Prepping for a Sober Thru-hike in 2021
I know that I am not unique in that I am a sober hiker. My sobriety does not make me unique, but my story does. I have heard that there is a lot of partying, drinking, and drugging on the trail. This could be a source of apprehension for newly sober friends. I have over 14 years of continuous sobriety (and will celebrate my 15th year on the trail in May), and there are other hikers who have more or less time than me. I hope to be a source of info, support, and humor to any and all of them. I also am excited to learn so much more than I can teach.
Hi, my name is Darlene McGarrity and I am an alcoholic. I am also a Pennsylvania native that will be attempting her first NoBo thru-hike in 2021. I bought my train ticket in November and even started a countdown on my computer. I purchased all my gear (mostly through REI), have a lighterpack link, and even started a Spotify playlist.
I have been hiking on and off for a number of years, but last year I was up at the Port Clinton railroad (for like, the fifth time in my life) and when I looked across those train tracks and saw that sign by the trail, a feeling came over me that I think only a fellow hiker could understand.
There it was:
The Appalachian Trail. Straight up the hill on the other side of the tracks. And don’t we all feel that way? Sort of different and out of place, from the other side of the tracks. It stood there in its earthen silence to anyone else, but I could hear it calling me.
Following the bliss
In 2006 I had lost everything. I was practically homeless living in someone’s basement with nothing to show for my life. Little by little and one day at a time, I rebuilt my life. I maintained continuous sobriety, got my motorcycle license, graduated from college, and remarried. But my deep connection to nature was always beating below the surface of my accomplished shell. It wasn’t until that day in Port Clinton that I made the connection and knew what the universe was trying to tell me. I needed to hike the AT.
The Universe had a plan
I am more spiritual than religious so when I quit my job in 2019 for what I thought was my dream job, I was convinced my new career path (a career in addiction recovery) was exactly what I needed because everything fell together so perfectly. But, in February of 2020, I got fired from my dream job. Then Covid happened. Then I graduated from Bucks with a Marketing Certificate. Then I helped my husband with his business. And then, I got my severance pay. And then I saved some and used the rest to buy gear and start hiking. And then, and then, and then…
March 13, 2021
I board the train to Georgia on the afternoon of March 12, 2021, and I have no idea what is going to happen when I get there the next day. I have all my gear, I have been hiking two to three times a week for six months, and I have passion. Other than that, I am clueless with a pink cloud of optimism just like that day I walked into my first AA meeting. I didn’t quit being sober, and I don’t plan on throwing my boots up on a tree. Godspeed and I’ll see you on the trail.
Thanks for letting me share.
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