Why I Chose to Start my Thru-Hike in November

Hello everyone!

I suppose an introduction is in order. My name is Eliza and I will be NOBO thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from 2017-2018.

“2017?” I hear you say. “You mean this year? Isn’t it a bit late for that?”

This is my father and me. Hello!

Well, yes, yes it is. Very late, in fact. But the truth of the matter is: I’m only just graduated from high school, and I’ll need to go to college next autumn. I’ve done the math, taking into account the fact that I’m a pretty slow hiker, and I’ve realized that if I want to be absolutely sure I’m done by August (so I can go to college) then I should start my hike in autumn.

Now this doesn’t mean I intend to hike all through the winter; I’m not really equipped for that. But the plan is to begin my hike November 1st (ish), hike until November 30th (ish), and then get off the trail and go home for the winter like a normal person. I’m hoping those thirty days will give me the edge I need to finish my hike in time for school.

So no, I will not be spending my winter traipsing through icy tempests on some lonely windswept peak; I’ll be home by December 1st.

“Now hang on,” you say, “if you’re splitting your trip into two different hiking seasons, isn’t that a section hike, not a thru-hike?”

Ah, that’s an excellent question, and one I’ve looked into. Definitions of a thru-hike do vary, so I suppose a case could be made that I’m really just taking on an ambitious section hike. But this is what the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has to say on the matter:

“We define a thru-hike as a hike of the entire A.T. in 12 months or less.”

I will indeed be done with my hike within twelve months, so I’m counting it as a thru-hike and so is the ATC.

So what does all this mean? Well, it means you get hiking posts from me until the end of November! My first from-the-trail post should come out by the 9th of November (hopefully before then! But that’s the first time I’ll have guaranteed wi-fi).

I know a lot of people do preparation posts leading up to their thru-hike. I won’t be doing that here, since I’ve pretty much already finish preparing. But I’ve recorded all of those details on my blog, if you’re interested. The posts go back to last spring, so you can really see what the preparation for something like this looks like, beginning to end (the only preparation post that isn’t up yet is my gear haul, which will come out Tuesday, also on my personal blog). 

Now before I go, I need to answer the big question: 

“Why are you hiking this trail in the first place?”

Well, to put it simply: ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved the Appalachian mountains. Sometimes, when it was time to turn around and head home at the end of a hike, I’d feel like I was leaving a bit of my heart behind. There was simply something in me that wanted to walk on and on into the heart of the mountains, as far as my feet could carry me. That feeling persisted into my teen years and eventually I knew that if I didn’t thru-hike the Appalachian Trail between high school and college then I’d never get anything done as an adult… ever. I had to answer the call to silence it. 

And that’s how I wound up here, on the brink of the rest of my life, taking a gap year to thru-hike the A.T.

I think that’s everything I have for my first post. I’m really excited to contribute to The Trek (it’s just such a fantastic site!) and, of course, I’m excited to share my journey. 

Next time you hear from me I should be on the trail!

Until then,



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Comments 11

  • Vince Piquet : Oct 29th

    Current SOBO in VT. Good luck in endeavour. Fair winds and following seas.

    • Nanook : Oct 29th

      Hey Vince,

      Just curious,when did you start your SOBO hike and how old are you?

      I just completed a canoe paddle of the entire Mississippi River and now in St.Louis working, getting enough money saved to do the AT next year, just don’t know which way yet.I’m 60.

      Keep in touch and let me know if you need anything, always wanted to be a trail Angel after all that’s been done for me.

      Take care and be safe!


      • Vince Piquet : Oct 29th

        Started on June 27th this year. Turned 57 years old on July 28th. Any other questions, just give me a holler.
        PS Are you and Eliza one and the same?

        • Vince Piquet : Nov 5th

          Sorry ’bout that. As my DI’s would say, smart Marines/strong Marines. High school and 60 yrs old don’t jive.

      • George (Old Growrh) : Oct 30th

        Flip Flop is the way to go. If your starting at Springer in the late winter/early spring, you are in a real herd. Shelters are full… hostels are full. If you start at Harpers Ferry around tax day, you’ll have a nice mix of NoBos and flip floppers, but not as dense a
        Pack as Georgia in the spring.

      • Vince Piquet : Nov 5th

        Check out my 11/5 posting.

  • Vince Piquet : Oct 29th

    Current SOBO almost thru VT. I’m a slow hiker. Good luck in your endeavour. Merino wool is great for cold,wet weather and does not itch. Fair winds and following seas.

  • Carolyn burman : Oct 30th

    This is a great idea!!! I just finished a thru-hike and I wish I had done this!

  • Mark Stanavage : Oct 30th

    I have been considering the same thing. My own concerns are having to get my trail legs twice and two leave of absences. Other than that, I love it. Avoiding as much hot muggy weather as possible and being able to see more because the “green tunnel “hasn’t greened up yet. I hope the very best for you and will follow how this works out for you!

  • Holly : Nov 6th

    It was a joy to meet you on the trail Sunday! Looking forward to following your adventure. Best wishes, H & B

  • Sherpa Dan : Nov 8th

    Hope the travelling is easy so far. Just did an out and back from Neel Gap to Jarrard. Water seems to be plentiful. Unfortunately so are the day hikers. Just makes for slow going. Especially on Blood Mt. Peace be with you.


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