How To Stress Out Your Family and Friends

Tell them you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail.

It’s a 2197.4 mile walk, roughly 5-7 months long, from Georgia to Maine. Some do it in sections. For me, maybe it’s a thru-hike. Maybe it’s the start of a lifelong adventure. Time will tell. But I’m two days away from starting a grand new adventure.

I got the idea to hike the AT two years ago when I read The Unlikely Thru-Hiker by Derick Lugo. I had a feeling I’d attempt it when I turned down a job offer that didn’t feel right for me in fall 2023. I was pretty sure I’d do it once my previous work contract ended in January this year. And then February came around and I was spending 4-6 hours a day (at least) looking at gear reviews and I knew it was happening.

Five books, 8 REI trips (plus a new membership), one spreadsheet, 14 bags of homemade trail mix later, and countless converstaions assuring family and friends I’ll be fine, here I am.

About Me

My go to intro:

Hi, I’m Garrett, a 32 year old biologist from Jacksonville, FL (go Jaguars) but living in Philly (go Phillies). I love the outdoors, cooking for friends and family and blah blah blah.

My intro has always been boring and safe and checks a neat little box for most folks. Instead, for this blog, I’ll be more authentic. I’d like to share my deeper personal thoughts and hear your thoughts in return. What I’d like from you is feedback on the content of this blog, either through comments below, texts, emails, or DMs.

So, what do you want to know?

Zach Davis Lists

One of the 5 books I read to prep for this adventure was Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis (founder of this website, actually). His guide is geared towards the mental and emotional side of hiking the AT. He recommends making lists on why I’m hiking the AT and what I’m gaining by doing so. I can check them during low points to bolster my mood. Below are some of the items on my list:

Why I’m Hiking
  1. Adventure – This is about grabbing life as it comes, doing something challenging while I can.
  2. To Complete Something Challenging – Walking 2000 miles, living out of a backpack, accepting the generosity of strangers, and spending most of my time with me and my thoughts. The physical, mental, and emotional challenges combine in a unique alchemy I’m ready for.
  3. Mother Nature – As a biologist, I get plenty of time outside. But I don’t always feel as connected to nature as I want to. Living outside for awhile ought to do the trick.
What I’ll Gain
  1. New Perspective –  I am struggling to decouple my identity from my career. I’ve worked for the federal government for about 10 years. Who am I without that job? Any job? I don’t want my understanding of who I am to be tied to a paycheck or a title given to me on a SF-50.
  2. Comfortability with Generosity – My partner reminds me that practically everyone wants to help someone, and letting them do so is a gift you give them. Still, like many of us, I struggle with accepting the generosity of others, particularly friends and particularly over small things. I’ll mentally tally that someone bought me a beer once and then stress over returning the generosity. I want to grow more comfortable accepting the generosity of others, and, importantly, passing it forward when possible.
  3. Rock hard legs.

A Garrett List!

At dinner recently, I asked friends what they wanted from this blog and one said “predictions on what will happen in the news between now and your next blog post.”As a big NPR Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me fan, I love this idea and may add a section every post, but for now, I’ll offer an overall list of realistic predictions for me for this hike:

My Hike Predictions:
  1. Make at least 10 new friends
  2. Greater appreciation for the little things in life
  3. Spot over 150 bird species along the way (I had to throw at least ONE biology-related prediction)
  4. Put all of my previous farmer’s tans to shame

Why Blog?

Lastly, friends and family might be wondering why I decided to blog along the way. For one, SO many people (like…5) asked how they could follow along and keep in touch. This seemed like an easy way. Plus, I wanted another reason to journal/write out thoughts every day, so I can  remember more of this adventure than just the pictures. Lastly, I’ve never considered myself a strong writer (see, authenticity) so here’s to me facing my fears of writing publicly.

Thanks for reading this far and I hope you have some fun with me along the way. Cheers!

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Comments 4

  • Elizabeth Kligge : Apr 1st

    I love that you are doing this! Hiking and writing, And you’d better tell us when you’re passing through PA.

  • Banda : Apr 1st

    Hello from Jacksonville, Florida! We have a place in Warne, NC and I am fascinated with the AT. We hike little sections while we are there and love every minute of it. I love your transparency and look forward to following you on your journey! You’ve got this!

  • Flash : Apr 2nd

    So far,so good. I love the voice that shines through your writing. Channeling Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me in your posts would take it to the highest level of enjoyable reading. But, don’t make that an everyday endeavor because you will be exhausted when you are doing the majority of your writing. Best of luck, and happy trails.

  • Maggie Kirk : Apr 3rd

    We are following and hope you have the most successful hike!!


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