On Collective Effervescence and Pooping in the Woods

I’ve been hesitant to tell people that I’ll be hiking the Appalachian Trail. 

I find myself saying I’m just thinking about it. Or I’ll follow up the news with a noncommittal “we’ll see.” I only just worked up the courage to tell my parents a few weeks ago.

Perhaps it’s the ol’ imposter syndrome, or I’m just hyperaware of the undeniable privilege of choosing to venture into the woods for the foreseeable future. Maybe I feel that, at 29, I should have it all together and this announcement signals that I’m feeling a bit lost. Well, I am.

But I’ll put on my bravest face for you right now: I’m going to hike the Appalachian Trail this year. My friends think I’m way cooler than I actually am. My mom is grossed out that I’ll have to poop in the woods. And I’m pretty sure my sister secretly sees this as a life crisis of sorts.

A Bit About Me

Have you ever heard of collective effervescence? One of my friends introduced the term to me recently. Apparently, the concept has been around for a while — it was initially coined by sociologist Émile Durkheim to describe the unifying power of religious ritual. Today it’s used more broadly to convey that feeling of shimmering togetherness you might experience when you’re cheering on marathoners at the finish line or clapping as the band marches by during a parade. It’s the shared electricity when you’re at a concert and everyone knows the words. The curious joy that tugs at the corners of your mouth when everyone’s donning their solar eclipse glasses and looking up in awe. 

That’s the feeling I live for.

Feeling collective effervescence as I watched runners crush the last hill of the NYC Marathon. This is a still from a short film I co-directed with Roddy Hyduk a few years ago called “Mile 25.”

I’m Mo. I’m a copywriter by day, but I also spend my time doing a lot of other things. I’m a curious human with too many hobbies just trying to make the most of my (hopefully) 4,000 weeks on Earth and experience them collectively, effervescently with strangers and loved ones along the way.

Why Do a Thru-Hike?

Short answer: Because I want to do something with purpose and experience the power of community. 

Longer answer: Hiking the Appalachian Trail has been in the back of my mind for a while now, but it didn’t really feel like anything more than a pipe dream until last year. In 2023:

I was engaged, then I wasn’t.

I had a fulfilling copywriting job, then I lost it.

I felt at home in Colorado, then I didn’t.

We make plans, and God/the Universe/whatever you may or may not believe in laughs. I feel like I’m floating somewhere between two life chapters — balancing precariously on the wobbly edge of a page turn, squinting to read what comes next.

When I was laid off in November 2023, I jokingly (and very eloquently) texted a friend, “Should I hike the Appalachian trail lmao.” Being that it was my first afternoon of unexpected unemployment without much else to do, I fell into a rabbit hole of thru-hiker vlogs, Facebook groups, and subreddits.

The text that started it all.

That initial seed of an idea has sprouted and bloomed since November 2 into something I can’t stop thinking about. If you’re reading this, maybe you know the feeling. That, or you’ve found yourself stuck on the other end of a rambling phone call with me at some point. Thank you (sorry).

Having some direction at this crossroads, both literally and figuratively, brings me a sense of comfort. As a reformed people pleaser, “going with the flow” has been an ever-present coping mechanism for me. Hiking the Appalachian Trail is an opportunity to intentionally disrupt the flow of my life and move in a direction of my choosing.

I also know that, at this point, I’d very much regret not trying.

Why Hike the Appalachian Trail Specifically?

A couple reasons:

The AT feels like a homecoming of sorts. For a good chunk of my 20s, I lived in New York City. I miss it sometimes. For any New Yorkers reading this, I lived in Morningside Heights for two years and hopped between Park Slope and Sunset Park for the other five. 

So why would the trail feel like a homecoming for this former city gal? On the weekends, I would trade the chaos of the city for hiking and camping retreats upstate. One time, my partner and I visited Bear Mountain on a very busy Saturday, and it was like an extension of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, replete with big family cookouts, music for dancing, and pedal boats galore. Though I tend to opt for quieter hiking areas now, if I didn’t go that day, I might not have learned that the Appalachian Trail ran so close to the city I called home.

Bear Mountain State Park views

Secondly, as a woman hiking solo, I’m hoping to make some friends along the way. Not going to lie, the word “tramily” makes me cringe a little, but I really want to share this life-altering experience with other people. With the AT being so community-oriented and my anticipated start date coming up in March, my tramily dreams may just come true.

How Am I Feeling?

Nervous. Excited. Two sides of the same coin, I guess. But I also feel ready.

Now I just have to get my poop kit in order and head to Georgia.

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Comments 15

  • Shannon Vandzura : Feb 29th

    Love you and your vulnerability and heart. Excited for this in between chapter for you ❤️

  • Maddie : Feb 29th

    Wahoo! I can’t wait to follow along your journey, from the grandest revelations/ moments of self discovery, to the nitty gritty details about your poop lol!

    • Mo Wynne : Mar 5th

      AT dumps dump forthcoming!

  • Mary Wynne : Mar 1st

    I have to admit, a few weeks ago I was beyond worried after you told me about this idea of yours! Now, after reading Hiking from Home, I understand so much more and have done a 360! I am excited for you to take on this feat and excited to be part of your fan club!! Can’t wait to read your blogs as you trek on! Love you! ❤️

    • Jayne : Mar 5th

      I’m nervous about having her on the trail but at the same time I’m excited that she is going for it!
      We love you, Mo, and are with you all the way!! ❤️

      • Mo Wynne : Mar 5th


    • Mo Wynne : Mar 5th

      Love you, mama!

  • JhonY : Mar 1st

    Glad I am not the only one that cringes at that “word”. Now I have to follow vicariously. Thank you.

    • Mo Wynne : Mar 5th

      Haha, this made me laugh. Thanks!!

  • JohnE : Mar 5th

    I’m just jealous. I love backpacking but it won’t be too many years before I’m too old for really long miles. I’m not too old yet but I’m barely providing for my family and can’t even get a weekend off let alone three weeks or three months. Enjoy it. Few get to. Don’t give up in the first three weeks though, so many do. I wish you success!

    • Mo Wynne : Mar 5th

      Thank you so much, John. I never thought I’d be able to try hiking the Appalachian Trail – I’ll do my best to enjoy the journey (and make it past the first three weeks!!).

      • Marji : Mar 8th

        I was surprised to hear about this new adventure of yours but applaud your courage and adventure. Can’t wait to follow along with you.

        I love you with all my heart and so very proud.
        Love, GRAMMA

  • Sydney : Mar 5th

    SO excited to follow your long walk through these posts! love you lots Mo…remember, it’s the journey😉

  • Dorine mort : Mar 9th

    I wish you luck and safety, bring bear mace a dog and a Taser, ya just never know who or what ya might run into, and after you’ve conquered the AT, come out west and test drive the Pacific crest trail!

  • dwest : Mar 10th

    A 3rd reason to hike the AT:

    You may not get another chance, so take the one you’re given. 29 isn’t “old” enough to even have a mid-life crisis.

    In 2001 I was ready to hike the AT, had all my meals and mail drops prepped (which took 8 months to prepare!) and then, with only 2 months to go before leaving for Amicalola Falls, I was laid off. My plans depended on those final weeks of work to have the money to tie up the loose ends for my trip.

    It never happened. Instead, with the hardship that immediately came, I was forced to eat the food I had spent the last several months squirreling away! Unemployment benefits barely paid for rent & nothing else.

    Now I’m 57. A new dad (my son was born when I was 53) and there’s no clear trail in my future that includes doing an AT thru-hike. My life is way too busy to just disappear for six months.

    So do it. Do it right effin now. Hike the Appalachian Trail while you’re only 29 and still have most of your youth.

    Or.. you shall regret it. (..sounds like the choice of experience..)

    Good luck!


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