Getting Present Before Hitting the Appalachian Trail in 2021

Getting Present Before I Hit the Appalachian Trail

There are many ways to get present before hitting the Appalachian Trail in 2021. Life gets crazy sometimes and that craziness manifested in full force with the year 2020. Layoffs, closures, people ratting each other out, it felt like we were left to fend for ourselves in the middle of a Mad Max movie. Amidst the chaos, I had to find a way to center myself – get present before hitting the trail in 2021. Getting present keeps me grounded, strong, and wise. Getting centered is a thing I have been working on for some time in my life. 2020 gave me some space to get better at it.


Breathe in the good, exhale the bad. Meditation is a go-to for people when they want to de-stress and get the good vibes flowing. The trick, however, is to notice things are about to get squirrely before it happens. One great way to get on top of this is to meditate upon waking. I can tell (every time) that I did not stay in bed for fifteen minutes minimum and center myself before stepping out of my zone. I have always been into meditation. After 2020 and making the grand decision to hike the Appalachian Trail, things got even more chaotic and I had to dial up my downtime.

YouTube has some great videos for beginners. There are two key points.

  • Focus on the breath
  • Get a catchphrase to focus on for your mind. Sometimes I use ‘I am a success’ or ‘Things are always working out for me’ as mental blinders while I focus on my breath.


I’m not sure how much gear I have accumulated over the years, but I can say it is a lot. Tents, backpacks, socks, and many more items now sit on my stairs. While I excitedly tick the days off my calendar, the clutter makes an impact on my mental health. Clutter is chaos and chaos is detrimental to my well-being. It’s fun looking at my gear every day as I daydream about my hiking adventures in less than 73 days. Now, as the new year draws closer, I made a personal note to make my gear video and organize it. If I can’t fit it in my bag, I can’t take it with me! So, are the two Nomadik boxes stuffed with fun hiking gadgets helping?

I have to get what I truly need packed in my bag, and pack the rest away in a gear closet. As much as I want to bring five pairs of underwear, four pairs of socks, and three water bottles with me, it is not practical. In hindsight, I see that, but all the laugh reactions to my gear list on Facebook kind of sent the message home.


Eating right is a challenge, especially while on the trail. It’s difficult to not eat granola bars, oatmeal, and ramen on a daily basis. The last thing I want is to get burned out on what I’ll be eating for 4 – 6 months on my 2,200-mile journey. I do love oatmeal, but I literally just read a comment on Facebook from a thru-hiker who said she still can’t eat oatmeal and that it has been two years. That kind of sent a message to me. So, I went out to the grocery store and got myself some other types of breakfast and lunch.

I won’t be munching on many fruits and veggies while trekking up the east coast. Eggs, three-course dinners, and grilled cheese are also go-to’s before I set off on my adventure in March 2021. Based on YouTube videos and what I know from road tripping, it is a challenge to eat healthy on the trail – but it can be done. Food is fuel, and it is important to make sure most of it is high octane.

It is important for me to be as healthy as possible before I begin the journey of a lifetime. Getting my mind, body, and energy right is one of the best ways to prepare for my adventure. Each day before my journey begins in March 2021, I make it a point to do something proactive for my thru-hike. Meditation, decluttering, and diet are three key points in my pre-hike journey!

*Yes, I took that picture of the bear! The AT on the other side of Palmerton.

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Comments 13

  • pearwood : Dec 31st

    The Simon and Garfunkle line keeps going though my head, “Slow down, you’re going to fast; gotta make the morning last.”

  • Wandering Geo : Dec 31st

    It’s so hard parting with gear and dialing down to the bare minimum for daily needs and survival. Tru to find gear that has dual purpose and ask yourself…”will this help me get to Katahdin” best of luck to you Darlene. We really don’t need much, remember that.

  • Todd B Stevens (Gauge) : Jan 1st

    Shakedown hikes help a lot, if you take something out multiple times (except emergency gear) and don’t use it it can go. Every piece of gear should get used every day or it is just weight.

    The flip side is not to go crazy light. If you are in the 20 pound range for base weight, 30 with food and water you are prolly ok. I wouldn’t leave behind my journal and pens at all.

    See you out there, I’ll be at Springer on 2/26.

  • Joe Gesior section hiking AT year 4 nobo : Jan 1st

    Great article. Good luck to you. The diet section resonates with me because I am currently burnt out on oatmeal, so I will be experimenting with other choices this year. I would love to be thru hiking this year but will need to wait another year. I hope you have a fulfilling experience.

  • Paul : Jan 1st

    Congratulations on your sobriety for the past 14 years. Keep up the journey!

  • Robbie : Jan 1st

    Oh, it’s “getting present”. I thought it was “getting presents” and at the top of my list is a puffer jacket to complement my rain jacket. I’m leaving Springer in my rear view mirror within the first five days of April. The jacket combo w/assorted shirts should keep me comfortable for four months.

  • Jack : Jan 1st

    Darlene: I have been a friend of Bill & Bob’s since 1986. Congratulations on your ongoing sobriety. I am looking forward to following your AT journey. I am a fledgling 68 year old hiker with AT fantasies for my 70th birthday in May 2022. Jack

  • Yogi and the late Dozer Mahon : Jan 1st

    Coffee and oatmeal, old fashion only, is a every day thing. ?

    • Roger Mertens aka “BIGROG” : Jan 1st

      Having been run off the pct in2020 by the USFS, pcta, local sheriffs and every city official within 20 miles , I wonder who these folks are that think the are going to be welcomed along the at in 2021? Last I heard it the corona numbers are only getting worse as of Jan 1 . Someone let me know if the at is going to be open. Otherwise I’m planning to do overnights this year. Thanks and remember to slow down and remember to smell the roses—there’s no such thing as a fast hiker

  • Mark : Jan 2nd

    Problem with AT is mobs. Twenty years ago, solo hikers and couples were the norm. Today a party of five would feel overwhelmed by the huge hiking groups. No one does anything in small numbers anymore. Even during lockdown my neighbors texted each other to take group walks around the neighborhood. Camping maximums on AT shelters and campgrounds is set at five per party. None of these regulations are enforced. There are probably more isolated sections with fewer people, but watch out for popular hotspots. The trail from Shenandoah to New Hampshire is unthinkable on weekends and increasingly during the week, with Maryland being the worst.

  • Dan : Jan 5th

    Get present? WTF is wrong with you people. “Present” is an extremely subjective term, and is much maligned in the English language…and much to my chagrin, you have chosen to present the word in even greater confusing terms.

  • Russ1663 : Jan 25th

    Darlene. Take a deep breath and go at your own pace. You work out the little details as you go. Gears is ready, supply line is ready, mind is ready. Sort through the comments both positive and negative and as trite as it may seem “hike your own hike”. Best of luck. Do please keep a journal, those have turned into amazing books

    • Darlene M : Jan 25th

      Hi Russ,
      Thank you. Thank goodness the negative comments don’t get to me as much as they used to… I plan on hiking my own hike. My best learning is done hands-on and through trial and error. I will be keeping a journal for sure! 🙂


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