Why I Chose to Start my Thru-Hike in November
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?”
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!
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