The Mountains Are Calling and I Must Go

It all started with a dream.

Back in September 2018 this quiet dream I’ve had for the last decade started nagging on my brain a bit. For years, I’ve had this crazy idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail. And I always wrote it off as that; a crazy, unattainable, dream.

But in September I had some free time between jobs and I decided to do a quick solo backpacking trip on the AT. And while it was a little unnerving being out in the woods all alone for the first time, it also brought me immense gratitude and peace.

Suddenly that faraway dream came screeching to a halt right in front of me, demanding that I give it my full attention. It consumed my thoughts and dreams for weeks, until finally I realized that this is it. If I’m going to do this, it’s now or never.

The Why

The biggest question hikers need to ask themselves before committing to a thru-hike is “why?”

Why are you out here doing this thing that most people would never dream of? Why are you going to keep going when it’s the fifth day of freezing rain in a row and you can’t even remember what it feels like to put dry socks on in the morning? And so, I’ll start with the why.

1. For My Dad

My mom and dad met out in Fort Collins, CO, while attending Colorado State University. I grew up with stories and photos of their adventures out west and fell in love with it. I always had these dreams of climbing mountains with my parents. They even got engaged in Yosemite (a photo that my husband and I reenacted in 2017).

My husband Mike and me reenacting a photo my parents took in the ’70s.

Unfortunately, my dad passed away when I was ten, after a lengthy battle with cancer. Two years later, my mom got breast cancer, and while she kicked its ass, it did a number on her physically and big hikes are out of the question. So in a sense, I’m doing this hike a little for them. I’m living out a dream they had and passed on to me, a dream they will never have the opportunity to complete.


My dad at Yosemite long before I came along.

2. For Myself

Above all, I’m doing this hike for me, as proof to myself that I can do really hard shit if I put my mind to it. If I can accomplish this, what can’t I accomplish?

Life is moving faster and faster around me, and there are so many societal expectations piling up. With that in mind, I want to take a step back and do something just for me. Something I can look back on and say, “I did this, I hiked over 2,000 miles with only myself to rely on, and I made it.”

A daylong trek caring for a rescued elephant in Thailand. Always trying to spend time in nature wherever I can.

3. Because It’s Uncomfortable

Nature makes me happy. Being out in the woods makes my heart swell with joy. Nothing humbles me more than living outside with all of our usual comforts removed.

Some people spend a lifetime trying to be comfortable in their lives. I have spent years trying to be that, only to realize it’s ultimately boring and unfulfilling. I’m tired of being comfortable in my life. I’m tired of always trying to do things the easy way. I want to be challenged, I want to push boundaries, and I want to be made uncomfortable. Only there does great growth happen.

Livin’ that minimalist lifestyle beneath the trees. Oh, and btw, I’m hammocking the AT.

The Goal

On March 11, 2019, I will strap a 20-pound pack to my back and begin to walk. I’ll continue to walk 2,192 miles (according to the latest official figure), through 14 states, from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. I am terrified, elated, and humbled by this prospect. Going into this, I know it will likely be the hardest thing I’ll have accomplished in my life up to this point.

I will leave behind the loves of my life. My partner of nine years, Mike, will stay at home with our dear little pup, Oliver, and support me from afar. I recognize immediately how lucky I am in this.

So here I am. “The mountains are calling and I must go.” I have carried this quote by John Muir in my heart for over a decade. I must answer that call or spend a lifetime wondering, “What if?” I admire Muir most because he allowed himself to become a permanent student of the natural world. May we all be so lucky.

If you want to follow along on my journey walking across the eastern United States, feel free to subscribe to my page here on The Trek or follow me on Instagram.

Featured image courtesy of Laurine Bailly.

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Comments 13

  • Taylor : Jan 7th

    Good luck on your journey! I thought that was a Muir quote

    • Allie Leonard : Jan 10th

      Haha I’m the worst, thank you!

  • Robyn : Jan 7th

    I couldn’t be more proud of you! I am so excited to share this journey with you from afar. Love you Als

    • Allie Leonard : Jan 10th

      Thanks Robs =] I’ll miss you!

  • Sam : Jan 7th

    So excited for you Allie! You always inspire me 😙

    • Allie Leonard : Jan 10th

      Awe shucks girl, you inspire me! Excited to take a break from the trail for your wedding though!

  • Jim Adams : Jan 8th

    What great desire and drive you have! I have thru hiked the A.T. twice and never had your need to hike. Good luck and enjoy the walk, it will change your life!

    • Allie Leonard : Jan 10th

      I’m nervous and excited, thanks Jim!

  • Mike : Jan 12th


  • Greg wood : Jan 14th

    Way to go cuz😀

  • Karen Cascone : Jan 14th

    Allie this is amazing. I hate it that we’ve lost touch. So proud of you for going for your goals- I know you’ll crush it. Enjoy every moment (even the soaking wet ones) & be safe!

  • Malissa and Peggy : Jan 14th

    Good luck Allie! We can’t wait to hear all about your experiences. You will rock this, like everything you do! Love you!

  • Christine : Jan 14th

    So proud of you Al! Can’t wait to hear all your trail tails!


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