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Your Life Calling

The Walk of a Lifetime Live Chat

Follow Jane's chat with Joe Liles and Laurie Potteiger in this transcript

Today’s participants:

Jane Pauley, AARP’s Brand Ambassador

Joe Liles, Appalachian Trail thru-hiker

Laurie Potteiger, Information Services Manager of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Jane Pauley: Hello everyone! Thanks for joining us. I hope you enjoyed our Today Show segment this morning featuring Joe Liles, a retired art teacher who fulfilled his dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Joe’s was a reinvention from within – he’s continued to do many of the things he did before his hike, only now he values his experiences and relationships in a whole new way. We don’t always talk about these kinds of reinventions, but I think they’re just as profound as any.

Joe joins us in the chat this afternoon, along with Laurie Potteiger, an expert from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. We’re going to talk about the Appalachian Trail and the rewards of exploring the great outdoors, but also how these experiences can lead to a self-discovery and reinvention of the spirit.

Hi, Joe and Laurie! Great to have you with us.

Joe Liles: Thanks, Jane. It's great to be here.

Comment from Cameron: Jane, have you ever embarked on an adventure comparable to what Joe did? If not, do you have one in mind?

Pauley: Cameron, I might not possess ‘the adventure gene,’ though I may have married into it. My only camping adventures have been in my husband’s home territory in the Adirondacks (what a revelation the Adirondacks were to a girl from Indianapolis). And by camping adventures I mean overnight trips.

But I’ve been on short day hikes in the Berkshires in Massachusetts many times. This is the best time of year – so some of us can get a shot of adventure without making a half year commitment. P.S. I don’t have the knees for serious hiking.

Comment from Tom: It sounds as if almost all hikers are in their 20s or over the age of 50 -- I'm not a math genius but it sounds like a perfect opportunity for young adults to hang out with their parents! Am I wrong?

Laurie Potteiger: So glad to be here with Jane and "Braid”!

Tom, it's true that many thru-hikers are in their 20s, and the next largest group is retirees. But the A.T. is very popular with families, too. Every year there are a number of father-son teams that hike the entire A.T. together. There were several this year.

I got my love of the A.T. hiking with my father when I was young. Here in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters visitors’ center, we see families of all types every weekend.

Pauley: Tom, Following up on Laurie’s answer from above. That’s a really interesting idea. On my first date with my future husband he talked about an Alaska adventure he’d had taken with his father; I think that’s why I decided to marry him (such a lovely son!). Obviously, you don’t have to hike the whole trail --- which takes six months.

But it occurs to me how many twenty-somethings are fretting over the job market. What a productive investment of time a thru-hike with a parent would be! Both parent and child might return –as Joe did, with confidence surging -- but the young person would also have something very interesting to talk about in a job interview!

Comment from Ben: Joe, are there any other hiking trails you want to conquer?

Liles: Ben, right now I am satisfied with going back to favorite sections of the Appalachian Trail and hiking them over again.

Comment from Carol: Joe, what was the biggest physical challenge in hiking the trail?

Liles: Hey Carol. It was keeping on going through days of rain. At one point I got shin splints and had to walk in pain, soaking my leg in cold mountain streams whenever I got a chance. I got over it.

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