Research Completed, and I Still Have Questions
Hey there, Julia here. I decided in the fall of 2018 that I absolutely needed to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, and I needed to do it in 2019.
(Quick summary of why I’m hiking… I’m turning 30 in 2019, 2018 was a huge year of growth, and I love being outside.)
“Wow Julia, that doesn’t seem like enough time to really plan a successful thru-hike. Many people spend the better part of a year planning,” is what you’re thinking, and you’re correct. Many people do spend months and months planning their thru-hike. However, I am not most people. This may be a good thing or a terrible thing. We will soon find out.
Five months is not a lot of time to completely upend my life and go for a walk in the woods for six months. I did manage to list and sell my house in three days. I convinced my boss at work, where I work as a registered nurse, to give me a temporary six-month leave of absence. I started the conversation with many family members and friends about what I planned to do, and received nothing but overwhelming support.
The Real Planning Started
Now that all the big stuff was accomplished, I started researching for my trip. I started reading books, anything with Appalachian Trail in the title. This is where I learned about Zach Davis and The Trek. If you didn’t already know, Zach wrote a book called Appalachian Trials.
So, I talked with other thru-hikers, I read their books, I talked to anyone who had any advice to offer, and some was great, while some was not. I gathered my lists, and purchased my gear, which was very stressful. There are tons of brands out there to choose from.
I downloaded the Guthook app; I practiced setting up my camping gear, packed-unpacked-and-repacked my pack over and over. I felt prepared.
Questions I Still Have
It’s now that I am within my 80 window of actually heading south to Amicalola Falls State Park, things are starting to get real.
And I still have some questions. Bear with me now…
I’ve read the literature on getting to that first white blaze, but I don’t want to hit the trail and find myself still ill-prepared, or looking like an idiot in front of my new hiking friends/acquaintances.
If it starts raining, is there a fast or effective way to set up my tent, possibly with the rain fly pre-attached to prevent water from flooding through the mesh top?
Do I bury my toilet paper in the woods after, ya know, doing my daily fertilization? With Leave No Trace, how does that work? Do I really have to pack out my soiled TP?
Is there special toilet paper that I need?
What’s the best treatment for a blister? Popping or leaving alone? Can I prevent blisters?
Do I need a gun? Do I need bear mace? Do I need people mace? How much protection is enough? Does karate count? Wait, I don’t know karate.
How am I supposed to update this blog? Am I expected to take a computer with me? Are there still such things as cyber cafes? Wait, I have a cellphone, surely I can update from there… or can I?
Will I have cell service everywhere? Will I be able to inform my family of my daily safety?
Do I have too much stuff? Am I missing anything?
Will I make the 2,190 miles to Katahdin?
Can I really walk in the woods with everything I need on my back for six months?
Does Any of It Matter?
I’m sure this list could go on for days, but that is not the point. The point is that I may have many questions left unanswered, but the glorious thing is that they will be answered on the trail!
Life is a learning curve and I’m sure the trail is no different. I really want to focus on being completely present during my days on the AT. I hope that I can enjoy every day, or at least parts of every day, and when I reach Katahdin, I also hope that I am a new person, rattled to my core and rewired. I know I will be, but I cannot wait to see who that woman is on the other side.
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