External is a memoir about author Dustin Waite’s journey along one of the country's most beloved long-distance hiking trails, the Appalachian Trail (AT), a 2,189-mile trek from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The journey gets derailed when Dustin contracts a life-threatening heart condition from a rare form of Lyme disease in Massachusetts. He has to find his way off the trail and a way to move forward with his life. External takes you not only through the woods, but also through the thought process of why Dustin began his journey and his decision to return to the AT after his heart recovered.
Though the foundation of External is a story of hiking through the woods, any hiker will tell you it’s not all about mountaintops and wildlife. Dustin augments his AT journey with a secondary timeline, stories of his life leading up to his decision to live in the woods for six months. This secondary timeline is complete with tales of relationships, bouts with depression, career decisions, alcoholism, and family struggles–essentially a cocktail of life events that affect most people, and how these events created a butterfly effect guiding Dustin to decide it was finally time to hike the AT.
2,193 miles (~3,500 km) long - The Longest Hiking-Only Trail In The World. Thousands every year attempt it, less than 1/4th complete the trail.
View the official interactive Appalachian Trail Map here.
From celebrating lost loved ones, to fighting addictions, to supporting activist causes, the reasons why people hike the Appalachian Trail are seemingly endless. However, one of my favorite reasons I encountered was probably the most simplistic. An older hiker, when attempting his third thru-hike, simply said, "I figured why not?"