Emerging Perspectives: Student Chapters

Pilgrim’s Progress: A Spiritual Journey Along the Appalachian Trail

Will Babb

The Appalachian Trail meanders 2,190 miles through the forest between Springer Mountain, Georgia and Mount Katahdin, Maine. Of the more than one-thousand hikers that attempt to walk the entirety of the trail in one year, known as thru hikers, only about a quarter will complete their trek. Despite the grim odds of success, every person that attempts a thru hike—whether they finish or not— comes away from the experience changed. Time in the wilderness, particularly on long adventures such as a thru hike, is spiritually impactful and life changing. The changes aren’t always readily apparent, but it is impossible to embark on a thru hike and not walk away a different person. Hikers may view these changes through a religious or spiritual lens, or they might not notice them at all, but regardless, Appalachian Trail thru hikers partake in a spiritually transformative experience during their four- to six- month crusade…

…I wasn’t a person of strong faith when I set out on my thru hike, although I did identify as Christian. However, the AT made it difficult not to believe in something bigger than myself. The impressive views, star-filled skies, genuine community, kindness of strangers, and difficult climbs left me feeling humbled and selfless. With ample time for reflection, I found an awakened sense of spirituality on the trail. I often felt a part of something greater and looked out over the sublime views of the White Mountains knowing that there was a god out there that created the majesty I beheld and provided me with the opportunity to experience it. Even just seeing the kindness of strangers—trail angels—that offered rides, meals, a bed, or simply words of encouragement gave me a profound feeling of hope…


Find the rest of this chapter in Emerging Perspectives on Religion and Environmental Values in America HERE.


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