Like a Virgin Hiking for the Very First Time

A lot of people would describe me as an extreme person. I don’t mean that I regularly participate in extreme activities but I have an extreme personality. I am loud, brazen, and unapologetically me. I have been told by multiple people on trail that they hear me long before they see me. So, when I told people that I was planning on hiking the Appalachian Trail I was met with very little resistance. No one acted particularly shocked and nobody  told me that I couldn’t do it. But when I tell people on trail, who don’t know me, the concept of me hiking the AT doesn’t make as much sense, because this is my first backpacking trip.

I am not the first person to attempt thru-hiking the AT without prior backpacking experience and I won’t be the last. And with 729 miles under my hip belt I am no longer an inexperienced backpacker. Yet, somehow I have to explain myself every time I tell someone that I never backpacked before. Don’t get me wrong. I love talking so I don’t mind going into deeper conversation but I find myself having to justify my decision. I go into detail about my hiking and camping experience and how I’ve lived in a tent for summers at a time as a camp counselor.

I understand that most people would want to see if they like backpacking before attempting to walk most of the East Coast, but that isn’t how I did it and I couldn’t be happier. I love that I chose to have a fully immersive experience. I trusted REI employees with hundreds of miles of experience to guide me through gear selection, I learned how to hang a bear bag in the orientation class at Amicalola Falls State Park, and I filtered water for the first time from a stream in Georgia. It might be nontraditional and maybe irresponsible to go out in the wilderness without testing my gear or doing practice hikes but it was my way of doing it. I am having the adventure of a lifetime and being able to learn from my fellow thru-hikers was a bonding experience unlike any other.

Another reason I think having never backpacked before was perfect for me was because I am able to truly appreciate the journey. I didn’t obsess over the AT for years. I haven’t been imagining how perfect it would be and wondering what type of people I would meet. I never had a plan for where I would be by what time and having not made these plans has made it so I am just experiencing it. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and that is perfect because I never could have planned for the life I am now living.

Remember, at one point you had never walked, you had never cooked, you had never parented, you had never done something that you are an expert at now. Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you because you will never know if you don’t try.

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Comments 1

  • JERRY R PARKER : May 28th

    I don’t think that I could have stated things better or more succinctly than you did in your last paragraphs. When I was thru-hiking the AT in 1979, I met a couple from Texas in their 60’s who were only the 512th and 513th people to ever hike the trail and they NEVER backpacked a day in their life and they only hiked about 8 miles a day. Those who turn back remember only the ordeal but those who PERSEVERE remember the adventure.


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