Don’t Sweat It: Preparing for a Thru Hike
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
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!
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