So Come With Me, We’ll Go And See The Big Rock Candy Mountains

Hey there! My name is Rachael Upchurch and I want to introduce myself.  I am 28 years old and live in the western suburbs of Chicago, Ill.  I am heading north from Amicalola Falls on Feb. 28, 2018, to attempt a thru-hike. I have been planning this hike for over two years and I cannot believe it is almost here. I am newly married as of September 2017 and am leaving my hubby behind to hold down the fort as I start this adventure of a lifetime. My big three in terms of gear are the Osprey Aura 65L, Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1, and Enlightened Equipment Revelation 10-degree down quilt. My base weight is ten to 13 pounds. I feel like the big three and base weight are a prerequisite for introducing yourself to fellow hikers, lol.

I have never hiked up a mountain and honestly I have never even seen one – but my family was always avid campers and I have done two backpacking trips as well to prepare. My first was an overnighter at Mississippi Palisades State Park and the second was a two-night, three-day backpacking trip on the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin. I also do as much pack training as possible. I march up and down a set of limestone toboggan sled stairs near my house with my loaded pack on and I also do a lot of 30-minute sessions at the gym on the Stairmaster (so boring). I cannot wait to hike up to a view, no matter how many PUDS I have to go up and down to get there.

I plan on quitting my job as a medical biller and giving my current employer two weeks notice. I was originally planning on asking for a leave, but a job is a job is a job is a job and I am confident in finding a new position when I return. And who knows – maybe a whole new career.

I Am Hiking The Appalachian Trail Because…

I have 20 reasons written down for why I am hiking the Appalachian Trail. A few of my favorites are:

  1. So many people who I talk to say, Oh, that is awesome. I always wanted to do that. I do not want to be those people. I want to freaking do it.
  2. A lot of people have told me I can’t do it. They have tried to convince me that I won’t make it all the way or that I won’t even go. I have fought hard with my family regarding this.  I will prove to those people that I am stronger than they could ever imagine.
  3. I am tired of walking around thinking that humanity is so terrible. From the few instances I have had hiking I have realized how different and kind the community is out there. I want my faith in humanity to be restored.
  4. I want freedom from society and the responsibilities of my day-to-day life. I have been working almost every single day of my life since I was 14. Half of my life as of this year. I want to experience life. I was not born to pay bills and die. I want to have fun and experience something new every single day.
  5. I want to inspire others to chase their dreams. Especially women. We are not required to sit at home and play house for our husbands. We should accomplish our dreams as well, just as we push others to do the same.

I am super excited to share this adventure with this amazing hiking community. I feel so honored to be a blogger for the trek. I learned so much information from this site and the amazing fellow hiking community, and I hope I am able to give something useful to someone else in exchange. Whether it’s motivation, tips for leaving a spouse behind, anxiety, gear info, budgeting, anything. Happy trails y’all!! 

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Comments 8

  • Stephanie : Jan 13th

    You’re so amazing and I can’t wait to follow you every step of the way!!

    • Rachael Upchurch : Jan 15th

      Thank you Steph!! Thank you for being my #1 supporter and for going on all my prep backpacking trips with me. Including braving the mosquito filled woods of Wisconsin while limping on your blisters. Love you soooo much <3

  • Bill Yeadon : Jan 14th


    Henry Ford has a famous saying “if you think you can or you think you can’t you are right” There will be days when you think you can’t go another step but you will find those extra steps.

    Good luck the Smokies are my favorite place.


    • Rachael Upchurch : Jan 15th

      Thanks for the motivation Bill! I can’t wait to experience the Smokies – I hear they are stunning.

  • Pony : Jan 14th

    Your first five reasons look good.

    Remember: Never quit on a bad day — and you will have bad days.

    I’m slightly concerned that you’ve never even *seen* a mountain … the AT will throw more mountains at you than you know what to do with. Built before there were sensibilities about switchbacks and so on, it will plunge you up and over ever’ dang mountain it can find. The South will kick your butt … but it’s truly *nothing* compared to NH and ME.

    I know you are in Illinois, but if you can, I’d toss that pack on your back and find a hill or two to mosey up!

    I like your motivations; enjoy every day. The worst day on the trail is better than the best day in the synthetic world.

    • Rachael Upchurch : Jan 15th

      Thanks for your comment Pony! I definitely know that I am at a “disadvantage” of sorts since I am not experienced in mountains – but I have done a decent amount of training with my pack on and finding the greatest elevation gains and losses near me and I also do alot of the stairmaster at the gym with my pack on. I know that this trail is a butt kicker and I think a little inexperience will keep my ego in check and hopefully the views and new experiences will keep me in awe and excited for longer. Thank you so much for your support! It means alot! 🙂

  • D.Sue : Jan 14th

    Hi Rachael, Every year for the last few years I have been following someone who is hiking the AT. This year I have chosen you! I am also from the “flats” of Northern IL. I look forward to reading your posts and wish you all the luck on your endeavor. Just remember it all boils down to putting one foot in front of the other. On the bad days think of this. Happy Hiking, D.Sue

    • Rachael Upchurch : Jan 15th

      Thank you so much for your support Sue! It is so awesome to know that people that I have never even met are excited to follow my journey! 🙂 One foot in front of the other all the way to Katahdin!


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