Purtell sets out on new assignment

First Byline: 
David Purtell - Staff Writer

Editor's Note: This is the first blog post from Purtell on his Appalachian Trail journey. Follow his posts at www.purtellscorner.blogspot.com.

It's late on Saturday, April 26, 2014. It'll be Sunday by the time I post this. I'm sitting on the floor in a nearly empty living room in my townhouse in Barnwell, South Carolina. The room is mostly empty, like the rest of the house, because in less than 48 hours I won't be living here anymore -- I'll be somewhere in northern Georgia hiking north on the 2,100 mile Appalachian Trail.
Exactly why I'm setting out on this trek from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Katahdin Mt. in Maine is hard to explain. The simplest explanations are: 1. because I want to - 2. because I can. All other reasons are more excuses than anything else.
How I got the idea to attempt the hike -- one which 80 percent of people who start fail to finish -- is much easier to describe. I got into hiking a little over a year ago thanks to my buddy, Josh. He took me on my first multi-day hike, and I was hooked immediately. And after reading a book, "AWOL on the Appalachian Trail," about a man who completed a "thru-hike" in 2003, the idea to give it a shot was planted in my head. And it grew. It grew to the point where I found myself constantly thinking about it.
So I decided the only way to satisfy my thirst was to do it. And after about eight months of preparation I'm down to the last day before my trip begins. Excited, nervous, anxious -- they all work.
I'm leaving a good job -- and great people -- as a journalist for the The People-Sentinel newspaper in Barnwell. I've thoroughly enjoyed my time here, and I'm sad to leave. But I made the decision that if I've going to attempt a thru-hike it's better to try now then wait and potentially miss the opportunity altogether.
Now, the AT isn't some iron-man-survivalist challenge. It's an endurance test -- both mental and physical. The trail bends, climbs, drops and curves its way along the Appalachian Mountains, crossing highways and even running through towns. There are shelters for hikers to sleep in at night, and communities that cater to hikers are dotted along the trail.
I'll have an extremely detailed guidebook with me on my hike, and apparently cell reception is pretty good. I'll never be too far away from civilization -- hence the title of this blog.
All my gear, around 35 pounds total, will be in a hiking backpack.Water, food, cooking items, etc. ... you have to carry everything you need on your back.
I plan to update this blog as often as possible while on the trail and post to Facebook and Twitter (@purtelld) -- so follow along if you like!
If you want to learn about the trail, start here. There is plenty of information on the Web if you're interested.