Why I’m Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Some hikers have dreamed of hiking the Appalachian Trail their entire life.  Some people will dream of making this hike their entire life and never get to.  I’ll be honest, I’m not one of those people. In fact, I didn’t know any details about the AT until last March.  Sometimes I feel a little bit unworthy because of that.

I’ve always wanted to have an adventure.

My family has always done outdoor adventure type vacations.  Not every year or anything, but when we’ve done them.  Whether that be beach trips or house boating those have been among the best moments of my life.  I’ve always wanted to hike, camp, and do other outdoor activities with my friends, but I’ve never really been close with a group of people who were into that.  So I’ve always sort of followed my friend’s interests. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been true to myself and loved all the things I’ve been interested in.  This is just one facet of myself I haven’t much explored.

A chance to find myself.

However last winter I sort of found myself untethered, I’d grown away from a few groups of friends at the same time and I felt pretty lost and lonely.  I decided you know what?  I’m going to focus on things I’ve always wanted to do and haven’t because my friends weren’t interested.  I had a four day weekend just by chance, and I took off to go camping with my dog and my mom’s dog.  I had a great time and felt really renewed by being out there.

I had a couple of coworkers who were big into camping and outdoors activities.  So we talked about it, the Appalachian Trail came up, and I said I’d like to hike it someday.  It quickly became clear that I did not understand the magnitude of the undertaking.  So I went home and googled it, and for some reason, descriptions of hiking through the rain and cold and heat and bugs for six months sold me on it.  I began to research gear for hiking it “someday”.

Making do…

We had a family camping excursion this summer, I planned a trip with my aunt, and another with my mom where she dropped me off at one state park and I hiked down to meet her at another.  I was somewhat limited by the fact that I live in a pretty big city, and don’t own a car.  I don’t have maybe as much backpacking experience as one could have before taking on the Appalachian Trail, but everyone starts somewhere.  I mostly got in day “hikes” around the city.  I’m lucky enough to have a really good bike path through my city, and the dog and I have taken full advantage of that this year.

I joined online communities that focused on the Appalachian Trail, and this helped me because I really am looking for people to connect with and a place to belong, that’s no doubt part of the reason I want to hike the trail.  I decided I wanted to hike the trail in 2019.  That I would come back after and try to get a job at the local university, get a teaching degree, and continue to pursue backpacking during summer vacations.

Retail sucks.

Then I started to feel trapped and dissatisfied with my job.  It’s like this for me frequently, I’ll like my job as long as it’s new.  And I struggle as well, I work my hardest and it’s never enough.  Because this has happened at more than one job I feel like it’s me that’s the problem and not the job.  I’ve really only ever had one kind of job, and not succeeding in retail doesn’t mean I’ll never succeed anywhere but-  I don’t have much else in my life.  I need some kind of accomplishment, some sense of success.  I ’m completely starved for it actually.  A job may not even be the best place to search for that kind of fulfillment.  In fact, I could probably do my job better if I cared just a little bit less.

So in October, I began to look at if it was feasible to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2018.  With a lot of sacrifices, a little luck, and some help, it’s happening.  A cumulation of things have pushed me towards it.  I’m hoping to find myself in some ways; I want a sense of accomplishment, some reason to be proud of myself; I want to spend more time with my dog; I want some distance from parts of my life I’m not very happy with right now; and I want to connect with people who have similar interests.

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Comments 4

  • Daniel (Falls) : Dec 20th

    This literally sounds like my story. I won’t bore you. But, I was in a similar boat. I successfully completed my AT-Thru this year. It was an amazing experience. You got this! Honestly though the trail has ruined my life. I am currently planning the PCT for sometime.

    • Margaret : Dec 29th

      I sort of realized the trail is going to ruin my life already. I’m formulating plans to live in a car with my dog and keep traveling the country. We’ll see where that gets me. Congrats on completing the trail! Maybe when you do the PCT I can send you some trail magic.

  • Sam : Dec 29th

    Sounds like good reasoning! I think the only definition of success that matters is your own. Other people’s definitions of success, like going to college and getting promoted, have definitely hindered me from defining success for myself in the past. And the AT is a great way to do that… I’m hiking in 2018 also. Hope to see you out there!

    • Margaret : Dec 29th

      I agree. I’m excited to complete something I see as a big milestone. Good luck out there.


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