The Bumpy Road That Led Me to Thru-Hike the AT

Who Is Kayla?

Hey! My name is Kayla, I am 25 years old and I just graduated from Austin Community College with an associate’s degree in business administration. I currently work as a hostess at a restaurant and am saving as much as I can before I depart for my thru-hike in March of this year! I love the outdoors but hiking didn’t become an absolute passion until early 2019 surprisingly. I’ve hiked on and off before but nothing crazy. More on that later.

The Prequel

For a couple of years, I worked at a desk job because that’s what society told me I needed to do to be financially stable and have an enjoyable life. The first year was great; I loved the change in pace and the fixed hours. As time went on, I slowly became miserable. Having suffered from depression for the past 12 years, it seemed like the bad days began to outweigh the good ones. I wanted change. I started looking around for a new job but didn’t put much effort into it because I was in school and finding a job around that would be extremely difficult. Fast forward a bit and I ended up getting laid off. At first, I thought it was the end of the world. All I could think about was, “How do I pay for my one-bedroom apartment now?” Then something amazing happened. After a week of not having to wake up and go to that job, I realized I was truly happy for the first time in a very long time. So what did I do? I found a job that I wanted, not what society said I should get. I went back into the service industry and began working as a hostess. BEST DECISION EVER. I am 100% happier than I was just a few months before.

The Decision

My dad sent me a book and said that I would really enjoy it. It was a book a guy wrote about his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I read the whole thing pretty quickly and immediately became intrigued with the thought of spending six months walking in nature. Soon after finishing that book I started reading other books about other hiker’s thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail. I also began to do more research on the Appalachian Trail. I heard about the Pacific Crest Trail but had no idea about the Appalachian Trail. Once I started seeing pictures and stories about people who hiked and said it was the best thing that happened to them, I was hooked. I had to hike the Appalachian Trail.

The Preparation

Between working full time and going to school, even during the blistering heat in central Texas summer, I started hiking as often as I could. Once I graduated and the weather cooled down, I began hiking as often as I could. I still work full time but try to hike twice a week while increasing the mileage each time. Hopefully I can increase the amount of days I can hike per week to get better prepared.

So Why Am I Thru-Hiking?

There are of course many reasons why I am thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Here are a few:

  1. I suffer from depression and the past couple years have been difficult. I need to get back to my old self; the “happy go lucky” person.
  2. I have no idea what I want to do with my life especially now that I graduated, so what better way than to go take six months and think about it.
  3. Most opportune time in my life to take six months and thru-hike. I don’t have any major commitments (i.e, no kids, house payments, car payment, etc.).
  4. I want to get in better shape. I’m not in terrible shape, but I could be better.
  5. Prove to myself that I can do this. I know I can but I need to prove it to myself. I’ve backpacked before but it was only for a week.
  6. Why not?! (Typical answer, I know.)

The Waiting Game

I have all my gear. I’m doing my shakedown hikes. I’m constantly doing research on the trail. I’m following my fellow 2020 hikers’ progress. March is quickly approaching, and now I just have to hope that all my preparation and research will pay off. Only a couple of months left!

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Comments 5

  • Julie : Jan 5th

    I look forward to following your posts! I wish I had hiked the AT when I was young. But, I look forward to following your planning and your hiking updates! I hope to become a LASH when I retire. You go girl!

  • twogirlsgowalkabout : Jan 6th

    Look forward to seeing you on the trail Kayla! We are also starting in March 2020 🙂

  • Kim Starr : Jan 6th

    My trail name is Kool Aid. The best advice I can give you as a 2,000 mile is HYOH!!! Enjoy good, bad,ugly!! Because nothing is better than the AT!! I’ll being the Whites in July. Who knows we might meet somewhere down the road! By the way I neve hiked before the AT!! Desire is more than half the battle! And I’m 64!! One day at a time!!

  • Rebecca : Jan 6th

    I laughed out loud when I read your reasons for going and immediately showed them to my mom because they are almost verbatim what I told her last week about a potential AT hike for myself! I might be in the same boat as you, by the sound of things. Maybe I’ll see you out there! Regardless, happy trails and I hope you find everything you are seeking on the journey!!

  • Kyle : Jan 11th

    You’ve got this! Have fun and remember these reasons for hiking the AT when times get tough. I hope you find your old self again, but Ill bet you will also find a new self who you will be really proud of!


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