Can’t Hardly Wait
The anticipation is practically unbearable. All day, every day, the trail is on my mind.
I Dream About It
I go for long walks in the mornings before work and picture Chelsea and me waking up in the Amicalola Lodge on March 1, hoisting our packs onto our backs and setting off into the cold early light bound for Springer. I see the sun disappearing behind the hills as we watch from McAfee Knob. I see a green tunnel of trees, a sun dappled forest floor, rolling hills, quaint farms, fields of wildflowers, and clear running streams. I picture us frolicking with wild ponies in the Grayson Highlands and talking and laughing with all our new friends at the shelters. I think about the friends I have scattered up and down the East coast in DC, West Virginia, New York City, Massachusetts, and Vermont and scheme up ways to visit them. I conjure the White Mountain vistas that I already know well and fill with pride at the thought of Chelsea and Kayleen seeing them with me for the first time. I picture Katahdin with the grueling climb and then the wooden sign and even now feel a sense of simultaneous elation and sadness about reaching the end of the trail.
I Worry About It
I temper the fantasies with thoughts of snow, rain, wind, and biting cold. I imagine how awful it will be to march through rain day after day, and how much more awful it will be at the end of those days when we stop marching and are forced to sleep in wet tents on the wet ground wearing wet clothes in wet sleeping bags. I think about muddy trails, steep descents, slick jagged rocks. I imagine air thick with humidity and mosquitoes. I worry about dehydration and malnutrition. I worry about ticks. I worry about bears. I worry about hitchhiking. I worry about creeps. I wonder if I’m delusional to think I have the physical strength, robust immune system, and mental fortitude to live in the wilderness for five whole months.
I Plan For It
I constantly run through my inventory of gear in my head. I sit down and make lists on yellow legal pads of everything I will be carrying on my back and how much each item weighs. I read books about how to hike and camp safely in winter conditions and how to have a low impact on the environment. I pore over blogs of past thru hikers for inspiration and wisdom. I read articles about pooping in the woods and the pros and cons of menstrual cups in earnest. I harass the salespeople on the floors of the Kittery Trading Post, REI, EMS, and LL Bean for gear advice. I text back and forth with Chelsea and Kayleen about sleeping bag temperature ratings and whether our rain jackets have pit zips. I discuss with them possible conservationists to raise money for and brainstorm a menu of incentives we can offer to those who donate (for $10 we’ll send you a postcard; for $2,189 we’ll get matching tattoos in your honor). I think of songs to put on our official motivational playlist that we share on Spotify. I return to gear and agonize over the type and number of hygienic products to bring. I wonder if I ought to save weight by carrying a sawed off tooth brush.
I Train For It
Every chance I get, I drive up to the mountains with my roommates, Sarah and Mekala, and hike an average of 8 to 12 miles with my pack fully loaded. I whip out the little alcohol stove I fashioned out of two beer cans and make hot chocolate or cheesy rice. I practice setting up my tent and sleeping on the ground. When I can’t go hiking, I run to build my endurance and do planks and push-ups for my core strength. I find I’m already hungrier than I’ve ever been and eat like a bear who just caught wind that winter is coming.
It’s All I Talk About
At night, as I pour drafts and shake martinis, I proudly inform my co-workers and regulars of my travel plans and field their questions. I do the same thing when I’m around my friends and family. Their interest makes me feel loved and supported, and knowing I have people in my corner makes me more confident and determined not to let them down.
At this point, I could not be more certain that I am going to hike the trail, yet I won’t be able to fully believe it until March 1st finally arrives. It can’t arrive soon enough.
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