Fear and Loathing (in my mind): Top 5 pre-trail worries of a prospective thru-hiker
One month from today and I will be huffing and puffing my way to the top of Springer Mountain, ready to embark on the journey of a million footsteps. The dream I’ve been obsessing on for over a year is finally becoming a reality. I couldn’t be more excited! Or more anxious…..
Here are the top 5 worries racing through my mind before I hit the trail:
- What if I break a leg?
Injury is the surest way to force me off the trail. But it will never happen to me, right? The power of positive thinking may be real, but that doesn’t mean an injury won’t break the bank or a bone. Injury prevention training for my ankles and knees will hopefully minimize the odds of a hike-ending injury (see: http://www.backpacker.com/skills/first-aid/injury-proof-your-legs/).
One of the nice things about having a steady job is that you don’t have to worry about health insurance. Trail insurance, on the other hand, isn’t so cut and dry. With lots of confusing options, navigating the health insurance racket can be a nightmare. Luckily, Emmi wrote an awesome article to help me and prospective thru hikers with this topic: https://thetrek.co/appalachian-trail/thru-hiking-health-insurance/. So for me, I’ve decided to do just as Emmi did and get both a high deductible plan paired with traveler’s insurance in case I do break a leg (knock on wood).
- What about my stuff?
If you have ever moved or faced the prospect of moving all of your stuff, you know that you can’t help but worry about the move until after it’s complete. While not all thru hikers have to worry about what to do with their possessions while they are living the hobo life, I’ve got to figure out what to store or sell, and how and when to get it there. What size storage unit do I need? Will it be easy to sell the things I don’t want to store? What about renter’s insurance? Should I sell or store my car? Even if I’m planning on taking a trip designed to free myself of schedules, rules, and responsibilities, I still can’t shake my “adult responsibilities” before my hike, and unfortunately, I can’t help but worry about it.
- Will I be ok in the rain?
I’ve had my fair share of day hikes and overnight hikes. But almost all of these have been happily planned around what Mother Nature is bringing to the table. Add rain to a hike and I can only hope I don’t melt like the Wicked Witch of the West. Sadly, as the saying goes, “No rain, no pain, no Maine.” I’ll have to walk in the rain and be uncomfortable at many points in my hike. I just have to embrace it and bring extra socks to dry my feet out in later.
- Am I taking everything I need?
Everyone’s favorite worry is gear. Mine included. You know you’ve lost it when you’re debating whether or not to spend $30 on a new trowel (poop shovel, for those of you who don’t know) to save half an ounce. Once you decide to hike the Appalachian trail, you have to make sure you’ve got the gear to get you there as safe and comfortable as possible without carrying your whole kitchen sink. The problem with constantly worrying about gear is constantly spending money to find newer, lighter gear in the hopes that it will be better than the gear I’m already planning on taking. Who doesn’t love shiny, new gear! Watching countless gear videos on YouTube and looking at lists on lighterpack.com and geargrams.com only feeds my addiction. For now, I think I’ve got my gear list dialed in, but this worry consumed me for the past half year leading up to my hike. Ultimately, everyone has to carry the gear they chose to bring, and if it works for you, don’t change it. Hike your own Hike! (Don’t worry, I’ll share my gear list in the near future)
- Do I have what it takes to see this thing through?
The deepest, darkest worry I have prior to hitting the trail is whether or not I’ll be able to overcome all the obstacles along the way to make it to Mt. Katahdin. Only about 1 in 4 people who attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail actually make it the whole way. That’s a staggering statistic! Why am I different than the 75% who don’t finish? What if something forces me off the trail? What if I get bored? Unfortunately, I won’t know that I have what it takes until I get there. All I can do now is prepare for the problems I’ll face, know why I’m hiking and why I want to finish, and prepare to mentally overcome anything that gets in my way.
The bottom line to overcoming all these worries is preparation and research. I need to prepare as much as possible for what to expect but also I need to put myself in the best position possible to overcome any problems that come up. That will be part of the beauty of a thru hike. Every day will be different and every problem will be different. So for now, all I can do is anxiously, excitedly wait for the adventures and mishaps I’ll face on the Appalachian Trail.
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