15 Days Until Departure – What’s on My Mind

With less than a month now until I hit the trail, some days I feel like it is torture to wait another second to leave, while other days my chest is filled with pressure, overthinking about all that is left to do, and all the things I’ll be leaving behind.  The list of things I’m constantly filing through in my head covers a wide array of topics, and I thought it would be cool to share what’s going through a thru-hiker-hopeful’s mind this close to the departure date.

Waiting to Leave

In mid-April, I learned that my ride to the trail on June 1st fell through.  I didn’t get angry or upset, instead I just got really antsy and flighty, ready to drop everything and just go because if I’m not waiting for June 1st, what am I waiting on?  Many mornings since then, when the sound of my alarm would wake me up, I’ve had to talk myself down from tossing up a peace sign and getting the heck out of here without even saying goodbye.

Once again, however, the universe stepped in to have my back.  After trying to hold out and not buy an underquilt through this whole planning process, one hour of stress, worrying and anxiety about my sleep set-up caused me to impulsively order one to go with my hammock.  I ordered the Hammock Gear Economy Phoenix 40 Degree Underquilt.  Upon ordering it, I learned that it would take up to 6 weeks for it to be custom made and mailed to me.  I made the order on April 8th, which put the delivery date very close to my departure date.  Around the end of April when I started to really get antsy to go, I took the impulse to buy the underquilt as support from the universe, giving me a good enough reason to stay rooted for just a few weeks longer while I wait for it to arrive.

Leave of Absence

In early February, I turned in a request at work to get a Leave of Absence for my thru-hike.  I waited patiently all this time, in the headspace that it would never get approved, and I would turn in a 2 week notice in early May.  I was literally 3 days away from turning in my 2 week notice when my request for leave was approved at the last minute.

I am very aware of how cool it is that the people I work for want to support this journey I’m going to take.  On the other hand, this close to my departure, I now have a giant list of new things to sort out and figure out and let fall into place that I hadn’t anticipated I would deal with if I were just turning in my 2 weeks.  Again, more scenarios keeping me grounded a little longer.

The logical part of me understands that even though this complicates things before I go, it will make my homecoming much more simple and stable.  The adventurous side of me felt a sort of thrill at the idea of coming home to a life full of unknowns, the world completely open for me to step forward in any direction.  Alas, that is just the reality of the conflicting thoughts running through the brain of a free-spirited, type-A, young professional.

A Shakedown Hike

In January, I set aside two weekends dedicated to shakedown hikes to take place in the Dolly Sods Wildness of West Virginia this spring.  As those weekends approached, I never felt an excitement about them, or a motivation to make them happen.  Instead, they felt like a waste of precious time spent with the people I love, and precious money I’ve been stowing away for months.

I mulled over all the options at great length, and finally rationalized to just camp out at our local state park for a weekend to test out my hammock set-up (minus the underquilt) and call it good enough.  The first few weeks on the AT are essentially a shakedown hike anyway, and I’m confident with my ability to make do with all the gear I’ve gathered until I’m out there and decide I need to switch something out.

Also, I did get some valuable practice in with my gear during my glamping (glamourus-camping) trip at the state park.  I used my new stove with great success, decided it’s worth it to shell out the money for good hammock straps, and unfortunately, discovered that my beloved rain jacket that I have been wearing around constantly since it arrived in February is now disintegrating on the inside.  Oh! And I LOVE my new Black Diamond Spot headlamp! Love it!

Mental Preparation

Since I decided this hike is happening, the number one way I have been getting ready has been through mental preparation.  It’s like the second I told the universe what I wanted, it responded by putting me in situations meant to “toughen me up” and make me as strong as I need to be for the trail.

I have never been a clumsy person, but I’ve been accidentally hurting myself more than ever recently.  I sustained a fall back in the beginning of April just walking home in the middle of town and gashed my knee open so deeply that it took over 24 hours for the gash to firm up and start forming a scab. I took a lot away from that experience.  1.  Slow down and pay attention! (A lesson I know all too well, but still need to be reminded from time to time.) 2. I can fall and get hurt literally anywhere – mental note taken not to be mad at the AT when it bangs me up from time to time.  3. This is all happening to toughen me up.

Spiritually, I’ve been doing a lot of shadow work, picking open old wounds and looking back at my life through a lens of objectivity.  I’ve been enduring pain from past traumas that have been suppressed and healing heavy emotional baggage that is not invited to weigh me down all the way up and down the East Coast.  I’ve sat crying on my bedroom floor, feeling absolutely miserable, and then came to a moment of realization that I was in my warm apartment with people who love me and all my creature comforts surrounding me, yet I somehow managed to feel absolutely terrible.  Mental note taken to remind myself that I will always feel a full range of emotions, no matter what situation I’m in.

All Other Forms of Prepping

I’ve made a conscious effort to simplify my life, not filling up my calendar with things to do, staying home, being simple, spending time with small, intimate groups of friends who do not drain me or expect anything from me, and cultivating my energy.

I’ve been hiking, and running, and doing yoga, and watching backpacker YouTube videos, and listening to backpacker podcasts, and reading backpacker blogs.  I’ve been wearing all my hiking clothes around and getting my body used to carrying my pack full of gear.

The longer I sit at home and think, the more I keep switching out gear and getting slightly “better” variations of things I already have.  I’ve stressed myself out wondering if all my plants will survive without me here to supervise them, and worrying about if I’ve really saved enough money.  I’ve begun hermit-ing myself away and getting more into a loner state of mind.

With a dear group of friends I met with this weekend as a farewell gathering, I came to a realization that truly eased a lot of my worries.

I’m going out there to be up close and personal with nature, and take really good care of myself.  I don’t care how fast I go, I don’t care how far I go.  I just want to take good care of myself while my body, mind, and spirit come into rhythm with its source.  I’ve done all the work to create time and space for me to do that, and now all that’s left is just to do it!

Ahhhh, what a relief.

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Comments 1

  • Thomas Gilco : Feb 20th

    I gotta say, I haven’t read a whole lot, yet, of your blog, but I think you are an impressive person. I only wish I had been like you when I was your age. I plan to read all your posts, but it’s a process. I’ve been overwhelmed with responsibilities this semester. Sometimes I wish I didn’t need sleep at all so I could just keep going until I caught up on everything.

    I believe that God has you destined for amazing things in life. I’m glad to, at least, know you a little. No blonde jokes, I promise! (Ok, maybe one or two) Btw, I can take a bald joke or two.

    I hope you’re doing and feeling well, Sara. See you soon.


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