It’s (Almost) Go Time
So This is Me Now
Greetings from Pennsylvania! My name is Erin. I am a doodler, scribbler, and general problem-solver, and I’m starting my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in late April of 2016. I’ve gone through all the phases of hike planning, from rose-colored daydreaming to obsessive internet research, right through to where I am now, which is having about a hundred quiet freak-outs every day. I’m five days away from making the drive down to Georgia and the looming start date has me doing a little bit of last minute soul-searching. After all, I’m not your typical hiker. I spend more time inside with books and sketchpads than I do outside with the bears and the bugs, and I’ve never really been what you might consider athletically gifted. I look like a muppet when I run, and my last foray into organized sports was fourteen years ago, when I had a very unexceptional season as a volleyball player. I used to be a decent equestrian, but spoilers, that is a sport that involves a lot of sitting. So what could possess me to do such a thing (I ask myself several times a day)?
But Back Then…
It all started in high school, when I got a scholarship to go on a school-sponsored two week backpacking trip with some of my classmates. It was nothing I expected. I’m not sure I expected anything from that trip, honestly, aside from a change of routine, and instead I got a trip that changed the way I looked at the world around me. It was hard, and it was dirty, and there were times when I wanted to sit down next to the trail and give up, but it was fun. It was a kind of fun I’d never experienced before. After that trip, certain things just weren’t a big deal anymore, because I knew I didn’t need as much as I thought I did to make me happy. Sometimes, all you need is hot tang and a handful of peanuts and life is good. My baseline for happiness became more reasonable, and I was much more grateful for the good things I already had in life. So to the person who gave me that scholarship, I want to say thank you, again. It may have been a small time period in my life, but you did quite a thing. That was two weeks in my sophomore year, and then I did another three-day hike before starting college, and after that? Never again. For twelve years I haven’t been on so much as an overnight hike, and I really didn’t think about it all that much.
How I Got From Point A to Point AT
Two summers ago, I was reading in a restaurant when a thru-hiker taking a zero day stopped at my table and struck up a conversation. We ended up talking most of the afternoon, and for weeks afterward I couldn’t get the AT out of my head. It was like that conversation had homed right in on something I needed and didn’t even realize I was missing. So I read a little about it and did a little research and waited for a whole year just to make sure that it wasn’t a flare-up of nostalgia, and when I was sure it was something I really wanted to do I turned in my resignation at the college I was working for, got an interim position near my parents so that I could spend time with them before I set out, and got to work really planning to hike 2190 or so miles. Two thousand, one hundred and ninety miles. That’s a lot of miles. It’s longer than Japan by 321 miles. You could walk around the entire coastline of Ireland and still have 220 miles to go. I owned my Fitbit for three years before it told me I had walked the length of the AT (see: exercise, muppet). And my brain is looking at all those numbers and going, “Yep, seems legit, put your sneakers on.”
So that’s where I’m at. Less than a week away from just dropping my whole life and walking into the woods for reasons I’m not sure I can fully define to myself, much less other people. And I do get asked “why” a lot. Usually, with this face:
There are a lot of different answers I could give, and they’re all true (working on my nature drawing, because who knows when I’ll get another chance, because I secretly love Ramen and believe it should be its own food group, because I’ve talked big about it to too many people and now I can’t back out, and most importantly to win ALL the Fitbit challenges). But at the end of the day, I think this is a chance to do something kind of crazy and human and magnificent, and no one should ever turn away from those. So I’m going to put on my shoes, throw my bag and my dog Noah in my car, and go see what there is to see.
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Is your dog hiking with you? How big is the dog? What are you going to do in the sections where dogs aren’t allowed? Best of luck with everything!
April 30, 2016
“let’s go do this thing” I assume you have started the trek. How are you and Noah doing?
Hi Erin and Noah…How are you doing?