“Why Would You Want To Do This?”

Boy oh boy have I gotten that question a lot. “How do you feel?” “Are you anxious?”

So, Are You?

Well, I wasn’t until you forced me to think about it. I have been keeping busy, so busy, these last few weeks. I’ve been spending time with friends and family, my dehydrator has been running nonstop, and despite the fact that I’ve been making a very conscious effort to limit the number of things I’m carrying on my back, I feel like I have run to the store to “pick up one more thing” at least fifty times.

In short, I haven’t had a chance to really sit down and pay attention to how I’m feeling. Part of that is intentional. I have been afraid that I will be nervous, and I didn’t want to get to Georgia and be in a state of apprehension. So I haven’t been allowing myself to pay attention to the butterflies that start flapping their annoying little wings every now and again. Unfortunately, pushing my feelings to the side has also kept me from being excited though.

That is until now.

Just One More Sleep

I’m sitting in The Lodge at Amicalola Falls, completely alone with my thoughts, without a to do list to work through, for the first time in weeks. Tomorrow I begin a six month journey, and I am feeling all the things. I am elated that the time is finally here, and I am simultaneously worried that I will starve, and that I have way too much food. I am realizing that despite years of devouring every scrap of information I could find about thru-hiking, there are still so many things that I don’t know. And I am so excited for the chance to learn those things.

I am so sad that I’m going to go so long without seeing the people I love, but I am very much looking forward to messages from them telling me that they’re proud of me. (Friends and family reading this, that’s an invitation to check in on me.) I’m looking forward to every mountain, and every mile, and I’m also thinking about how each one is going to challenge me.

Basically, I have a whole list of things that are likely going to keep me up tonight. I do have one fantastic reason to go to sleep though, and that’s the whole reason I’m here. One of the most incredible experiences of my life is going to start in less than twelve hours.

Why I’m Hiking:

There is one more thing that I want to check off my list before I stroll under the iconic arch tomorrow: My Why I’m Hiking List. This is another thing that I’ve been putting off thinking about, mostly because I feel like my reasons are a bit… flimsy. I know this list is meant to keep you going during the hard parts. I also know that my list isn’t very inspirational. But here is my attempt:

  1. I’ve driven up and down and zigzagged across most of the United States east of the Mississippi, but I have never taken any time to really enjoy it. The Appalachian Trail is a perfect way for me to finally slow down as I traverse this area, giving me an opportunity to fall in love with a place that I had only previously considered something to get through as quickly as possible.
  2. While I know this will be difficult, I have never been one to let that stop me. This thru-hike has been calling to me for a while, and even if it is hard, why does that mean I can’t do it? I do what I want. Respectfully, of course.
  3. I want to make outdoor friends. All right, I know we’re moving into the aforementioned flimsy territory here. I can make outdoor friends anywhere outdoors, but I want the real extreme ones. The ones who quit their jobs to follow their passions, who think nothing of packing out soiled tampons, and who won’t judge me when I smell like I haven’t showered in a month. (Despite the fact that it has only been about a week.) The community around this trail is a huge reason that I chose the AT as opposed to other long trails, and I cannot wait to find my place in that community.
  4. It seems fun. Yeah, I know that’s not going to be a great motivating factor on a day when I want to quit. From my hotel room, it does seem fun though. So even if a particular moment is not fun, there will be more joy around the corner, or in the next town, or with the next person I meet, and that sliver of hope could be what keeps me going through the rough moments.


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Comments 4

  • Ralph B. Mahon : Mar 13th

    Doesn’t matter what others think, if it’s what you want to do, go for it.
    I’d bet my last dollar you won’t regret it.
    Wishing you a great adventure, safe and fun filled trip.

  • Patricia H McCall : Mar 13th

    Way to go Ashley!!! Just be careful!!

  • Lise : Mar 14th

    What is your favorite dehydrated food and what do you wish you had more of?
    What has surprised you so far?
    What didn’t you bring that you wish you had?

    You are my hero..hope you know that!!!

  • Cynthia May : Mar 15th

    Hello Ashley,
    I think of you often and wonder where you are hiking today as I drive around in the comfort of a car. I wonder where you are sleeping when I lay my head down on my warm and comfortable bed. I was telling Carol ( who you know from our office and from The Villages) this evening about all the meals you dehydrated to eat on your journey. We had a nice homemade hot Italian meal for dinner and I was wishing you were here to share it with us. Just know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. Be well, be strong and hike fast so we can see you sooner rather than later!!
    Sending you lots of love to keep you moving ahead to the finish line. CKM ????❤️


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