Seven Years Dreaming, Seven Months Planning; I’m Ready

When I was 14, my best friend, my brother, and I decided we were going to climb Mt. Katahdin. We spent the summer climbing small and large peaks all over Maine to get ready, and by that I mean that Justin and Abe spent the summer hiking (I joined in a few times). I spent the summer telling them that Dad wouldn’t be able to keep up with us even if we didn’t move an inch all summer. On one of the hikes that I did join in on, we came across a sign that ultimately sent me to where I am now – surrounded by a pile of maps with tabs open on my computer for reviews of eight different trail runners.

I first heard of the Appalachian Trail after a hike up Saddleback (via the ski trails rather than the AT) on a sunny August day. An AT summit marker stood at our destination, which I responded to with a question along the lines of “what the heck is an Appalachian Trail?” When Justin and Abe explained to me that it’s possible to hike from Georgia to Maine, I was full of questions. We spent our descent wondering “how do you carry that much food all the way?” (our answer – people probably forage in the woods), “how long does it take to hike that far?” and “how far is it actually?” That night I put in all the time I had researching the AT, and that simple sign sparked a fascination that led me to plan a thru-hike seven years later.


What Stands Between Me and My Start Date

I’d like to think that I know a little more about the AT than I did seven years ago, but I know I’ll be surprised by how much I still have to learn. I’m going to be starting pretty late in the spring because of commitments at home like rugby season, finishing my internship, living through the last finals week of my undergrad, and the wild day when I’ll actually graduate from college. I’m planning to start hiking in mid-May, which gives me the seven days following graduation to pack, panic, and drive from Maine to Georgia. Based on my experience hiking in Maine, I’m pretty confident that I’ll put in enough miles to make the mid-October deadline. If not, I’ll sacrifice my NOBO dreams and flip flop when time starts running down.

Since I’ve got a couple more months to prepare than most thru-hikers, I’m just getting out of the “how am I supposed to plan for this” stage of planning. I love to plan everything down to the very last detail, so I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of not knowing where I’ll sleep every night three months from now. If we’re being honest, I started off my planning phase by writing up a very specific itinerary I’ll never stick to just because I didn’t know where to start.

My Current Stage of Preparation and Planning

I’ve got a better idea now, and I’m scoping out things like gear, mail drop locations, stores I can resupply at, and how the hell to plan a budget for a thru-hike. As far as gear, I’ve got a lot of what I’ll need from lots of time spent section hiking over the past few years, all of which has its benefits and drawbacks (you can expect a post about my gear coming up soon). Not  spending money on new gear is a major benefit for now, but I have a feeling it’ll start shifting into the drawback category once I’m on the trail. 

While I can’t necessarily say that I feel like I know what I’m doing as I plan all this, I’m definitely making progress. Through a lot of research and talking to other hikers, I’m feeling much less lost than I was two months ago. Regardless of whether I feel like I know what I’m doing, in about 15 weeks, I’ll be stepping onto the trail and starting the adventure of a lifetime.

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