Reflections from My First Week on the AT

I’ve been on the Appalachian Trail for a week now and I’ve learned a lot in this short time. Let me break it down for you.

The Trail Is Hard

I knew that this wasn’t going to be all rainbows and sunshine. My first day (on the Approach Trail) started out in the pouring rain and blistering cold. My gloves got soaked through and I was close to getting hypothermia. We did get the next couple days of sunshine before the rain started back up so that was nice. The terrain had been a mix of easy and hard. Some sections are obviously easier than others. Coming down Blood Mountain destroyed both my Achilles and strained my left knee. Other sections I’m just flying down the trail and enjoying the scenery. 

The Mental Aspect Is More Important Than You Think

It’s been said over and over again that being mentally prepared is a huge part of preparing for the AT, and that is no understatement. There have been times already that I’ve doubted myself and wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into. Before I even got to Black Gap Shelter on day one, I wanted to turn around and go home. But I remembered the mantra “Never Quit On A Bad Day.” There have been multiple times when walking in pain or walking in the rain or not getting any sleep that I’ve wanted to quit but knew I was just psyching myself out. 

Listen to Your Body

My dad started the trail with me and I never would have survived without him, and I’m thankful for that. Once he left to go home at Neel Gap, I doubted myself again because of my injury. But I knew not to quit until it just wasn’t getting better at all and just getting worse. The injury has gotten better with time and taking a zero day to rest and heal. My dad reminded me that I needed to listen to my body and take the time now to rest and recover so that I will be stronger later. 

Leaving Family Is Hard

When I left to fly to Atlanta, I said “See ya later” to my mom and pups. I knew it would be hard but I didn’t realize how hard it would be. It didn’t hit me until my dad had to go back home and it was no longer “us on vacation to hike.” This was now my life. I’m going to be here hiking for six months and my family and life are back home. I talk with them as much as I can and am already ready to see them soon.

The trail is tough and it will break you. Don’t let it. You are stronger than you think. Just take it one day at a time. 

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Comments 3

  • Mike Powers : Mar 16th

    Hang in there Kayla. Depression settled in on my wife in 1985. Her parents died in a car accident when she was 10 and I guess it came out then in 85. She was non existent for years but is better now with meds. She keeps at it the best she can. I met her in an orphanage where I was. The outdoors helps i know. Wish you the best on your hike.

    • Justin Riddle : Mar 16th

      I am excited to here of your story. I love to hike the A.T. trail as well. I am hoping to engage in a thru hike soon. I have been hiking the trail in PA in preparation. The trail is brutally Rocky north of Harrisburg but still a truly spectacular journey. I think they say the trail here is ” where boots pass on to a new purpose” . Be safe travel smart

    • Kevin Conley : Mar 16th

      Wow, very impressed with your wisdom at such a young age! Something tells me you picked that up long before stepping foot on the AT, but it also sounds like the trail is teaching you a lot. Here’s to you staying on the trail one shelter to another. Good luck.


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