Why I’m Hiking the Appalachian Trail at 18

The most common question I receive is “Why?”

Hiking the Appalachian Trail at any age is not only the biggest blessing, but it is also the biggest test of your physical, mental, and, for some, spiritual strength. This is not new news to many aspiring thru-hikers like myself and those who have hiked it before us. Having done a section in the past, I am now more prepared for these trials but I will still be tested like everyone else. I have become more capable of answering the questions of “Why now?” or “Why at all?” than ever before. However, I feel my answer to that same question will change, yet again, once I finish in Maine. This page will be similar to all the other “Why I’m Hiking Lists” but don’t stop reading quite yet.

What’s the purpose?

These lists are not meant to be as boring as they may seem. These lists serve a purpose to not only the reader but to the author as well. To the reader, it is a source of entertainment but also an opportunity to step into someone else’s life. You are provided with a chance to see what motivates a person to take on such a journey and a glimpse at who they are. For the author, it is a list to tear apart their mind to find what their true purpose is and a reminder later on for why they aren’t going to quit.

Why I’m Hiking the AT….

  1. I want to experience life before the world expects me to work a nine-to-five or get a degree.
  2. I love the challenge and the physical/mental tests you can overcome.
  3. Hiking has always been my go-to for coping with everything in my life, both good and bad.
  4. Being away from the constant rat-race of society and removing myself from that world.
  5. The simplicity of living off what you carry and not needing all the material goods you filled your home with. Even the house itself is extra when you consider living out of a tent for six months.
  6. I have the physical capability to do it now, and I might not get another chance.
  7. After years of struggle, I am ready for a break and this journey will provide that for me.
  8. I want to be able to say I accomplished my life’s dream.
  9. I believe this journey changes you, and I want to see what the trail will teach me.
  10. The trail provides friendships and experiences that last a lifetime.

Still reading?

If you are still here, thank you for letting me show you what motivates me. I truly hope this experience will teach me and guide me on other paths (metaphorically and literally) in my life. I’ve come a long way to get to this point in my life, and I am ready to take on the challenges ahead of me. I hope you all continue to follow along this journey with me. I’m new to the blogging aspect of this trip so bare with me as I get the hang of this. As stated in my bio, my primary form of social media is Instagram so I will be posting on there in conjunction with this blog.

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Comments 4

  • Bradley Bohannon : Nov 27th

    What helped you wait until finishing high school? I’m sixteen and a junior in high school and I plan to hopefully thru-hike the AT in 2019 which is the same year as my graduation. I’m want to try to schedule my senior year so that I can finish a semester early and hit the trails at normal time. If that doesn’t work I can always do a flip-flop, but I really want to end at Katahdin, so I may have to wait until 2020. I’m doing weekend hikes on the AT at the moment to hold me over, but that seems to make the pull even worse. I guess this is a great problem for me to have though.

    • Samantha Rhodes : Nov 27th

      I was actually in a very similar situation not too long ago. I was planning out my thru-hike my junior year and hoping to thru-hike after graduation. I was able to graduate a semester early my senior year because I had all the credits I needed to graduate. I can expand upon how I did this if you are interested. I actually graduated high school January 12, 2017 before my 1st attempt at a thru-hike this past spring. My goal was, just like yours, to start at Springer and finish at Katahdin. However, do not completely rule out a flip-flop hike because it has its advantages. I think the best advice I can give you for the waiting period is to enjoy the period of transition. I think I spent most of my training thinking about every blog I read and all the gear reviews I watched. This may sound like a good thing, however, do not let it consume your journey to the trail. I spent hours and hours planning things that ended up being useless on the AT. I think the biggest thing to remember is that hiking the AT is your DREAM not your JOB. That being said, enjoy every last second of it!

      • Bradley Bohannon : Nov 29th

        I’m hopefully going to be able to talk to my counselor soon about graduating early so any tips would be helpful. As of right now though I am looking more into doing a flip-flop. The main concern is the lack of people. I’m not so sure how I’d do being completely on my own. I feel good about making sure I enjoy hiking every time I go onto the trails though. Any day out there is better than an average day. That being said I haven’t gone on a thru-hike, but I can’t imagine not enjoying my time out there.

  • Ralph McGreevy : Nov 30th

    Good luck with this. Be EXTREMELY careful – with natural hazards, people, wildlife, etc., but go for it boldly. As long as you can afford it, hiking before university may be a good choice. You will surely learn a lot about self-sufficiency and introspection.


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