One Last Shakedown in the Shenandoahs: Pre-hike Prep and Reflections
This weekend I spent two days on the Appalachian Trail to test out some new gear. I had been out that way just two weeks ago and it was brutally cold, but this weekend I began to see some hopeful signs of spring—wildlife, budding plants, and ample amounts of bear poop.
On Sunday I did an out-and-back from Hightop Mountain to Compton Gap—one of my favorite stretches—and I ran into a lovely section hiker named Disciple. We chatted for about 15 minutes about our comings and goings, our gear, and even our post-trail dreams and reasons for hiking. As a day hiker it’s pretty rare that I have these kinds of interactions on trail, but I was grateful for this exchange as it reminded me of the amazing people I’ll be surrounded by come April 13th. If anyone knows Disciple from CT, please tell him to get in touch. I’d love to offer some trail magic for him and his friends in the next few weeks.
Apart from getting some miles in on the weekends, I’m pretty much consumed with all things hiking at this point. Luckily, I’ve crossed most things off of my to-do list and I’m finding myself angsty to just get out there already. For my sanity I’ve decided to finalize my gear list until I can actually spend a week or two on trail; I figure there will be plenty of opportunities to reassess then. But at this point I want to spend all of my energy on friends and family. I’ll also be saying goodbye to my apartment and job (with no plans of where I’ll be landing post-trail), so I guess I’m feeling bittersweet. I’m slightly sad to be moving on, but excited to see what comes next for me in life.
Gear Considerations for the A.T. 2021
If you’re interested in gear, my list is here. I’m not one to nerd out on specs and ounces, but lightweight gear was an important factor provided the gear added considerable value for reasonable cost. I definitely blew my budget for gear, but I still managed to keep costs down where possible. I found Dixie’s Budget Backpacking Gear lists very helpful for planning, and I was able to cut costs and weight with some quality budget gear purchases that I learned about by watching Dixie, Dan Becker, and Darwin.
I’d also like to give a special shout out to the fine folks at REI in Arlington for being so patient with my constant gear returns 🙂
Life Stuff and Mental Preparation
I’m doing a lot of work to emotionally prepare myself, not just for the hike itself, but for post-trail life as well. I’ve read quite a bit about post-trail depression, so I’m taking steps to make sure I have things lined up post-hike, including a place to stay to gather myself, as well as some buffer savings while I job hunt. I’m also considering leaving the East Coast after the AT, so I’m thinking of all of my options, including what kind of life I want, where do I want to live geographically, where do I feel most at peace, etc..
I’m also planning a post-hike road trip to some National Parks out West. I’ve never been further West than Colorado, so I feel like I need to get this wanderlust out of my system before I can settle down again (but something’s telling me that’s not how it works). Since my early twenties I’ve had these conflicting desires to take off and travel versus living a very settled existence. I crave the freedom of being able to pick up and leave at any point, but I also need to know there’s always a place I can call home. I have felt that feeling of “home” so rarely in my adult life, but “home” and the emotional security that comes with it is something I’m starting to crave. Who knows, maybe I’ll live the van life for a few years and then settle down somewhere on a nice plot of land. I’ve been dreaming of starting a small-farming business as of late. This is definitely a topic I’ll be doing some deep podcast dives on once I start getting bored on the trail.
I’m thinking a lot of my dad, who passed away in a sailing accident. He made his dream of being a sailor happen in his late 40s. He’s the person who gave me the blueprint for how to make a dream happen. I think he’d be worried about me, but very proud.
Stoked, nostalgic, scared, thrilled, a little sad, prepared, confident, impatient
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