You Can Walk Anywhere as Long as You’ve Got the Time

Well, here goes nothing, huh?

In about four months time I am attempting a northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

Sometimes it feels hard to say out loud, like you are outwardly admitting you are crazy. But I guess in reality I am a bit crazy, because how many people want to leave their nice job, warm bed, and friends and family to carry a 40-pound backpack up and down some mountains for five months? Not many people, that’s who.

But here I am just completely buzzing for that day, the day I begin my slow walk north, with a singular destination in mind. I am taking on this adventure alone; a lone female walking in the woods seems to be something unheard of these days as most people I have told then confirm I must be crazy. “You’re hiking alone?” they respond. “You don’t want to hike with someone?” Like I said earlier, it is not exactly easy to convince someone to drop everything for five months of hard, laborious trekking through the woods. But in all honesty I welcome the solo adventure, the time I will get to spend with myself, the hike I will get to fully control. I do not fear being alone as I know I will meet hundreds of people on this journey, some who will remind me why people are amazing, and some I’m sure I will want to hike away as fast as I can from.

With four months sitting between me and my start date, I am living in a constant state of anxiety; my feelings are a mix of “I cannot f**king wait” and “what the f**k are you thinking?” But I know if I don’t go through with this I will regret it for possibly my whole life. While all my friends and family are super supportive, you can’t help pick up on their sense of worry, which of course weighs in on your own conscious, but I know big changes can bring these feelings on and it is something we all have to work through. I once read, “If you’re not afraid, your dreams aren’t big enough.” It is super cheesy but as I keep repeating it to myself—my personal mantra—I realize there is a hell of a lot of truth to that. I am terrified but have never been ready for anything more in my life.

This is a picture of me enjoying a massive bowl of mac and cheese while watching a beautiful sunset on my first overnight hike.

So, You Like Hiking, Huh?

In fact, I have grown to love hiking; nothing makes me feel more at peace then going on a walk in the woods. But I am a rather inexperienced backpacker, with only two overnight trips under my belt. Even though I feel I have gotten the basics down, I know I still have a lot to learn while on trail. I know I will make plenty of mistakes, but that is OK, because it is all part of the process. I have decided on hammock camping, something I did not realize can be so complicated and technical at the start of all of this. I have spent hours on hours moving through websites, looking up terms I do not understand, practicing knots and hitches that will keep my hammock from collapsing as soon as I lie down. My suspension and hammock system have already changed once and I haven’t even left, but I guess that is the purpose of the shakedown hike in the first place; figure out the problems before it’s too late.

I truly can’t wait to get this adventure started and I hope many friends and family will tag along for the journey, hopefully even joining for a day or two at a time.

But until then, happy trails!

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Comments 7

  • Avatar
    Mark : Nov 21st

    You got this!!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    stealthblew : Nov 21st

    Do not try to hike with a 40 pound pack! Do some research on lightweight hiking or ultra light backpacking. A good start would be with a book written by Ray Jardine. With a little reading, it is possible to easily reduce your total weight (sans food) to less than 15lbs. Expensive gear can lower this threshold a few more pounds if the budget allows.

    Once on the trail, there is a store just 30 miles in (right on the trail) where many carrying heavy loads make adjustments. The catch….expects to pay retail or higher prices at this location. Looking for bargains on the web after doing some reading can save hundreds of dollars. The principles of lightweight hiking do not require top of the line gear to comfortably reduce weight.

    In short, a heavy pack can suck the fun out of backpacking. Fear is directly proportional to pack wt. and education / experience is the way to address this issue.

    Have fun out there!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Earl R Gilbert : Nov 22nd

    What’s to stop you from sleeping outside now? What’s to stop you from hiking in the rain and setting up camp, now? Starting the AT in April? You hardly will be alone. You will see about 50 people a day hiking with you.

    40 pound pack is a bit heavy for a series of three and four day hikes. You are taking too much shit. You will learn the difference between what you want and what you need airline quickly. I bet you can easily pare 10 pounds off your pack just by leaving shit you won’t use at all at home.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Glenn : Nov 22nd

      Truth. A good idea to take all your gear out for a two or three day traverse, even in the rain, even set up after dark, even pretend to loose your headlamp half way through cooking dinner. Know where your gear is within your pack without light. Know how long cookstove fuel will last before resupply. Know how to keep things as dry as possible in a three day rain. It all helps.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Twigs 2018 nobo finisher : Nov 22nd

    I agree with stealthblew keep that pack at 15 -20 base weight, once adding food and water, keep at under or around 30-33 lbs. Believe me it’s heavier then you think, also plan on 6 months because you will want the extra time to reacclimate back to society , even if it takes you 5 1/ 2 months that gives you 2 weeks to get back in order. …I couldn’t sleep right for a month after returning and just not able to get back into the groove, plus you just can’t plan for a certain amount of zero days on trail, some days you’re not 100% or some days when you’re in town, you may just want to sight see or rest, the hike took me 171 days. 26 of them were zeros which is spot, but I also did a bunch of things off trail intentionally. …kayaking, visiting historical places and trout fishing, anyways, take the opportunity and just move as far as you can everyday, younger there

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Crush : Nov 23rd

    Loads of great advice in the comments here. Listen to these folks, especially in regards to pack weight. My philosophy was always carry less to hike faster/farther in order to get to resupplies sooner so as to not carry as much.

    The trail can certainly be done in 5 months, I did it in 4 months and 21 days while taking 30 days off (a huge 17 day stint in DC to visit high school friends), but had I the option to do it in less I would have. It’s barely even once in a life time that one gets the opportunity to take time off to go out and hike the Appalachian Trail. 4 years later I still long for it like crazy. If you can afford to, spend as much time as you can enjoying that place and that lifestyle.

    Humans are designed to walk, eat, socialize, and be in nature. It’s weird saying this, but it’s special to do that this day in age. Cherish your time out there, and know that the hardest part of a thru-hike is committing to it – the rest is in your DNA.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Trevor “Sweet Monkey” Foote : Nov 23rd

    You can do it! The longest overnight hike I had before my SOBO thru was 3 nights hiking the flatlands of Indiana 😆!

    Happy trails (and try to lighten the pack a bit before you get started ☺️)

    Reply

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