Founding Member of The Wander Trees, Joshua Niven dreamed of creating a unique conceptual photography book since the day he set foot on the Appalachian Trail. Like many of us, the mountains were calling him and he couldn't ignore them. Despite the many challenges he knew he would encounter, the art was bigger and more important. His creative journey from start to finish stands as inspiration to fellow trailblazers of life. There will be obstacles to overcome, especially if you are attempting to do something different. Don't let it defeat you. Keep your dream alive, create space for possibility and hike towards it!
Read about Joshua's journey below.
Written by Joshua Niven.
On March 5th 2013, I embarked on a northbound journey with a few buddies to accomplish my dream of turning a 2,185 mile thru-hike into a photographic book titled: The Thru Project.
It seemed attainable. I had two missions: hike the entirety of the AT while simultaneously capturing the essence of the hike and my surroundings through the lens of my camera.
I thought it would just be hard work, wake up, walk, capture, repeat- I was mistaken. Internal struggles, identity crisis, people, relationships, money, and other unexpected elements would re-direct my hike, my mind and my images. The assumptions of such a journey are endless and our individual experiences so unique. Like many thru hikers, my journey across The Appalachian Trail was life altering and provided me with lessons that I could have never predicated.
Three years in the making- The Thru Project is finally complete!
The Journey Beyond the Book
Over the course of our hike, The Thru Project was met with an array of challenges. The physical and mental intensity of our hike proved to be everything I thought it would be and so much more.
Along the way, aspects of the trail that we were not aware of started revealing themselves. The adage that “the trail provides” turned into a very visceral reality. Synchronicity and un-explainable happenings brought forth the realization that the trail itself had taken over; it revealed itself as a living thriving organism. This organism directed our work, our experience, and our relationships with each other and the people we met along the way.
Unforeseen occurrences turned our unique journey into more of a challenge than ever imagined, and in the end these challenges would shape The Thru Project.
The Appalachian Trail is an amazing place that brings people to the woods, giving hikers an opportunity to become mentally and physically awake. Every thru hiker brings with them a unique desire to attempt to do something life changing.
The journey across this mountain range builds character, re-defines people, and reveals things that you never knew about yourself. Walking becomes a forced form of meditation. With nothing but time to think, the brain will take you to the end of the world and back on a regular basis. Walking forces the brain to go within and reveal the best and worst of you. A thru hike is a unique opportunity to learn and grow from this newfound knowledge.
Within all the magic of the AT are the difficulties and challenges that go along with such an adventure. The difficulties and magic come together to create a one of a kind experience. It is an experience that words have a hard time defining. The trail changes every person who steps foot on it.
In the end, the experience of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail was an awakening adventure. Intense, beautiful and awe-inspiring, the people who encompass the AT are the glue that hold it together. Without the trail angels, hiking families, and people you meet along the way the trail would not be what it is. This is why the Appalachian Trail has been appropriately nicknamed “The People's Trail”.
Check out some of our favorite prints from The Thru Project Book!