If I try to beat the Appalachian Trail, the Appalachian Trail will beat me

For those of you that’ve been following me along since my first post. You will remember that I talked about three separate lists I have written in my journal. The first talks about my reasons for doing the AT. The second is a list of what will happen after I successfully complete the AT. The third list is what happens if I give up on the AT. This list was difficult for me to write, as it should be.


I’ve given up so many things I’ve started. Be a crocheted blanket, a painting or a goal… there is constant failure and the feeling of being  constantly unsatisfied in myself. I’m very hard on myself, we really are our own worst critics. I’m tired of feeling this way, I want to break the cycle. I’ve had to sacrifice so much to be able to save up the money to not only buy the gear but to live off of for months at a time. It got to a point where I was wondering if it was going to be worth it. I had to view every expense as taking away from my thru. Every dollar spent here was a dollar less I’d have while on trail. It was really hard to find balance and to not be constantly stressed out about finances. It’s because of this mindset why I didn’t buy a brand new car, why I still live at home, why I wouldn’t go out with friends, why I didn’t buy those nice clothes. I had my mind set on one goal, get to Katahdin. The choices I made and continue to make, although a lot more relaxed, are for that reason alone. I found myself asking, “Will (fill in the blank) get me to katahdin”. Most the time the answer was no.

My safe haven

Just the sheer thought of being on trail for months at a time and living in the woods was enough to get me through any day. I can remember many days at work where I was upset because of some pointless reason but it was always the trail and walking 2,000 miles that kept me grounded and ultimately that kept me going. The Appalachian Trail has in a way, been my medicine. It’s kept me constantly happy, excited, driven, passionate and humble. Every payday when I would dump half my paycheck into my “Thru-hike” account was like Christmas. I’d be in such a good mood as I watched it grow and grow. Buying gear was always a huge mood booster. When I would get home from work and see that amazon box sitting on the table, I knew I was about to meet a new friend. A friend who will not only help keep me alive but who I’ll be carrying with me. I’ve put my everything….everything, into this and I can’t give up on it.

If I give up on the Appalachian Trail, I will…

  • Not be happy with myself.
  • Feel defeated by the trail.
  • Miss the trail everyday.
  • Be a let down to myself.
  • Beat myself up about not finishing.
  • Live an unhappy and unsatisfied life.
  • Go back to work.
  • Be forced back into society.
  • Feel like I can’t accomplish anything.
  • Never forgive myself.



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Comments 8

  • Heather : Jan 6th

    Casey, I’m so proud of you and can’t wait for you to go on this hike. The way you’ve always talked about this hike makes me so happy and the way your face lights up when you do talk about it. I can’t wait to see the pictures and the videos because with those I also get to live a little with them. Love you

  • Paul Schulke : Jan 6th

    Oddly, your headline about “beating” the trail doesn’t align with all the negativity you list should you not win the battle…

    Perhaps a “glass half full” approach towards a possible unsatisfactory ending can help

  • Elizabeth Hauser : Jan 6th

    I can so relate to your passion for living in the woods, walking 2200 miles, and how you will feel when you complete it, why you’re doing it in the first place, and how you will feel if you don’t complete it. That said, I’m a bit older than you….66…and a woman. And I’m taking my Jack Russell with me, because he would literally die of a broken heart if I left him. Well, I would be pretty lonesome, too. But no one would take him, even if he could adjust. It will be, I anticipate, a little like hiking 2200 miles with a toddler. We’ll see, though. Maybe he’ll turn out to be the heartier of the two of us. Maybe I will see you on the trail. Best of luck!😊

  • Joshua Angstadt : Jan 11th

    Hi Casey, I just read your article! Very inspiring and thought provoking! I must express to you the small margin of possibility you have to take this journey! What I mean is, as difficult as it is to prepare and sacrifice for the thru hike, if you were in a different state of life, it would be near impossible! Let that alone be a huge motivation! I also dream of a thru hike, but I have a family and a home and this dream is set far back on the list of possibility. This time of my life is great, and I would never trade it, but the trail offers you a gift of intrinsic solidarity. Relationships and the challenges of making a home are faced with greater integrity and wisdom when one has a clearer understanding of who they are. God speed and Blessings to you on your way!

  • Jim clements : Jan 11th

    Guess what? You don’ t finish the trail sun comes up tomorrow! News flash sport everyone makes sacrifices to hike the trail! My friend Andrea got a leave of absence to hike the trail last year.Forced of trail because of covid.No next year for her..no another leave of absence..but she’ s not bitter. she gloried in every minute she spent on trail..she was her best self she supported her fellow hikers always a smile on her face! You are so worried about the destination you won’ t enjoy the journey! You need to rethink your priorities!

  • Jeff Bennett, Tractor : Jan 12th

    Good article, first of all you don’t beat the AT it’s not a race. If your lucky the AT will accept you and allow you to continue. You will laugh, cry,be happy and be sad all in the same day. In Noth Carolina on top of a mountain somewhere I was alone and suddenly smelled my grandfather’s cigarette smoke as fresh as if he was standing beside me. He past away about 40 years ago. Those moments are what you are hiking for. You will get some things figured out in 6 to 7 months, don’t be disappointed if you dont get all the answers. And when you return some people will not understand you and pull start pulling away. Don’t be surprised if even some family members do this. Stay strong and remember what the AT taught you.

  • Ashley : Jan 12th

    I too will be taking the same journey as you in 2021! I can’t wait to meet you on the trail! Good luck and happy trails! Keep positive and remember every situation is going to teach you something! Even the difficult times! You got this!

  • Craig : Jan 30th

    Hey Casey! First, I applaud your dedication to fulfilling a dream. In this case not only the 2,000+ miles but what you will find in YOU on the hike. Those days you are sore or under the weather, look out and see a steady rain. Those are the days you lose yourself in thought as you just take another step forward, and another, and another BUT then there are those feel good days where everything goes right and the sights you see are amazing and the experience will not be forgotten. It is an accomplishment for sure. I think that once you experience all those things on the trail you will look at that list again and toss it. You will see these are things we do every day, but the difference is you will know you just take one step at a time. Just like on the trail the tough time today will be so different tomorrow. But you will accomplish what you sacrificed for, worked at and completed. Then apply that to anything else you want to do. I have done mil/police special units my whole career and what all there have in common is that no matter what confronts you, take that next step and keep going. It is what you will do. You dont need luck my friend, just go do it. Enjoy it just as much as you can because you cant redo the last steps you took. I am now a survival instructor, as are my kids in addition to their careers. I spent my young life living in the woods and surviving on the land. It was some amazing times, except when wet/cold but you learned to avoid that-some!
    Take care and be safe. Keep in touch here and let us know how you are doing. You got this.


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