Learning to Live with Imperfection on the AT

People often associate the antithesis of perfection with failure, but the true opposite of perfection is where we exist as thru-hikers and as people.

It’s tempting to think the perfect pack, sleeping system, or trail runners will lead to a perfect hike. That being prepared for all physical situations means you’re innately prepared for anything the trail throws at you.

What I’ve come to learn during my short time on the Appalachian Trail thus far is that perfection is a bitch.

One fellow hiker strolled into camp and told stories of his grand adventures in national parks across the country, only to scurry to the nearest gap to meet someone dropping off the trekking poles he had left at the start of the trail. He ventured on to the rest of the trail carrying the name “Rookie” for that mistake.

No matter how much experience gained or books read, we are still human, and we make human-like mistakes.

I’ve found one of the many roadblocks preventing people from taking their first step onto the trail begins with a feeling of ineptitude and the fear of being wrong or judged. And sure, judgmental folks exist in all walks of life, but this walk is meant to be judgment-free.

One of the greatest allures of the trail to me was the lack of expectations. The vast majority of thru-hikers preach the importance of ‘hiking your own hike,” a common trail colloquialism written in books and carved into shelters. The truth in that statement doesn’t come when you expect others to remove their judgment, it comes when you accept your hike for what it is by not allowing others to impose their expectations onto you.

Once you accept your own hike, you laugh at your mistakes and trek onward, just like Rookie.

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Comments 2

  • pearwood : Mar 29th

    Sounds like you’re off to a good start, Steph.
    Go for it. Let it happen!

  • Carole Ann Kramer : Sep 14th

    You are very encouraging. I’m planning my 1st hike alone ever. I am 56 and still don’t know who I am. Well my love of nature has drawn me towards the trail. I have a husband who doesn’t want to do anything. I’m not wasting my life sitting around being depressed. April 2022 I want to head out of Georgia. Your stories are very helpful. Thankyou and stay safe.


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