The Reasoning in this Madness: Why I’m Hiking

Thru-hiking the AT involves mountains.

Preparing to thru-hike the AT also involves mountains–of research. That is what it feels like, anyway.

We’re talking books, articles, online forums, advice from past thru-hikers, etcetera etcetera etcetera.  In a significant chunk of my spare time, I am staring at a screen reading reviews on bear canisters and portable phone chargers.  When I am not spending time reading online articles, I am feeling guilty about not doing so.  I also should be spending more time with my guidebook.  Have I mentioned I am a procrastinating champion?

In these days of preparation and planning (less than three months to go until my start date?!?!?!), I have realized that there are probably one hundred and one ways to hang a bear bag, pack your backpack, and hike the trail.  There are also at least a billion different types of gear and variations on gear and variations on variations of gear.*

*Disclaimer: I might be exaggerating a little in my desperation.

There is, however, one thing that everyone agrees on:

Thru-hiking is primarily a mental challenge.

With that in mind, it is important to know why you are thru-hiking.  From what I have heard, there will be times when it has been raining for two weeks straight, your knees will hurt, your pack will feel like you’re toting around cinder blocks, you will miss someone or something back home, and you will want to quit.  Your brain and willpower may be the only things standing between you and a one-way trip home.

For anyone who hasn’t read the book Appalachian Trials (you should), Zach Davis suggests putting down on paper the reasoning behind a thru-hike.

Believe it or not, there is reasoning in all of this madness called thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, so here are my lists.


I am thru-hiking the AT because…

-God told me to.  Seriously.  This is real life.

-I want to climb mountains.  “Mountains!  I want to see mountains, Gandalf!”

-I am seeking adventure.  You know how you have friends who go off and do crazy cool things and you’re like, why can’t I do that?!  Well, now I am.

-I do not have many obligations tying me down right now, so this is a good time to attempt something like this.

-I want to challenge myself.  Because this is going to be hard, and sometimes we just need to do hard things.

-I want time and space to think about life and where the next few years might take me.

-Get fit.  Because climbing mountains every day will do that to you.

-To learn detachment.

-To learn to trust God more.

-Hiking and being out in nature makes me feel alive.  Feeling alive is a good thing.

When I successfully thru-hike the AT, I will…

-Be in the best shape of my life!

-Have a deeper relationship with God.

-Be more confident and feel empowered because heck, I just walked 2190 miles up and down mountains!

-Have a better understanding of my purpose. (I hope!)

-Become an adventure junky–where’s the next mountain!?

If I give up on the AT, I will…

-Probably doubt myself forever.

-Be burdened with regret for the rest of my life.

-Have to face my friends and family in defeat.  Oh the shame.

-Have spent way too much money on something that I didn’t finish.  Hello guilt.

More than Fear

In some of my previous posts, I know I have talked about the fears surrounding this decision to thru-hike.  I am excited, too!  The purpose of these lists is to keep my reasons firmly in my mind, so that when I arrive at physical and mental obstacles on the trail, I can work through them and finish my hike!


Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 7

  • Robert Meixner : Feb 3rd

    Hi, Mary. Nice post. I love your commitment to the difficult. I love that your left brain lists contain a lot of right brain reasoning. Keep in mind, though, that trying and failing is way better than not trying, and you should never regret the attempt no matter the outcome. Also, your family, of which I am proud to be a part, will never judge you and find you lacking. Good luck.

    • Mary : Feb 3rd

      Thanks, Uncle Bob! I know my family wouldn’t judge me, and I thank you for affirming that. It’s more of an in-my-own-head thing, me judging myself.

  • Karla Redman : Feb 4th

    Hi Mary. I love your posts and your physical, mental, and spiritual drive to hike this trail. I thru-hiked in 2016 and the rewards are incredible. Enjoy and blessings to you! “Dulci”

    • Mary : Feb 4th

      Thank you, Dulci!!!

  • Jason Thweatt : Feb 6th

    Thank you Mary for reminding me to make my list,I’m a bit of a procrastinator myself My departure date is March 26, I choose to believe I got a nudge from my higher power,to make a attempt at thru hiking. One of my main reasons for hiking will be to grow spiritually and improve my self esteem.

    Who knows our paths might cross on the trail. Mary God bless you, and have a wonderful,safe and life changing hike!

    • Mary : Feb 6th

      Hope to cross paths out there! Wishing you a wonderful hike as well!

  • Bobby Lee : Mar 9th

    Surprised to find your blog among one of my e-mails.
    I met you at Appalachian Trail Institute.
    I thought you are the one who can make it on the trail.
    Your attitude and approaches were different from a good numbers of your age group.
    In addition to being healthy the long distance tracking is self-struggle to me.
    Looking forward to read your future stories from the trail.
    If you need anything please let me know.
    Wishing you the best luck and God be with you.


What Do You Think?