Don’t Sweat It: Preparing for a Thru Hike

26 Days!!!

I am going to arrive in Georgia in 26 days!!!  And all of a sudden I am FREAKING. OUT.  In just this past week I have had two stress dreams about the Appalachian trail (both of which involved me forgetting my gear).  C’mon brain!  We know how to hike, we have been on a long distance backpacking trip before, we will be fine.  So why does it feel like I am simultaneously going to die of excitement and scream with anxiety? 

 

Well, I think a lot of it has to do with the build up.  Like many potential thru hikers, I have been living and breathing the hiking life for the past however many months.  I have watched so many Youtube videos, checked out a million gear lists, and have talked the ears off of just about everybody who would listen to me.  In other words, I had been completely sucked into the Appalachian Trail vortex before I’d even set foot on the trail.  But it didn’t feel real.   I have been waiting so long for this moment, that even after I booked my hotel room for March 4th, I didn’t believe it was really happening. 

 

 Now though, as I get emails from Delta informing me about the ever changing time of my flight, I can’t help but feel like I am looking down the barrel.  Prior to this week, I wasn’t counting down the days until my hike and I definitely wasn’t worrying .  Now, I can’t stop.  Everything is stressing me out.  Will I be too cold?  Do I have enough warm clothes?  What if I can’t make friends?  What if a bear eats me?  

 

Of course, all of these questions are absolutely ridiculous.  I have been researching and testing gear for months.  Vermont’s frosty (read: frigid) temps have given me plenty of practice in layering my clothes and testing my cold weather sleep system.  And making friends?  C’mon, girl, there will be tons of other people out there with the exact same goal as you.  Could you be starting an adventure with cooler strangers?  Probably not.  And bears?  Well…Hopefully I only see them from a safe distance, surrounded by hikers brandishing trekking poles!  

 

But seriously.  I know that fear of the unknown is totally normal.  Once I start hiking, the worries will go…After all, the day I started the Long Trail I was so wound up that I couldn’t drink my coffee (And if there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that I LOVE coffee.  There are few things I enjoy more) but the second I started hiking, the worries melted away. 

 

Surrender to the Flow

I think I kind of overplanned my Long Trail hike.  I had a general idea of how many miles my boyfriend and I would do each day, had mail drops preplanned, and spent a lot of money sending heavy boxes to trail towns along the way.  It worked out.  We never had an issue getting our boxes, and it was great for a first time long distance trip.  But damn if I didn’t hate those boxes so much.  Everything about them was a pain.  Sending them, getting to them, unpacking everything from the package and then repacking them into our stinky backpacks.  I

One of my Long Trail Resupplies

pretty much vowed to never do that again.

 

 

And do it again I shall not.  I am going to rely solely on grocery stores, convenience shops, dollar stores, etc. for my resupplies, and I couldn’t be happier about it.  For one, as I said above, the hassle was just too much.  For another, I want to be able to choose the food I want at the moment, rather than ahead of time.  That way, if I am sick of something, I don’t wind up with it due to it being in a resupply box.  

 

As for planning mileage for an entire hike?  Two words: NEVER. AGAIN.  This hike is going to be as spontaneous as it can possibly be!  I will keep a budget for towns and plan my food carries for whatever stretch I am in, but that’s about it.  I want to keep my schedule open, that way if I fall in with cool people or an interesting opportunity presents itself, I am not too tied to a schedule.  And honestly, relinquishing some control goal for myself.  I really like to have a tight grip on the reigns of life, but sometimes, if I try to exert too much control, things just wind up being miserable.  Hiking is one of those things.  On the Appalachian trail, I would like to surrender to the flow and really practice being in the moment.

 

Let’s Get Physical!

Other than (my lack of) logistical planning, I have been preparing for the physical side of a thru hike by staying active.  While I absolutely hate the cold, I really love the snow; winter is my absolute favorite time to get outside and do things.  I am an avid snowboarder and last year I learned how to cross country ski as well.  This winter, I have been doing plenty of that to stay in shape and keep active.

I have also been doing a lot of hiking (surprise surprise).  Hiking in the winter is actually great–something I had never realized until this year.  I am never too hot and I feel like I have the mountains out here all to myself, plus everything is gorgeous when it looks like a big fluffy marshmallow.  In addition to regular hiking, my dad and I have done some backcountry snowboarding, which I have always adored.  

While no amount of physical activity can really prepare one for traipsing up and down mountains all day, I am happy to report that I will actually be in decent shape starting out!

That’s all for now. Happy hiking!

Avry.

 

Happy when I’m Hiking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments 7

  • Avatar
    Karen Bright : Feb 7th

    Avry, I look fwd to reading your blogs during this amazing trip. I wonder how you keep ph service on the AT or do you plot it so that you will charge ph in a town every day? Stay safe and stay well. BTW, your blog is so well written
    Love you❤❤

    Reply
  • Avatar
    pearwood : Feb 7th

    Avry,
    It’s good to hear you are relatively normal.
    My AT NOBO will be 2022. But even now I think of trying to plan out all the logistics necessary to set up food drops and I blanch. Why on earth would I want to do all that? It certainly hasn’t been how I’ve lived my life. I’ve gotten along pretty well these seventy years with moderate planning and figuring it out as I go along.
    Blessings on you way!
    Steve / pearwood
    https://thetrek.co/author/steven-tryon/

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Tim Hogeboom : Feb 7th

    Hi, I’m also a Vermonter and experienced long distance hiker (Triple Crown, 2016). Your writing is terrific and I’m impressed with your preparations! You’ve taken the time to get physically tough, which will count for a lot in the Southern Appalachians. I think you’re going to do just fine on the AT. I’m sure you already know how cold it can get and how much precipitation to expect. I got cold rain 11 out of my first 14 days on the AT. I didn’t realize that parts of NC get over 90 inches of rain a year. I brought along a lousy poncho and an inadequate sleeping bag and suffered a lot because of it. I made a ton of mistakes. Hopefully you won’t make as many as I did. I hiked the AT when I was 33 years old and finished the PCT at age 65. I met my wife on the trail, and we married on top of Mt. Mansfield and now have two grown kids. Basically living happily ever after. Currently working on a book about my AT hike, in the journal format, except heavily edited. And with the perspective of a lot of years and other hikes. Probably no one will read it, but I don’t care. Keep doing what you’re doing, and keep writing about it. I’m excited for you and want to wish you all the best as you make your way north!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Ralph Mahon : Feb 8th

    Have a safe and happy adventure!
    Will be checking on updates. 👍

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Zawaka : Feb 8th

    I’m leaving for the PCT soon. Every time I eat wheat I black out and get headaches for days and extremely tired. In other words I’m allergic to wheat. I’m afraid I can’t do just grocery store resupplys and convenience store resuppies. What am I going to live on beef jerky and candy? Totally jealous of you pizza box hikers. Going from town to town just eating pizza lol.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Ralph Mahon : Feb 9th

      maybe it’s not the fault of wheat.
      Maybe it’s Jack’s fault?
      Jack Daniels 🤪

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Sloanranger : Feb 9th

    This is an awesome article. Really shares to us all starting our hike that we are not alone, and to remember that there is an entire community out there doing the same things and worrying too. Im super excited as well I start my pinhoti trail trip on the 13. I wish you much spontaneous joy and safety on your trip!

    Reply

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