retrospect, hiking the trail was a lot like the advice Michael gives to artists who are trying to move to the next level: just pick a direction and start. You do not need all the answers and details. And honestly, you will never have all the answers. Life and your journey are too dynamic. The choices you make today will influence the answers you get and the paths that will become available in the future. Just take it one step at a time, but keep taking those steps.
I guess to answer Michael’s question (“What type of person does it take to complete such a feat?”), hiking a long-distance trail is a lot like pursuing one’s art. You simply need the desire and patience. Revel in the good times, persevere through the bad, but keep your goal in sight and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Don’t want something more than you are willing to work for it, but don’t sell yourself short either.
See more of Emerald’s work at his website.