Hair we go again

I’ve asked a lot of hikers why they chose to hike the Appalachian Trail over the past few years. Nearly every answer was different, but a few common themes emerged: “I want to do something extraordinary before building a family and career;” or “I’ve wanted to hike the AT for decades, and now I finally have the chance to do it;” and “My life is so screwed up, I’m going to hide in the woods until things sort themselves out.”

After following the journeys of several of these hikers, I learned there wasn’t a secret answer that would get me all the way to Mt. Katahdin. The twenty-somethings eager to Carpe Diem were just as likely as the recently retired bucket-listers to go the distance. What separated the almost-made-it’s from the less than 10% that reach the finish line in Maine wasn’t the answer they gave, but their commitment to it.

I’m going to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. I’m taking this journey because I believe that I will build a better version of myself along the way. (It’s also going to be a lot of fun.)

There, I said it. It’s official. Now all we have to do is get our hiking shoes dirty.

There is also an interesting tradition among long-distance hikers. Many hikers leave their daily lives behind. This means giving up the laptops and appointments and rush-hour traffic, but for most, it also means giving up their names. I’ll probably have a chance to share a bit about Trail Names in a future post (once I’ve been given a Trail Name), but I’m mentioning the idea of leaving my old life behind now because I really like the idea of starting fresh on this hike.

What better way to start fresh than to get rid of some unwanted weight? It’s going to take me several weeks to lose the belly, and there was no way I was going to leave my Kindle or iPad behind. Besides, I needed to make a symbolic gesture. Something that reminded me (and others) that I was committed to this journey.

I’m still taking a lot with me (not including the 36 lbs of “essential” gear in my pack). Monica and Dad will be with me of course (in spirit and in text). And you will be with me. It means more than I can say type that you are here with me now. Thank you.

After I decided what my symbolic gesture would be and shared it with Monica, I knew that she loved me for more than my dashing good-looks.



“Before – not having second thoughts at all












“After – feeling bald and beautiful. And realizing for the first time that Monica wasn’t going to let me come home until my hair grew back


  • Reply Bypass (John Bock) April 18, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Songbird and I miss the trail. We miss the beauty, we miss simplicity, we miss all the other hikers. Stay safe and know that our thoughts are with you.

    • Reply Gabriel Burkhardt April 24, 2016 at 4:09 am

      Bypass! I’m rediscovering the simplicity (and the excuse to skip shaving and showering) and the chance to connect with new people on a genuine level again after a week on the trail. But seeing your comment sure reminded me of the irreplaceable family dinners we shared in Virginia, and the chance to play “hiker leap frog” as you and Songbird passed Paul Bunion and I so often! Please tell Songbird I said howdy.

  • Reply Monica April 18, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    Good thing love doesn’t have its place in the hair 🙂 today is the big day when u start hiking the trail… I’m sure it will be an amazing start! My thoughts are with u! Stay safe!

    • Reply Gabriel Burkhardt April 24, 2016 at 4:10 am

      I’m pretty sure that my hair will grow back, but Just in case, we better plan to love me for my personality ?

  • Reply Scott (aka Dad) April 18, 2016 at 10:34 pm

    You’re still looking good Gabe, but I did see a hint of a reflection when the sun bounced off your now bald head. I’ll be sure to wear my sunglasses. The best of luck on your new adventure. I know that you have the strength and stamina to make it ALL THE WAY! I love you and stay safe while you’re rediscovering yourself.

    • Reply Gabriel Burkhardt April 24, 2016 at 4:12 am

      Thanks so much Dad! After a week of hiking the trail, I’m remembering that this hiking stuff is hard. The words of encouragement are already more filling than 2 oatmeal packets for breakfast!

  • Reply James Flynn April 25, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    No more GQ?!?!? LOL. Have fun. Be safe. Jim Flynn (San Antonio)

    • Reply Gabriel April 30, 2016 at 12:40 am

      Ha! I will ALWAYS be GQ

    Now it's your turn to play!

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