Mentally, I committed to hiking the Appalachian Trail last December. I even told a few friends and family members about it. I started a small-potatoes blog that I figured my closest friends and family could follow while I’m away hiking. I started joining groups and pages regarding AT2015 on Facebook and Twitter. I started telling people I meet in passing about my plans. I even applied to be an Appalachian Trials blogger, but for two weeks I’ve been writing and re-writing this post, because even after months of planning and prepping and researching I’m having a hard time considering myself a member of the hiking community. More recently, I’ve even had a hard time committing to a start date and whether to hike from GA to ME or ME to GA (but I think maybe I have it figured out now sort of).
I’ve never been long-distance hiking. I’ve never backpacked. My camping experience is somewhat laughable, as are my fire-starting skills. I’m just a girl from Florida seeking a big life changing adventure and no definite plans for the future.
So when I look around at other AT hiker blogs and posts and see all these people doing amazing things and having definite plans and knowing exactly what gear they’re taking and where their mail drops are going and their crazy intricate homemade dehydrated meals and snacks and the fact that they’ve been planning/training for at least 6-18 months, I find myself asking what I’m even doing trying to be a part of this community of expert outdoors people.
When my family and friends ask silly questions like “What if it rains? Where will you get food? What if it’s cold?” I laugh heartily and explain in way more detail than they want the gear and resupply strategies I plan on implementing. In talking with them and the occasional experienced hiker, I’m finding that somewhere along the way, I’ve already become much less of a clueless noob.
I have strong opinions about things like socks and jackets and tent stakes and camp stoves. If someone had asked me about the pros and cons of synthetics vs. real down 6 months ago, I would have shrugged and awkwardly edged away. Now I could have a full blown debate (I choose synthetic because I’m poor). All of this reading and research and light experience has led me to the conclusion that everyone has to start somewhere, and that ANYONE can be a thru-hiker.
I have a lot of apprehension about this hike, but most of it is less about the hike itself and more about overcoming small fears and insecurities. Am I actually going to hitch hike? What about stranger danger? What happens if I run out of money? What if I fall into pace with a crowd I don’t like? What if I never figure out how to properly hang a bear-bag? What if I get stuck with a stupid trail name? What about all the logistics of getting there and back and to and from towns and hotels and mail drops and meeting friends and family along the way?
What if I announce this plan to the world and fail miserably???
That’s the biggest question, and I suppose I’m fortunate that my biggest worry is about what a bunch of strangers who don’t care about me would think if I failed. Because in the end, if I failed, nothing would happen except that I’d be disappointed.The flip side of this fear, of course, is that the more people who know about my hiking intentions, the more pressure I have to do the whole hike and the likelier I am to finish. In addition to putting more pressure on myself, I’m hoping that announcing my thru-hike intentions will lead to a larger support network, which I’m sure I’ll need at certain points along the way.
So, hiking world, consider this my official coming out. Starting on March 31st (probably), I will be starting my thru hike from Springer Mountain. I will be joining you at crowded campsites and trying really hard to look like I know what I’m doing. I’ll probably make a lot of mistakes, but barring severe personal injury, I will learn from my mistakes and carry on. Until then I’ll be nit-picking each and every gear choice and blogging and attempting to learn from the best: my fellow hikers. I look forward to seeing you on the trail!
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