By Rue McKenrick
What? You want me to do what? I had a thought and saw a vision. It’s not much unlike the voices attributed to Kevin Costner’s character in the seminal 90’s movie The Field of Dreams. “If you build it they will come.” It was the winter of 2008 and I had just received my life’s mission. I could see the map tracing the perimeter in my mind. There were people all along, lots of them. I listened and I heard, “create the conference.”
Visions from the abyss and voices from beyond make a really neat origin story but for me they meant little. I thought about this thought from time to time but found my thinking to be more about the thinking and less about the doing. There is life and beauty beyond the waterfall, why squander my time on such a notion. A notion of motion. A notion of a Nation. A notion of The American Perimeter Trail.
It was 2019 and an idea was about to manifest into the world. I knew I didn’t have enough money or gear or sponsors or……..well……anything. I took stock. I had $400 dollars and gear adding up to over a 125 years old. I figured creating the non-profit, promoting it, gear, traveling to and from terminus would cost $25,000 dollars but I would do it with $10,000. The equivalent means if you created The Pacific Crest Trail, formed the Association, bought gear and hiked it, your total would be around $1,000 dollars. But I didn’t have $1,000 dollars, I had 400. I stitched and duct taped my tattered gear. I walked 8 hours a day, everywhere all the time. I sat in meditation for hours daily. I printed off my maps. A local non-profit employee was creating a website and needed a map. I traced it on a napkin, took a photo and sent it to them. That was all the planning and research I did and still stand by this process today. Trace your goals on a napkin, wipe off your brow with it, and get started. I was just being. I did not try to mitigate my fear through some illusion of control. I faced it……….and I was terrified.
One of my best Friends would join me for the first two weeks, but he died a tragic death the week I was leaving. I was a fool on a fool’s errand. The Naysayers lined up figuratively and literally to point this out to me. I looked into the eyes of grace and smiled. That was it. I took one step that would become 24,000,000. Please do not misunderstand. This is not the story of how I am so blessed or beat the system, or don’t listen to others, or follow your dreams, or never give up, or forget the naysayers, or look at me I am amazing and you are not. look at me. Why aren’t you looking at me? This is the story about how someone gets their story straight. How one trust all to nothing and expects nothing in return. How one fought against notoriety and social media and acknowledgement and personal success. A how NOT to do it, if you will. Many Backpackers out there today have way more attention to their hikes before they happen, than I do for all I have done. I am glad for this. I am happy for them arriving and happy for myself having escaped. Where I feel a disturbance is when it comes to The APT. I will never be a famous Hiker but I don’t care about that because I am a Loner Conservationist. This Conservationist cares more about his deeds than his words; this conservationist cares more about being a Conservationist than being an Influencer or Advocator. There is room for everyone and I thank all of you who bring perspective to difficult and timely issues.
The American Perimeter Trail Conference was created as soon as I was ready to support through works. It was my dream and I saw it in the initial vision. Birth your Baby and then hand it over to the care of the public. Now we are one of many. Where the work of many fell upon the hands of one, we find the work of a Community. The APT Conference now has Members in over 25 States and a few countries. I am so encouraged by those who have joined in states where the APT will never come. The APT is already established for thousands of miles but there are still great building challenges. That is why we at the Conference refer to our Members as “Builders.” Why? Because we are not defined by our gear or how we carry it but rather by the way we carry ourselves in the world. We care little of our alter ego’s characters of our backcountry and the nodding of an uninformed approving public. APT Builders lead with their feet and their heart in tandem. That is our success. We do not have the deepest pockets, but we have the hearts of those wanting to leave this world better than we found it. We agree to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
I continue to scout and hike the APT route. At its completion it will be over 14,000 miles. This creates the largest conservation, wildlife, and trekking corridor ever even contemplated on Earth. It will be the largest Volunteer Effort in the history of the world within the next year. Ask yourself a question. Do you want to be part of the biggest conservation and volunteer effort ever? None of us look the same or think the same so I think you will find yourself right at home with these Pioneers and Independent Thinkers. I look forward to seeing Ya’ll at the Finish Line in this July in Bend, Oregon where it all began.