Making Plans for an Adventure
It’s been weeks since I told myself I’d start writing for this blog. It’s always been a little dream of mine to create one and share stories with others about the adventures that I hoped to go on in the future. I want to inspire others to get outside and enjoy nature. I was thrilled when I was accepted to be a blogger for The Trek! But every time I sit down and try to put some thoughts and words together, I freeze. Then I realized something I was told once, and that is, “Don’t freak out, just start writing.”
So this is me, just writing!
Who Am I?
My name is Kaylin. I’m 18, and I’ve lived in Maine all my life. I grew up in a family that has always loved the outdoors. That would be my parents, my brother, and all of my relatives. As a kid, I spent a lot of time camping with friends and family, biking, kayaking, swimming, and spending weekends up at my grandparents camp in northern Maine.
When I was 15, my dad convinced me to climb Mount Katahdin with him. I remember walking up to the sign at the summit, feeling like I had noodles for legs, and reading in small white letters, “Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail.” I didn’t think much of it then, but those words would later start to swirl around in my head and begin the creation of a crazy idea.
After that first climb up Katahdin, I fell in love with the mountain, the AT, and hiking in general. I had to climb it again! And again, and again. I love being up there on the exposed ridgeline, seeing for miles all around me, making my way through the maze of boulders, experiencing the different weather patterns, gazing down into the mountain’s bowl and seeing Chimney Pond, knowing I was just there a few hours ago. Katahdin is such a special and unique place, and I’m so happy that it’s so special to many other people all around the world who have hiked the AT.
The Appalachian Trail
I started researching the Appalachian Trail after that first hike, and I never really stopped. I spent the next three summers hiking and exploring Maine’s mountains. I also spent those three summers bugging my parents about the AT. I wanted to thru-hike so badly. It was all I dreamed about!
I realized I probably wouldn’t be able to attempt a thru-hike until after college, though, because I was still in high school and didn’t think it could actually happen before then. My parents also thought I was too young and were uncomfortable with me going on such a long hiking trip so far away from home, which I understood. But then one day, they came home from the store, and as I was helping them in the kitchen, they said, “We’ve been talking, and we want you to know that you have our support if you really want to hike the AT before college.”
My response was something like, “What? Are you serious?” And then I broke down into tears. Tears of happiness!
Then the Fun Began
OK, so all of a sudden everything changed, and I was going to hike the AT. “What do I do now?” I didn’t believe it for a while, and it still doesn’t feel real. I don’t think it will until we start driving down to Georgia.
First and foremost, I had to finish high school before I could even think about leaving to spend months in the woods during my senior year. I worked independently at school to get ahead and was able to finish all of my academics a year early as a junior. I worked seasonal jobs through the summer and fall to buy all of my gear, and now I am working to save up money for the rest of the expenses, such as food, transportation, hostels and hotels, gear replacement, etc.
“Who Are You Going With?”
When I mention to people that I’m going to go hike the AT, their first response is, “Wow! That’s amazing!” And then, 99% of those people ask next, “Who are you going with?”
“I’m going alone.”
“What! Are you taking a gun?”
No, I’m definitely not taking a gun, those things are heavy. Pepper spray should do the job! Besides, in most hikers’ opinions, and mine, the trail is a much safer place than being anywhere else, such as a city, for example. The AT community is an amazing thing, and there are always people looking out for each other. I’ve been told it’s pretty much impossible to be alone all day long. Most people find other hikers with a similar pace to theirs and will end up becoming friends or having a tramily (trail family). I will be a solo hiker, but I won’t be alone.
The big question that most hikers seem to get asked is, “Why do you want to hike the AT?” Surprisingly, I rarely get asked this question in person. For me, it’s always the, “who are you going with?” question.
I don’t have a singular, deep, emotional reason as to why I want to hike the trail. My reasons are simple: I want to spend six months living outside. I want to be closer to nature, explore the outdoors, climb the mountains, and find solitude in the forests. I want to know what it’s like to live and be happy with nothing but what I have on my back. I want to experience all the weather, the rain, the sunshine, the wind, and the snow. I want to feel like I’m working towards a goal; in this case, walking all the way to Katahdin. I want to experience the good and bad days, and see if I can mentally push through those bad days. I want to meet new people, make new friends, see new places, and be a part of the wonderful hiking community. I want to see the sunrises and sunsets, wake up in a different place every morning, and sleep under the stars and forest canopies. I have met a lot of thru-hikers in person and have followed many on social media. Hearing their stories and experiences motivate me to do whatever I can to make this hike possible. I want to share my experience with other people too and hopefully inspire them to get outside and follow a dream that they have. And lastly, I want to connect with nature, because it’s what I have found to love the most in my life, and I want to make my dream of thru-hiking the AT become a reality.
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