Born and raised in Front Royal, Virginia, I always knew the Appalachian Trail was there. It was this trail...this thing that for whatever reason, I knew about for as long as I could remember. Growing up, I used to go to 4-H Camp, I did some hiking as a kid, but at the end of the day, I wasn't what you'd call outdoorsy. I began working at that same 4-H Camp, this time as a counselor, and with the Appalachian Trail just about a quarter mile from the property, we'd take youth groups up to the white blaze on a regular basis. And every now and then, standing on the trail, teaching the kids about the trail's history, they would stop paying attention to me and there eyes would grow to the size of dinner plates as a tired & weary hiker emerged from the woods on their way to Georgia or Maine. The kids thought it was cool, I thought it was cool, and ever since, have thought that thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is one of the most American experiences possible. It's a long walk from one corner of the country to another, with everything imaginable in between. Big trees and small trees, hot and cold, mountains, valleys and towns and cities. It's uniquely American, and for 70 years, has managed to remain uniquely American. After 3 summers as a summer camp counselor, I had an affinity for America's favorite trail and those who did were the epitome of brave and truly crazy in all the best ways.
A couple people have asked me, why I don't have more to say on the podcast. I've gotten a few notes about why we get straight to the hiker and there's not a lot of setup. Simply put, there shouldn't be. The story of The 2180 isn't about a host, but it's about the stories and experiences of those who make the trek-however far they get-on the Appalachian Trail. When I started this project, the minimal amount of voice over and host presence was and remains...by design. No one cares what I think, no one needs to hear me beyond an introduction and an end-everything else in between is really what matters.
Two years ago, I had the idea of a storytelling video series about the Appalachian Trial, but in the words of those who know it best. And Working in tv/video, it seemed the logical execution. But a video series, shot entirely on the trail with those who have hiked it, proved to be a logistical and scheduling nightmare. Podcasting, began to make more sense. And truthfully, it's a better execution anyway. Podcasting is an intimate medium, it's being in someone's ear, carrying on a one on one conversation, telling them the experience in direct and candid terms. There was a parallel between the intimacy of podcasting and the intimacy of being alone on a long walk in the woods. So the video idea was thrown to the side, and the podcast idea moved to the front.
The Appalachian Trail and this project accomplishes a few different things for me. It keeps me connected with a part of the country I've loved since I was a kid-Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley, and the rolling Blue Ridge. It also allows me to do what I like most, which is listening to people, and having conversations that outline their unique human experience. It's about how they view the challenge and triumph of doing something as daunting as walking across 13 states, when most people in their life don't understand it. But the real fun this far, has been meeting the people who are bound by the strip of white blaze that's on thousands of trees between Georgia and Maine. There's the interview conducted on a front porch next to a rushing creek in the middle of North Georgia, and there's the guy who we interviewed in a condo in Midtown Atlanta, still yearning to be in the trees. There's diversity in this trail, and in the people who choose to walk it. One of our interview subjects once said she's not sure if the trail brings out the best in people, or if it's the best people who come to the trail. They're not all normal but they're not all nuts either-but all of them walked into the woods, and whether they know it or not, probably found something along the way they didn't have at the beginning. And at the end of the day, it's not about the finish line anyway. It's where you've gone, where you've been, and what you are doing in between.
Creator & Producer, The 2180 Podcast