Why Hike? The Ultimate, Obvious Question

What in the world am I doing?

Why hike is the most obvious question and yet is nearly impossible to answer. I’m a fearful creature who’s scared of nearly everything, from changing lanes in traffic to dinosaurs (I blame my parents for allowing me to watch Jurassic Park too young). I have OCD and have been counting my steps when I walk for nearly 15 years. One-two-one-two-one-two. It’s exhausting. I’m socially awkward and most social interactions give me anxiety. I find showering daily of high importance. So why in the world would I decide to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail?

Let’s back up a moment. I’m Kris. I’m obsessed with hiking (seriously in the wrong place if I weren’t) and a little bit nutty (read above paragraph), but this is a good thing. I firmly believe we all are. I’m a writer and I take pictures of nearly everything. And I’m super excited to share my experience here on The Trek.

The Lists

The all important lists. In Appalachian Trials, it suggests you make three lists before starting your thru-hike. Here’s the first of mine, which I wasted no time in “screwing up.”

I am thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail because…

I want to? See? I haven’t even started the list and it feels complicated. Because, let’s be honest, this can’t easily be expressed. It’s actually much easier to list reasons why not to do the trail. Doing the trail means quitting my job. It means pushing off my career for over a year. It means giving up my apartment. It means leaving my family and friends for months (a tough pill to swallow for anyone but, with the limited time I have left with my mother, feels especially hard). It means putting off any other goals or travel plans on the back burner for a very long time (rim to rim to rim hike of the Grand Canyon? Maybe in a few years). I’ll come back to no job, no apartment, and roughly $5,000 poorer. I’ve obtained my degree and have been slinging drinks for far too long and it’s time to be responsible and get a career. Surely quitting my job and putting all my stuff in storage and taking off on a monthslong adventure with no clear plan for what I’ll do when I get back is irresponsible, maybe even a bit reckless. And, oh yeah, I’ve got that whole knee thing to worry about.

Logically, not doing the trail seems to be the better choice. I even went so far as to say out loud to a friend, “I don’t think I should do it.” And it was very nearly that moment that I knew that I had to do it. Because saying that I wasn’t going to do it felt like I was breaking my own heart.

Because this isn’t a place for logic. It feels nearly impossible to come up with a personal list as to why I want to hike the trail because it just feels like it’s what is meant to be next in my life. And it’s specifically the Appalachian Trail that I feel drawn to. I don’t know if it’s because it runs through Connecticut (where I currently live), or if it’s because I know a couple of people who have done it, or if it’s because my first hiking overnight ever was on the AT, but whatever it is, it’s there, somewhere in my insides, and not doing it feels like a non-option. 

So this is my list: because I feel uncontrollably drawn to the trail and that it is what is meant to be the next thing in my life.

Another attempt…
  1. I love to challenge myself, and this will be one of the biggest challenges I’ll have set up for myself.
  2. To grow; I don’t even know how yet but I know that I will.
  3. Hiking calms my brain.
  4. To have the ultimate adventure; this will be a different experience than anything I have done before.
  5. To learn new things about my environment and myself.
  6. To face my fears.
  7. To meet like-minded people.

While all of these things are true, they seem like very small pieces to a puzzle that’s been growing in size slowly over years and layers as every interaction has minutely changed my person and outlook. All of the items on this second list can be applied to other things. There are other goals and challenges that aren’t thru-hiking that would achieve things on this list. Which is why my first list, which isn’t a list at all, is the most important.

While articulating to others why this is my current goal has been challenging, it’s more important that I understand for myself why I am doing it. Which is why even attempting these lists have been incredibly helpful. I find them all to be equally important so I’ll give the other two their due at another time.

Until next time!



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Comments 2

  • FishnGaMe : Jan 11th

    Good luck Kristen, you’re making the right decision. It’s not like life is put on hold when doing the A.T., but more as a very long approach trail from one place in life to the next, with a unforgettable cast of characters and tremendous backgrounds, both in the hikers you’ll meet, and the views along the path.
    I first heard about the A.T. as a teen with a desire to try it. Decades later in my mid-forties I finally did, with a long list of logistics to take care of back home. Looking back I am so grateful I did finally take that five month hike, and chuckle about all those previous years of reasons (excuses) for not doing it.

    • Kristen Fiedler : Jan 31st

      Thank you for your kind words!


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