A Collection of Wisdom: 17 Quotes that Impacted my Thru-Hike

I started my Appalachian Trail thru-hike alone. Traveling solo pushed me out of my comfort zone – not because I was by myself, but because it forced me to talk to people that I didn’t know. I find the process of making new friends awkward and uncomfortable, but after weeks of repeating this process daily, I managed to embrace the discomfort and allow myself to become more open to fellow hikers.

Now, I’d like to share some of these impactful quotes and concepts with you. As Tylor (section hiker, philosophy student) said to me and my dear friend RainDrop over swiss-burgers in Damascus,

“We are called to bring it back to society.”

“Where do you get your confidence from?”


It is ironic that this was one of my most pondered concepts throughout my journey; when I first met Vermont, I was incredibly resistant to hiking with him. I was pace self-conscious and still uneasy around other hikers, but Vermont was a kind man who offered a lot of wisdom. I do not know his real name; I only know where he came from – but I am incredibly grateful for the conversations we had.

“You’ll never know if you don’t ask.”


This phrase describes something very obvious… but how many times have you needed something and didn’t feel comfortable or confident enough to ask for it. Generally people are more than willing to share. Most of the time they just don’t know you need something. 

“If you love something, you take care of it.”


“If the trail gives something to you, you give something back to the trail.”

 -Rock Kicker

These quotes are reminders of how simple love truly is. If you love being outdoors, you take care of the outdoors. If you love yourself, take care of your body and mind. Respect the things you love. They will respect you in return.

“I respect a plant’s life just as much as any animal’s life.”


Have you ever thought about how many times you’ve picked a flower and not given it a second thought? We’re all creatures trying to do the same thing: survive. This conversation really put that into perspective for me.

              Take it or leave it.

-Concept, RainDrop

You should never force a situation. If something or someone doesn’t feel right, you have the choice of “taking it” or “leaving it.” You don’t have to explain your choice; you don’t have to feel guilty. As long as you remain open minded to the person or situation, the option of acceptance or walking away are both OK.

“We are called to bring it back to society.” 


Something I hear a lot of when I travel is: “you’re so lucky!” So many people either don’t or can’t experience what we as travelers get to experience. Whether it’s their own self holding them back from adventure, or life just doesn’t allow them the opportunity, it does well to share what we’ve learned through our privilege to embark on such adventures with those who cannot or will not have such experiences.

“I am coming to terms with the best and worst parts of myself.”


Although I only traveled with Twigs for a few weeks, he played a key role in my thru-hike. The first night Twigs and I met, we shared our stories. Part of that significant conversation involved admitting that you are who you are. You can work on things, and you can change, but first you have to acknowledge all parts of yourself – even the parts you don’t love and aren’t proud of. Acknowledging those parts of yourself is the first step to love, healing, and overall self-acceptance.

“I am so ready to get back to my friends and family and give back to them what they have given to me.”

-Cesspool Bubushka

Hiking the AT humbles you. It shows you just how much people care about you and how supportive people can be. It provides you clarification and hindsight on just how fortunate you are to have (or have had) certain people, things, and experiences in your life… even if you don’t have much. 

“Welcome home.”                                    

-Lunar Worm

After a long day of traveling solo, I arrived at a shelter. I was greeted by two friends: Galactic Ape and Lunar Worm. Lunar looked me in the eye and said ‘welcome home.’ Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with feelings of love and acceptance. I was humbled – we, every stranger hiking this trail, were on the same journey sharing the same home – the woods. Without even trying, I had been accepted into the inspired, beautiful community that is the spirit of the Appalachian Trail.

“The best thing to do when it rains is to let it rain.”

-Henry Longfellow (via a cupcake)

Sometimes bad things happen that we have no control over. Complaining or getting upset about these bad things doesn’t make matters improve. In fact, all it does is expend your energy and make an already bad situation worse. Instead of fighting what you can’t control, embrace it. 

“Everyone thinks I will come back more of a hippie, more zen…. but I’ll really just be a more raw version of myself.”

-City Kicks

Hiking the AT (or any other trail for that matter) doesn’t make one more of a stereotypical hippie. It simply makes one more open to their true self. Thru-hiking takes away all the distractions of “real life,” and allows you get to know yourself – the most raw version of you

 “The mind can change what the mind creates.”

-Poster in Waynesboro

I think we’re often delivered the message that we are who we are because of our personalities and experiences, and that’s that. People don’t change. But that’s not true. People can change. Your mind is what created your thoughts in the first place. 

 We’re only hiking on the roots of what the Appalachian Mountains once were.

Concept, the Geology FlannelCast

The natural history of the Earth fascinates me. The Appalachian Mountain chain was once the greatest and most grandeur mountain chain on the planet – higher than the Himalayas, the Alps, and the Rockies. Now, millions of years later, their weathered base is all that’s left of these giant’s splendor.


She has gone to a brighter home, where grief cannot come.

-Gravestone of Ms. Lillian Blackburn, 1899-1922

I was visiting a gravesyard just outside of Pearisburg when I met Miss Lillian Blackburn. Her epitaph struck me. What a beautiful way to conceptualize death – something so dark to so many people. 


“I am blessed, and I am at peace. That is why I do this.”


Every year, Joe camps out for weeks at a time at a state park right off the trail and cooks meals for thru-hikers; he has been doing this for more than a decade – which is pretty incredible. When we asked why he cooked for hikers every year instead of enjoying his retirement somewhere else, he responded with the above quote. I was humbled, yet again, by the kindness and goodness of people.

“Stop saying ‘I can’t.’ Start saying ‘I haven’t learned yet.’”


The phrase “I can’t” is poisonous with discouragement and incredibly false in most cases. So change your perspective! 


For more details on my journey on the Appalachian Trail, visit my personal site: www.continuetheadventure.com/appalachiantrail

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Comments 5

  • Corie : Apr 5th

    Hey Rachel! This has been my favorite article on the Trials website so far, thanks for posting! I section hiked the A.T 2 summers ago and no other piece of writing has made me reminisce about my experiences better than this one. I will definitely start following your blog!

    • Glacier-Swiss : Apr 6th

      Hi Corie,

      That means so much more to me than you know. I am so happy that you enjoyed this article! 🙂

      Cheers, Glacier-Swiss.

  • Sandra : Apr 5th


  • retired firefighter, Tim Andrew : Apr 15th

    very nice

  • Karyn : May 22nd

    I loved these.
    Your posts/blog is very unique and most helpful in that, instead of just relating your experiences (journaling), you are USING your experience to facilitate the experiences of others. Thank you.


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