Hiking Alone, but not By Myself

When people find out that I am going to hike the AT, they frequently have questions. Are you going to bring a gun? How far is it? Where will you stay? Where does it go? Where are you starting? How many miles a day will you walk? What do you eat while on trail? Where do you go to the bathroom? And, inevitably, they ask my least favorite question. Who are you going with? They find out I’m going by myself and they express concern, fear, and even sadness.

Normally, I like the fact that people are asking questions. It implies they are at least minimally interested about my plans. And it gives me time to talk about the trail and how excited I am. However, that last question bothers me primarily because of the way people react.

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

I pride myself on being the strong, independent woman that my mother always dreamed I would be. I’ve never been one to think that I needed a man in my life or needed anyone else’s permission to do whatever it is I wanted. So, when my friend, who had been thinking about coming with me, decided against joining me on this trip, I never considered not going simply because I would be alone. Indeed, I began to look at it as part of the challenge. Because it isn’t enough to simply walk 2,200 miles; I have to do it on my own.

I do understand that there are loads of people on the AT. I also understand that the odds are high that I will meet at least one if not more hikers with whom I will get along and decide to travel. In my mind, however, there’s a difference between starting off with someone and choosing at some point along the way to hike with someone. The second option allows you to maintain your independence and flexibility whereas the first option keeps you permanently tied to someone else’s schedule, needs, and desires.

With a Little Help From My Friends

My mom had a saying that she repeated to me frequently as I was growing up. She even had it etched into a bracelet for me a few years ago. Surround yourself with good people. As I got into my early 20s and realized that my mom actually knew a thing or two, I started taking that phrase to heart and it’s kind of guided me ever since.

I now find myself at the age of 39 with several solid friendships with outstanding women. None of them ever question my ability to complete this hike and all of them have been extremely supportive of me over these last few months. Some even thought enough about me to give me little tokens that hold great meaning, including Georgia to Maine shoelace tags that are already on my shoes, a “She Persisted” pin that will likely find a home on my pack, and a bracelet with “Brave” engraved on it. I have a feeling that these three items, along with the aforementioned bracelet from my mother, will help keep me focused on the goal of getting to Katahdin by reminding me that though I may be physically alone on that trail, my friends are there with me every step of the way.

I’d like to give a hat tip to Cassandra Erin Studios (http://cassandraerin.com/) for her work on both the Georgia-Maine shoelace tags and the bracelet from my mother.

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Comments 14

  • Mickey : Mar 4th

    God promised he would never leave us or forsake us. We should never be completely alone

    • Peggy R. AYERS : Mar 4th

      And with God you are not, i know im not. Even when i sinned. He may chastize me as his child but he doesnt quit loving me. His love endures all things, good thing to remember. Very good thing. JESUS REPRESENTS THAT!

    • Kelly : Mar 5th

      Good morning Elizabeth,
      Your posts showed up in my Google page this morning, and tho I usually ignore these random daily news links, yours caught my attention.
      First, let me say how proud I am of you… And your mom for raising a strong and independent woman! She sounds like my own mom; who in her quiet, gentle way wanted the very same for her 3 daughters. I miss her every day but just ask my dad if she didn’t succeed in raising 3 strong… No- FIERCE- women:)
      So, your mom reminds me of mine, and you remind me of me, a bit. I too have not missed an opportunity to hike, backpack or travel just because I’d be going it alone. I too know that I don’t need a man to give my life worth; I too have a bracelet (mine from my best friend) that reminds me ‘I am woman, hear me roar.’ Mine says, “She believed that she could, so she did.”
      I’m smiling, thinking about where you are this morning… This BRISK morning… My favorite kind. The serenity of the woods you woke up to, are you having your coffee while you wait for the oatmeal to cook? Filtering some water, did you catch a glimpse of deer come down to drink?
      You are living my dream. I planned and prepared for my own trek from Georgia to Maine for years. Life throws it’s curve balls tho, doesn’t it? My curve ball came in the form of a drunk driver who hit me head on one night in 2003. My back and neck have never been the same, and with age have gotten worse.
      Not that I’ve given up the trail… But these days I’m a section hiker. And these days I usually have a companion… My older sister who caught “the bug.” It’s been an amazing experience in itself, bonding with her in a new way… actually; bonding with her PERIOD as we are SUCH very different people. It has brought us so much closer, and when a family unit loses one of it’s own, it’s a blessing for the rest of them to be able to pull each other close. I know all too well how some (many!) families can fall apart or just fade away from each other’s lives when the core person that held the fam together is no longer with us.
      Haha, I’m going on and on, and smiling again, thinking, ‘Well, she’ll have some light reading to pass the time with when she has to hunker down Wednesday for yet another Nor’easter!”
      I hope to hear back where you are now and how things are going. I’m in CT, and when you get up here I’d love to set you up with an angel box(hmm…iguess it’s not really an angel box if you know who it’s from!) with your favorite foods.
      You’re going to LOVE the CT section of the trail. There was a time when they actually considered bypassing Ct… ask anyone who’s walked it how grateful they are THAT didn’t happen! My completed sections of the AT are scattered… But CT is just about finished for me and I’ll be starting MASS this Spring. I think I’ve got like 10 miles left to the CT/Mass border. Cake walk.
      It’s 8:40 a.m. now… If it were me, I’d be breaking camp and finishing that last cup of coffee now… But then, I love long mornings and if my sister was with me, she’d be complaining about a late start… Blah blah blah.
      One more reason to enjoy the woods ALONE! LOL
      Have a great day. And a great trek.
      And truth be told, Elizabeth; you are not alone.
      Kelly W.

  • Clydette Broyles : Mar 4th

    I am so glad that you can finally answer the call of the AT.I too hear its call and hope to do my hike in 2020.Unless you have heard its call no one else can understand the need to answer it .I am praying for you and hoping you have an amazing hike.You will find plenty of friends and amazing angels (real and not seen )on the trail..

  • Cathy Cochran : Mar 4th

    Persist. I too hear it’s call. Can I do it by myself? I don’t know but I feel the need to try. I wish you the best of luck, blessings and safety. Persist on my sister. Persist on!

  • Sue Lewis : Mar 4th

    My son decided to hike the trail last year . ALONE. I wanted to fully support his decision, but I was so scared for him. He left the day after Mother’s Day (to be nice to me❤️).
    I (and he) were amazed to quickly learn he wouldn’t truly be alone. He met some of the most wonderful people on and off the trail. He learned so much from people he met (that came from various states and countries) but most of all, he discovered himself. He had some scary moments (running into bears, snakes, and a freak storm that nearly felled a tree on him), but he learned about life in a way he could not have learned had he never ventured out alone on the Appalachian Trail.
    God is with you always, and please remember to call your mom (or text/YouTube) whenever you can. It helped me tremendously to stay sane! LOL

  • David aka cheesehead : Mar 5th

    You are in for a great experience. Good luck getting to special k. Aka Katharine. 2000 thru hiker.

  • David aka cheesehead : Mar 5th


  • tj : Mar 5th

    I like your shoe tags. Have your start date etched on the first, and your finish date etched on the other. Cool keepsake!

    • Sara E : Mar 10th

      That’s a great idea ! Love the tags ❤️

  • zoot : Mar 5th

    Bravo pour cette vidéo ! Surtout pour les idées de rangement Une question : pour les bracelets chaînes (j”ai très peu de joncs), tu crois que la boîte à montres conviendrait ? Ou les petits coussins matchent mieux avec des bracelets rigides (type montres justementou joncs) ? Et sinon que me conseillerais tu pour ranger mes bracelets fins ?Merci ! Et continue de nous inspirer avec tes vidéos

  • Theresa Kimmel : Mar 5th

    Hi Elizabeth. This is my favorite post that I have read here so far. You remind me of my self so much-strong and independent raised by a kick ass mother. I cannot count how many times I have been asked “You’re going alone?” The fact is I love being alone and I truly enjoy my own company. I can do what I want on my own time schedule and take my time when I am really enjoying something. Especially when I am hiking! You are living my dream. Congratulations on your thru hike. Enjoy every step. Go get the big K!

  • Claire : Mar 7th

    Beth I’ve been meaning to send you a “good luck” message. Your posts are already inspiring and I can’t wait to hear more. Stay safe friend.

  • Sandra Denninger : Mar 10th

    You GO girl!! You’re awesome. I’m following along with you from Michigan and Germany. When do you start?


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