They say becoming an Eagle Scout isn’t the end of a young person’s journey — it’s the beginning.
Few go as far to prove that adage as Matthew Warrick. This summer, the 17-year-old from Troop 505 of Austin, Texas, is hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.
His journey, which began May 12, is known as thru-hiking. That’s when someone attempts to hike all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail in one trip.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy says that thousands of hikers each year attempt a thru-hike. But only about one in four will complete the quest.
Matthew is sharing daily updates from the trail on his blog. That’s where visitors also learn that, for Matthew, the Appalachian Trail hike is about more than just putting Scouting skills to the test.
With each mile Matthew hikes, he’s raising money and awareness to build drinking wells in a remote village in Tanzania.
“For Matthew, the idea of earning Eagle Scout is a jumping-off point to do more challenging things and to do good for others — rather than an end or completion,” says Matthew’s dad, Mark.
Time with family and friends old and new
Nobody really hikes the Appalachian Trail alone. Along the way, you meet fascinating people — students and doctors and retirees and schoolteachers. You could spend a night camped near a new friend hiking the opposite direction or spend days leap-frogging those traveling the same way.
For the first 13 days on the Appalachian Trail, Matthew hiked with his sister, Kate.
She left to begin her summer job as a Ranger at Philmont Scout Ranch, in Cimarron, N.M. Pretty good excuse, if you ask me.
On June 5, Matthew’s friend David — a fellow Scout since Tigers — joined Matthew for the rest of the journey.
Earning his name
You don’t get to pick your Appalachian Trail name; it must be given to you while on the trail.
Matthew got his trail name on Day 10.
After a 12.5-mile hiking day, Matthew and Kate were chatting with a group of college guys with the trail names Dirty Trever, Lawman and Hobble.
Dirty Trever gave Matthew his trail name: “The Kid.”
“I like it a lot,” Matthew says. “When he said ‘The Kid,’ I immediately thought of Billy The Kid, the famous outlaw, and I liked that.”
Learning and growing
One of Matthew’s goals for the trip was to learn from others and meet new people. So far, so good.
A guy named Dice told him about the Snickers Test: When you are deciding what gear you want to bring, if you would rather have its weight in Snickers bars, then you probably don’t need it.
A woman named Allie gave Matthew and David a ride to the post office. They made it just before the place closed and were able to pick up a delivery of essential supplies: shoes, socks and freeze-dried food.
Ever since Day 19, Matthew has found a solid routine.
He wakes up before his alarm and hikes a bunch of miles, seeing amazing sights along the way. He arrives at that day’s stopping point and makes dinner. He talks to some interesting people and gets into his sleeping bag. He types that day’s blog post and goes to sleep.
For Matthew, this is the rhythm of the Appalachian Trail. A routine that is anything but. A journey that started in Scouting and will end, if all goes well, at Mount Katahdin in Maine.