Comment from Jesse: Joe, I'm sorry I missed the Today Show broadcast but I'm interested in learning more about how the hike "reinvented" your perspective on life. Can you talk about transformation and what other goals do you have?
Pauley: Jesse, you can find Joe Liles’ story right now on the Your Life Calling website at http://www.aarp.org/jane.
Liles: Jesse, I found that the trail changed me into a more optimistic person. I found that if I could find happiness in unrelenting rain, I could find happiness anywhere. Today, as a result of the trail, I appreciate everything and I do not complain about anything or any time. My goals for the future include pursuing my career as an artist and writer.
Comment from Randy: To comment on Eddie’s question: Before my wife and I began our thru-hike in 2006, we spent five years preparing by doing weeklong hikes in all different seasons and terrain, and tested out equipment to find which worked best for us. Despite all that training, I would have to say that our motto that “quitting is not an option” got us to Maine. So much of this adventure is mental.
Comment from James: Laurie, what exactly does the Appalachian Trail Conservancy do?
Potteiger: James, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy manages the A.T. in partnership with the National Park Service, which has delegated most functions to our private, non-profit organization. We set policy, oversee the work of 6800 volunteers, provide information and education about the A.T., and protect the A.T. and its 25,000 acres of corridor lands from a variety of threats.
Pauley: Joe, a friend of mine asks, “What’s the deal with the hiking poles?”
Liles: Jane, at first I swore I would never use hiking poles because they look so "sissy." After talking with many former thru-hikers, they told me that I needed to get over that attitude. They said, "Those poles will save your life!" I found this to be true and by the end of the hike I could not walk without them.
Comment from Steve and Amy: Braid, it was nice to have a chance encounter with you in Maine. And so glad you seem to be enjoying life more now.
Comment from Justin: Joe, I plan on hiking the A.T. March of 2012 with a couple friends. I'm 22 and have been dreaming of hiking the AT for many years. I have done a lot of research. As for as food provisions go I know a lot resort to oatmeal or instant mashed potatoes. What were some of the foods you enjoyed during your expedition?
Liles: Justin, I went with commercially prepared dehydrated food pouches. These are available at any outfitter’s store. This is more expensive but worth it in terms of ease and not washing any dishes. You simply add boiling water to the pouch and wait for thirteen minutes. There are many great offerings of meals, both vegetarian and carnivore.
Comment from Justin: Joe and Laurie, were there any literature or maps you found more helpful than others? Is there a so called "Bible of the A.T." in existence?
Potteiger: What’s most useful depends on the length of hike your doing. Most short-distance hikers are best off carrying the official maps and guidebooks, which offer a lot of detail. Thru-hikers count ounces, and generally aren’t interested in the detailed guidebooks. Their “Bible” would the A.T. Thru-Hikers’ Companion, which focuses on services in towns along the A.T. The most detailed information in “The Companion” is about where you can find the thing that thru-hikers think about most: food (restaurants, delis, grocery stores, etc.).
Comment from Jennifer: It's so nice to see you again, Jane! I'm loving your pieces on the Today Show. Very inspiring! Thank you!
Pauley: Jennifer, thank you. I’m having a great time doing these stories. They’re all so different. There are as many paths to reinvention as there are definitions of it. One particular pleasure I take though is the evident interest that Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira take in our stories. Today for instance, Meredith seemed ready to trade her stylish knee-high boots for hiking shoes on the spot.
Comment from Carolyn: I'm so excited to be in a chat room with one of my favorite newscasters, Jane Pauley! Also, I'm very impressed with Joe making it the whole way on the A.T., especially since he's found a more positive outlook in life. Very uplifting during a very difficult time our country is going through.