Pre-Hike Jitters and How I’m Reacting

One week out from my departure to Georgia, I’m in an unexpected state of calm. That was not the case earlier in March, and it took me awhile to shake some of the restless thoughts popping up about my upcoming adventure. I hadn’t expected to feel anxious or jittery, because attempting the Appalachian Trail has been a lifelong dream, but even though I expect it to be a positive and transformative experience, I still had my share of pesky feelings leading to the trip. Here was my mental journey leading to today and how I tried to prepare.

One Year Out (Roughly)

Family and friends were generally not surprised when I started announcing my grand adventure, since traveling alone, being outside, and setting interesting goals are in character for me. Most reactions ranged from “OK, great!” to “OK, maybe she’ll postpone a year, but it’ll probably happen.” I was excited and filled my time with reading about the AT, checking blogs, stopping by the NYC REI to snag gear at great sale prices, speaking with former hikers, and asking for every audiobook or podcast recommendation people had. I changed my computer background to some gorgeous mountains in Utah (probably a better view than I’ll ever see on the AT) and started getting in better overall shape. People asked all sorts of questions about the hike, and it was fun to speculate together about how I’d handle certain situations. The best part about preparing early was that I hadn’t quite thought through everything I would need, so I could make nice, reassuring to-do sheets and didn’t yet know that I was off the mark.

Excitement: 4 / 5

Nerves: 0 / 5

One Month Out

I found out my leave of absence would be approved in late February, so I was finally able to tell my colleagues at work about the upcoming time off. The relief at being able to share my news lasted for a few days, and then I realized that I was about to leave. The next month. For real. It was time to finish my taxes, get someone to sub-let my room, figure out insurance, catch up with as many people as I could, get a will signed just to be safe, have booster shots, make sure I don’t hate my food, make a packing list for people sending me boxes, write up my gear list, decide if I want to bring three or four hair ties… it felt like an endless list of big and little decisions to make all at once. I’m still not sure why the hike hit me right at the one-month mark, since I had known it was coming for a long time, but part of me then wanted to spend six months sitting on a beach (and I’m not even a beach person) doing absolutely nothing, instead of putting my body through what I expect to be an endurance gauntlet.

Excitement: 3 / 5

Nerves: 4 / 5

One Week Out

All of March has been a flurry of errands and to-dos, as well as tidying up projects at work and figuring out what’s getting covered by teammates. My gear is finalized, though I’m still playing with different ways to keep things organized, I have my first few days of food, and my train ticket to Georgia is all set. Now I’m nervous just because I am heading out to do something unknown, as no matter how much you prepare, real life never works out the same way. I have different ways I can approach these unexpected challenges and will rely a bit on my natural stubbornness to keep pushing on icky, rainy days. Back to being excited with a manageable level of stress!

Excitement: 5 / 5

Nerves: 2 / 5


Along the way, a few things helped me keep perspective. None are new or revolutionary, but they helped me focus and not get overwhelmed by the magnitude of my upcoming hike.

Keep both big and small goals. When I decided to read 365+ books in 2018, I broke that down into reading every morning and evening, even if it was only for a few minutes. That was an easy goal to hit and a simple routine to add into daily life, and it helped me chop away at the broader annual challenge I’d set. On the AT, I started thinking more about the first three to four days until I hit Mountain Crossings, an outfitter where I can make any gear / food changes I need, and less about the full six month journey ahead.

Look forward to little things. People carry all sorts of interesting and not strictly necessary items on long hikes, and for me, I’ll be bringing tea for the mornings and evenings. At home, I love curling up with a book and a hot mug, and on the trail when I’m looking ahead toward a long walk in the rain, or warming up in the evening, I want to make sure I have some of that comfort to look forward to and break up the days. Simple, not hard to prepare, and a good reminder of how I got through my book challenge one page (and sip) at a time, and how I’ll tackle the AT, step by step.

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Comments 1

  • NANOOK : Apr 4th

    Hi Katharine,
    It was really refreshing hearing about your first few days on the trail, you’re going to make it.
    I continue my SOBO hike I started last fall,next month in Rutland, VT.( be sure to check out the Yellow Deli, great people!) But first, I’m bicycling from St. Louis to VT. Not bad for a 61 y/o huh?
    Be safe and hope to cross paths (trail) with you sometime this summer.


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