More Than Just an Adventure

The Reasons Why I’m Hiking the AT

I’ve gotten a lot of questions from people when I tell them that I will be spending the next 4-6 months hiking the AT. From how are you getting food to how long will it take you to are you carrying a gun? But the one question, no one other than my parents has asked me, is why. Why am I subjecting myself to hiking over 2,000 miles, sore feet, being away from my family, and living with nothing more than what I can carry on my back? The first word that comes to mind is ADVENTURE but I know that it is because of much more than just that. I don’t think I know all the reasons why I’m hiking the AT and I definitely have more than one answer to that seemingly simple question.

A couple of years ago I hiked the 100 mile wilderness to Katahdin with my summer camp. I had always liked hiking but that trip made me fall in love with it. I met several thru hikers and I started thinking I want to do what these guys are doing. By the end of my trip, becoming a thru hiker was scribbled onto my very long bucket list, but I had a plan for my life and the AT didn’t really fit into it. I “scheduled” it for around retirement age and I thought I’d get to it when I get to it. Little did I know my life wouldn’t go to plan.

cara merrowvista exit of 100 miles

Exiting the 100 Mile Wilderness with the amazing girls from my summer camp

About three and a half years ago my life was on a very different path, I was on track to play college soccer, was a good student, and thought nothing could ruin my perfectly laid out plans that I had for my life. A month before my 16th birthday though it all changed, I received my second concussion within two months. Instead of getting better I got worse. I was diagnosed with Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) and suffered from debilitating chronic pain, visual issues, depression and a whole slew of other symptoms for two years. I finally found a treatment that cured me, but it caused me to miss the first three months of my senior year and even when I went back into the real world I had to reintegrate slowly. In the time that I was sick I felt as if I lost the essence of the person I was.  I could no longer play soccer, I had barely attended school, I didn’t leave my house if I didn’t have to, and I lost my passion for life.

As I came back from treatment and continued my healing process, I realized I had no grand plan for my life and that I wouldn’t walk the same path as my classmates. I graduated four months after my graduating class and had that liberating moment where I figured out I could do anything. I knew I wanted a typical college experience, so I had nine months to kill before that time. My love of hiking and that scribble on the bottom of my bucket list popped into my head and I knew that was what I had to do. So what better way to spend a gap year than thru hiking the AT?

This journey is much more than just a walk in the woods (sorry Bill Bryson), a chance to fill a gap of time before I head off to college, or an adventure. Even though it is all of those things, it’s really about getting the opportunity to continue to heal, to relearn what it means to truly feel alive, the chance to broaden my horizons, loose the dreaded freshman 15 before I even have the opportunity to gain it, and to do that stereotypical find yourself thing. I’m hiking the AT to challenge myself physically and mentally and prove to myself that I am capable to do the things I set my mind to.

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Comments 13

  • Carolyn Gebhardt Karpinski : Feb 22nd

    Good luck! Be safe! Have fun!

  • Ellen : Feb 22nd

    Way to go Cara! Best wishes for an inspirational amazing journey! I’d love to follow you on Instagram, I’m a long distance friend of your moms.
    Have fun , be safe,

  • Tyler : Feb 23rd

    I am very happy for you. Its been 9 years and I miss every step of my thru hike. My thru changed me forever, I trust that its peace will reach you too. Enjoy the miles and remember, never quit on a bad day, never quit on a rainy day, never quit on your first day in town…. Basically just don’t give up! Hike light and HAPPY TRAILS!

    NOBO 2007

  • Marianne Stillwagon : Feb 23rd

    Good Luck Cara and God be with you on this adventure of a lifetime !!!!!

  • Holly : Feb 23rd

    Wow! You go girl! SO, SO, SO proud of you, realizing this adventure will be incredible for you. I can’t wait to follow along. Happy trails, enjoy every mile, the Kona Experience not be the same without you!

  • Liz : Feb 23rd

    Way to go Cara. I hope you have the adventure of your dteams!

  • Jodi Day : Feb 23rd

    You are inspiring Cara! Looking forward to reading more about your wonderful adventure. The Days

  • Janet : Feb 25th

    Wonderful dear Cara. Go well go safe. Praying for you as you embark on this super exciting adventure. You are an inspiration to all. Looking forward to following your trail. Much love and blessings always. ??

  • Leanne Martinez : Feb 26th

    At 52 with muscular skeletal problems I’m planning a thruhike in 2017 for a lot of the same reasons. You’ll make it for sure! You know suffering already- you know you can push past it too

  • Hockeydon : Feb 26th

    Did you do the 100 Mile Wilderness in August 2014? I remember a group of young women near Nahmakanta Lake. There was the Moose carcass at the Wilson ford. Best of luck on your thru.

    • Cara Griffith : Feb 29th

      Thank you and no I believe I did it in 2013, but it may have still been a group from my summer camp. They run the same trip through the 100 mile wilderness twice every summer.

  • Mary Lou Mullens : Mar 31st

    I am looking forward to following your journey, Cara. You are very inspirational! Be safe!

  • Chantal DeFeo : May 23rd

    Best of luck Cara!! The girls and I send you all of our best.


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