10 Skills I’m Learning On The Appalachian Trail

As of today, my dad and I have been on the A.T. for one whole month! Since I quit my job to come out here, I thought I’d reflect a bit on the skills I’ve gained over the last 31 days. I might be unemployed now, but by the time I finish my thru-hike, I should have a pretty competitive résumé, right?

Or not, since I’m finding I identify more and more with the sayings on the back of Snickers bars. I’ll let you be the judge.

Here are the top 10 skills I’ve learned so far while on the Trail:

1. Rethinking this whole “Don’t talk to strangers” thing we learn as kids. A sweet, older woman offers me a slice of her carry out pizza while I’m outside the restaurant, drooling on the curb? Yes, thank you very much. I will trust you with my life.

2. Deciding to never, ever, ever shine my headlamp into the crevices of shelters again. The one time I did, I found a snakeskin between two boards right behind my head. I did not sleep well that night. Sometimes it’s better to not know what you’re sleeping near.

3. Embracing a new identity. At first it’s a little strange to introduce yourself with your Trail name, but then it becomes, well, you. When you do hear your real name and hesitate before responding, you’ll know you’ve crossed the line.

4. Perfecting the art of hitchhiking. People tell me I have an advantage because I’m female, but I also know just the right combination of “Have pity on me” and “I’m not a serial killer” can work wonders on passing drivers.

5. Mastering what I call the “trekking pole dance.” Because when a mosquito or black fly is biting your leg but you don’t want to mess up your stride, you use one of your trekking poles to swat at the offending bug while not missing a beat.

6. Forgetting about having any kind of fashion sense. Oh, I’m heading into Walmart to resupply, and I’m wearing my rain gear and hiking socks with Crocs? Hey, I fit right in, and it would be an honor to be featured on one of those “People of Walmart” sites.

7. Ignoring the vast amounts of snoring in the shelters. Even with earplugs, sometimes people are really loud. I’ve started pretending the snoring is an exotic bird, distantly calling.

8. Talking to complete strangers about things that are usually not socially acceptable. I’ll leave that one to your imagination.

9. Coming up with different ways to make your gear serve multiple purposes. For example, those oh-so-fashionable Crocs can also serve as Poptart protectors. Just slide the foil-wrapped pastries into your shoes during the day, and they will remain (mostly) intact.

10. Taking it one day at a time. More than anything else, I’ve learned that you are never guaranteed another day on the A.T. There are countless things that can go wrong, and we should appreciate the opportunities we have to do any amount of miles on this beautiful Trail.

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Comments 8

  • Otto Rodriguez : Jun 7th

    Excellent article. It gives you a good perspective of what is really important in life.

  • Ruth morley : Jun 7th

    Very good (and humorous) lessons you have shared.

  • Kool Aid : Jun 7th

    Awesome! So perfect!

  • JASH : Jun 9th

    Tried your #9 suggestion. As usual I didn’t read all of the instructions. Next time I will leave the foil ON.

  • marietta : Jun 13th

    I especially appreciate #10. Be thankful for every step every mile.

  • Jerret : Jun 18th

    Thanks for sharing these awesome skills. That “one day at a time” one is useful on all of life’s trails and trials.

  • Nicole : Jun 20th

    I wore my sunville garden clogs (aka faux crocs) out in public (aka not on a trail) for the first time this summer after a hiking injury left my foot too swollen to fit in real shoes. I died a little inside but quickly got over it real quick as I was thankful the faux-crocs allowed for some mobility.

  • Richard Reed : Jul 15th

    There are some truly breathing vistas–Northern Georgia sticks in my mind. I only traveled about two hundred miles total during four different trips, but still… In Maine leading up to the hundred miles wilderness was the roughest traveling that I remember.


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