Appalachian Anxiety

“You’re out there for how long?”

“Won’t you be scared alone at night? What if you get hurt? Where will you get your food and water from? Is it safe?”

These are all questions any promising thru-hiker will have to answer to family and friends. And I think it’s important to have answers to these questions. For your family’s peace of mind and yours as well. I’m still 112 days out until my June 23 start at Katahdin and I already find myself rolling these thoughts through my mind at 2 a.m., wide awake. The nerves and anxiety are already creeping in and I’m trying to embrace them. Every second day I wake with a differing thought process.

“What if I get through the 100-Mile Wilderness and I’m done, I’ve spent all this money, quit my job. All for nothing” to “This will be the greatest adventure I’ll ever get to do and nothing will stop me.”

And I’m starting to become OK with this. For me, this adds an element of excitement. Will I finish? Who knows. 75% of people don’t. But the challenge of completing this tremendous tasks provides motivation on an anxious day. And rationalizing how hard this will be helps pull my head in when I’m over confident and cocky, like this will be a walk in the woods (no puns intended).

For me, research has been my most effective weapon at combating the 2 a.m. nervous sweats. Most people are already aware of trail tools like Guthook and AWOL guides, but sitting and reading, and getting familiar with how to use these is so reassuring. Forums like WhiteBlaze and the Appalachian Trail Facebook groups have numerous people willing and able to provide amazing advice and updates of what’s going on out there.

My Favorite Books











Of course, Zach’s Appalachian Trials provides a beautiful account of how to prepare my mindset for the trail. And thanks to him, I’ve been able to sleep once again and feel ready to face adversity on the trip.

Chris Cage’s How to Hike the Appalachian Trail: A Comprehensive Guide to Plan and Prepare for a Successful Thru-Hike was another must read that helped me ease my anxious thoughts. It provides tips and strategies to get through the hike and to make sure you can have a good time.

Being able to read and discuss things with like-minded, nonjudgemental people is helping calm my nerves. It’s reducing my anxiety and genuinely making me more excited than ever about stepping foot on the trail. I can guarantee that my whole flight over from Australia I’ll be working through was this a good idea? Am I ready for this? Did I pack to much gear? Do I really need that extra pair of undies?

I’ve made friends with the idea that this will be tough and I can guarantee I’ll keep chopping and changing how I feel. Certainly researching, watching, talking, and reading has helped me so much and I encourage you all to do the same. It’ll help me answer all the questions that get thrown my way and helps calm my ever-racing mind.

Not long now!

– Jacob

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Comments 2

  • Anna : Mar 3rd

    I was so nervous last year, I almost turned around and went home when I was already in Atlanta, after 6+ years of planning. It only took a few steps on the trail to know it would be fine. And after 3 days, you couldn’t have dragged me from the trail. You will figure out everything you need to know once you’re hiking. Remember, you can always get off at anytime. But you won’t want to!

    • Jacob Payne : Mar 3rd

      Aww I’m glad you persevered and stayed on Trail! Haha I’m hoping I will be the same. If I’m having a hard time, a day 0 should be enough to get me back on track. Thanks for sharing Anna!


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