Part 1: The Who, What, When, Where, and Whys!?

Part 1: The Who…

A few hours ago, I finished my last exam of the college semester—my time will now be dedicated to preparing for a thru-hike on the AT. As I walked out of the building after my exam, I breathed in the crisp winter air, thinking about my first steps on the AT. I’m planning on starting my hike on March 15th—it can’t get here soon enough! When planning a journey that spans along 2,000-plus miles of rigid landscapes, a trip that last 4-6 months, an experience that pushes one to their physical and mental limits, there’s a question to ask…actually many questions. I refer to these questions as, The Who, What, When, Where, and Whys. Personally, I’m in the state of asking all these questions myself—there’s no need to panic though! For those of us that are planning to take on the challenge of a thru-hike, we have plenty of time to plan and answer these questions. I have found that the hardest part in my initial preparations for the trail are asking the right questions. Anyone that has experienced immersion in outdoors, or has taken a long journey, understands the feeling of freedom; but also, the uncertainty of the unknown. In the first series of The Who, What, When, Where, and Whys, I am going to be focusing solely on the questions surrounding: Who?

There is no perfect question to ask yourself when preparing, for each person questions/answers will vary; but, being able to identifying your strengths/weaknesses, gear-list, knowledge, expectations, limitations, wants/needs, and desires will only help you as you hike along the Appalachian Trail—or any journey for that matter. I’ve road-tripped and hiked all around the United States, and some of my best experiences were unplanned, and unpredictable; although, there are moments that I wish I would have been more prepared—these preparations all start now. The questions that I will pose are only an initial list for inspiration, and I would appreciate interaction from other aspiring thru-hikers, past thru-hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts. These questions, The Who, What, When, Where, and Whys, range from mental, physical, financial, and educational preparations.

Where to Start?

There are a few questions to ask under the category of Who; such as, who are you hiking the trail with—by yourself or with another person (possibly a small group)? By identifying this question, you’ll be better prepared to take the initiative to plan, based on your own schedule, or collaborate with another to create a plan that will work for each group member. If you do plan on hiking in a group, I’d suggest reading journal/blog accounts on other’s experiences—there seems to be a difference of experiences based on a solo vs. group-hike.

Another question to ask is, Who will you be leaving behind? Being able to confidently identify leaving family, friends, partners, or work colleagues will help you feel prepared once you get out on the trail. Accounting for the 4-6 months you’ll spend away from home, as well as planning on how you will sustain relationships and opportunities back home is important. The last thing anyone wants is to get out on the trail, and in the first week or two, realize they’ve committed to a journey that will require their time for a long duration. We all want to be comforted that the people we care about will be alright while we set out to take on a new journey, such as a thru-hike.

The next aspect of Who could get a little philosophical, but I don’t mean it to be. In my opinion, as thru-hikers we should ask ourselves, Who am I? You don’t need to dive super deep into this one—that’s what a 2,000 mile hike is for; but, identifying your strengths and weaknesses are vital for success. Most of us have around 3-months before setting out for Springer Mountain, we have time to improve on our weakness; whether those be physical, mental, or financial. Once a person has identified their strengths they should remember them, recite them to stir-up confidence in the decision to go on a thru-hike. At the same time, improving on weaknesses, or overcoming obstacles that may be in the way to hike the AT will get the momentum rolling for success. In addition to identifying strengths and weakness, it’s important to contemplate your wants/desires for being out on the trail. Write these motivations and desires down! When you’re out on the trail and your clothes are soaked, you’re hungry and cold, be able to confidently say, “I’m here because I want to be! My desire(s) to hike the AT are ________, _________.” This may sound cliché but being able to identify a purpose for your own personal hike may be the key for success when reaching Mount Katahdin!

Well, there you have it! I hope these questions spark some inspiration in further planning for

an AT thru-hike, or any other journey for that matter. While reading this article more questions may have popped up that relate to the questions surrounding Who—if so, please share with comments below! Thanks for reading, and in Part 2 (What), I plan on diving further into questions that we can all ask before we take our 1st out of 5,000,000 steps from Georgia to Maine!

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Comments 5

  • turtlehiker : Dec 17th

    Who am I now and Who will I be when I come home.

    • Adam Smith : Dec 20th

      That’s a good one to ask; this has been something I’ve thought about as well.


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