Captain’s Corner – The Appalachian Trail of Life

Ringing in the New Year usually rings in a round of personal resolutions. My own resolutions, however, took a new turn much earlier this year when my nephew, Patrick, announced his intention of spending time in the summer hiking the Appalachian Trail. Patrick had just finished up nearly ten years of service in the Marines – with his final years doing recon work — and wanted to use the hike as a decompression time before starting college. His announcement took the family by surprise as I thought he would start college in the fall, but he said it would be the spring of 2016. I asked him about the delay, and he told me hiking the trail would take months, not weeks. So, I looked up the trail.appalachian-trail-map

What I learned was the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) is approximately 2,190 miles and spans the mountainous length of 14 states from Maine to Georgia. It is the longest foot-path in the world, and terrain varies from gentle woodland paths to near-vertical rock climbs. Hikers are on their own and hazards are widespread. Statistically, only one in four will complete it. Patrick, I am pleased to report, is now part of the 25% of hikers who succeed! We all admire his unique experiences of endurance and the vistas of awesome beauty the A.T. bestowed on him as he trekked day after day. If personal achievement motivation is any predictor of future success, Patrick is well on his way to accomplishing anything he wants to do in life.

Patrick earned the name “Mountain Goat” on the A.T. for – and I quote from a fellow hiker here – his “ability to gracefully hop from rock to rock without a pause.” His feet hurt for 900 miles. He worked for a bed and food with what he identified as a cult in Vermont and later had a victorious stare-down with a momma bear and her cubs. (I’m stating the obvious, but won’t those be useful experiences to draw upon for negotiating tense situations in the future?) Virginia brought him nine continuous days of wind, cold, and “hate-filled” rain. (Again, the life comparisons here are obvious.) An encounter with a pack of wild hogs was resolved when Patrick raised his hiking poles overhead and advanced toward the leading boar while roaring. The hogs fled.patrick on at

I was so impressed with the power of my nephew’s journey that I have added it to my bucket list. I will not be hiking the A.T. this year, but it beckons and I plan to follow where it leads. In the meantime, I hope to imitate his perseverance on the A.T. here at home. The Port Bureau staff repulsed my suggestion of starting each work day with a running roar as a way of deflecting the obstacles to our goals, but I, personally, just can’t think of a better way of chasing off aggravating hogs that block better, faster, more cost-effective commerce than a good growly howl. I am open to suggestions. None have been made yet.

We are anticipating great opportunities in 2016 for the port region. With oil prices at an all-time low, there may be some momma bears to stare down or wild hogs of some fashion to scare away, but we are resolved to meet the challenges with as much mountain goat grace as we can muster. We are dedicated to supporting our members through promoting the Houston Ship Channel community and serving as the information hub for maritime business. Roaring is still optional, but persistence to finish the trail is definitely required.

Happy New Year!


  • Date January 14, 2016
  • Tags January 2016