Mental Preparations for a Thru-Hike

Anyone who has told a person their plans to a attempt a thru-hike has inevitably heard the response, “Why?”

And I would not doubt that many, like myself, would like to reply, “Why not?”

Obviously, having a reason to walk from Maine to Georgia (or vice-versa) other than “why not” is going to be important during my/your time on the trail.

Here are a few of my WHYs:

  • Time to think.  That sounds awfully vague as I write this, but there are a lot of things on my mind!  In the normal day-to-day there is a lot of noise, which can have quite an impact on our decisions.  I look forward to the time for self-examination and contemplation without those distractions.
  • Get back into Nature
  • Now is the best opportunity I may ever have to do this, and I have the support of my husband (and dog)
  • Me vs. the Trail – this is a challenge for me to conquer, and I want to prove I can do it.
  • Why not?!

As I began my thru-hike planning, I of course stumbled upon, where I again and again came across recommendations to read Appalachian Trials, which I finally did after putting it off for months.  I already had my list of “Why,” but I found the additional exercise, making a list of what it would mean to me when I did finish the trail and a list of what it would mean if I didn’t finish the trail, significant in my preparations; my reasons for wanting to hike became less murky pond and more glacial lake.  Prior to reading Zach Davis’ book, I’d never considered “what if I don’t finish,” but only faced my hike with the sheer determination to finish.  Listing the benefits of the hike and what I hope to gain “when I successfully hike the Appalachian Trail…” strengthened my heart & soul’s desire to complete the Appalachian Trail.

The first thing that came to mind was my relationship with nature; I feel I have too often taken the beautiful landscape around me for granted.  I spent nearly twenty years of my life surrounded by the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges and rarely got out to explore them.  I want to reacquaint myself with nature, and hope that my time on the AT will rouse me to explore the wilderness trails across the United States (and world).

When I complete the Appalachian Trail, there is no doubt I will be filled with an immense sense of accomplishment; I will know I can do anything if I set my mind to it.  I will know I am a badass!  Along with my badassery will undoubtedly come a pair of killer legs.  I’m looking forward to being a badass with quads of steel.

I also expect that at the end of this journey I will possess a much greater appreciation for my husband’s love and support.  Please, don’t take this the wrong way, as I already immensely appreciate his love and support.  BUT-  I’ve never hiked over 2,000 miles on my own, with him and the dog meeting me along the way to resupply and encourage me. I can’t anticipate how much it will mean to me.

Much like with physical preparations, I feel there is only so much I can do to “get my mind right” (as Coach Tony would say) before I hit the trail.  Here are the ways that I am mentally preparing myself:

  • Know my why and the consequences if I fail
  • Physically prepare so that my mind never has to question my body’s ability
  • Accept things as they come, and understand no amount of planning will prepare me for actually being on the trail.
  • Remember that every moment is part of the journey

I am currently within a month of my planned start date, and my mind is more at ease than in previous months.  Hopefully this is a sign that I am as prepared and I can be!


More soon!

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Comments 4

  • Bob : Jul 11th

    Hi Megan! Are you not getting an awfully late start for a thru hike on the AT ?

  • Your mother : Jul 16th

    By the way your alts one amazing inspiration to me.


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