Seeking an Unconventional Life

It’s 2016 and I’m hiking Mount Greylock with my mom and our best friend, Jack. Close to the summit, I see a person with a gigantic backpack who looks like they haven’t showered in quite a few days disappearing into the woods. I knew of the AT and the concept of hiking the whole thing, but I never saw someone doing it before. I think to myself, “that’s pretty cool, but I could probably never do something like that”. Fast forward to the present moment, and here I am, giving it a try.

My name is Katie Frawley (no trail name yet!) and I’m attempting my first ever thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail this year! My partner, Christian, and I will be setting out from Amicalola Falls in early March for our NOBO hike – less than a month, I can’t believe it! If you’d like to hear a little about me and my reasons for hiking, read on.

Me on the summit of Mount Greylock in 2016. I love a good view!

So who are you?

Good question, I’m not really sure I know the answer to that yet! I am 24 years old and originally from Buffalo, NY. I graduated from Allegheny College in 2020 (yup, right after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic) with degrees in Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. I ran track & field throughout middle school, high school, and college, I’ve played the piano, clarinet, French horn, and trumpet in multiple bands and ensembles, and I’ve worked as a barista, sparking my love for coffee. I love adventures and challenging myself to reflect, grow, and evolve as a person. I struggle with self-confidence, social anxiety, and depression, and I think it’s super important to be honest and authentic about these things as I continue to work through them!

I’ve always loved traveling and the outdoors, and I can’t specifically identify where my love for hiking came from. I’ve hiked a few parts of the AT already, including Mount Greylock (MA), Franconia Ridge (NH), and parts near Delaware Water Gap (PA). I’ve also hiked in the Adirondacks (NY), parts of Phoenix, Tucson, and Sedona (AZ), attempted to summit Mount Borah (ID), been to eight national parks, and backpacked in Guatemala. I think it’s safe to say I’m super pumped for the hiking part of this thru-hike!

Backpacking in Guatemala… before I got super sick and had to be carried up a whole mountain on a horse

A thru-hike? Why would you do that?

As I just mentioned, I graduated from college during the pandemic. In March of 2020, I was sent home for the final two months of my senior year. My friends, track career, and everything I had known for the past four years was suddenly taken away from me, and I grieved. I had plans to travel with some friends after graduating college, but obviously that was not possible anymore. Instead, I ended up in the workforce, because what else was I going to do?

I started my first “real job” from my kitchen table, working remotely for the entire year I was employed. I quickly learned that working 9-5 Monday through Friday glued to a computer screen isn’t for me. My mental health suffered. I didn’t feel like this life was for me, but I couldn’t conceptualize what an alternative would look like (especially in a pandemic). Many of us are spoon-fed this ideal path of going to college, getting a job, working 9-5 Monday through Friday with a couple weeks of vacation per year, then you retire, and only then do you really get to enjoy your life.

So, you guessed it, my intense discontent with this idea is what led me to deciding that I would embark on a thru-hike. I don’t want to live conventionally. I believe there are other possibilities. I want this thru-hike to disrupt the conventional path that I was on, challenge me to grow, and help me discover new ways to live my life.

Looking for unconventional ways to live my life like…

My reasons for hiking

Per the suggestion of Zach Davis and Appalachian Trials, I compiled a list of my reasons for hiking the AT that I will be bringing along with me on the trail. Here they are:

I am thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail because…
  1. I am seeking personal growth in this transitional & transformational time in my life
  2. I am unhappy working 9-5 and staring at a computer screen every day
  3. To go with the flow & learn how to loosen my grip on controlling my life
  4. I do not want to live a conventional lifestyle
  5. I want to gain confidence in myself & practice independence
  6. I want to practice & embody resiliency
  7. I hope to gain a better sense of how I want to live and the experiences I want to have next
  8. I want to practice being present, intentional, & grounded
  9. I want to do something RAD!

So there ya have it, folks, my “why.” As for the “how?” I guess that’ll come upon us soon enough!

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Comments 8

  • pearwood : Feb 12th

    Yay, Katie!
    My February 1 start NOBO did not go well. I’m holed up in Fayetteville, GA at my brother’s place, working on getting my act together for an early March restart. Maybe I’ll see you on the trail.
    Rochester Steve / pearwood

    • LotsaLuck : Feb 15th

      Hi Pearwood , wishing you the best of luck on your upcoming 2nd attempt of an AT thru-hike ! I am so envious of you . I attempted a thru-hike in 2018 , and would have turned 70 on the trail if I had continued on , but I had a similar experience to yours and had to leave the trail after only 4 days . I had severe heart palpitations , and was afraid to go to sleep the last night on the trail… I was afraid I would never wake up. Looking back now , I believe 2 things ended my hike … first I was really dehydrated . I drank all the water I had left and then finally went to sleep . The second thing was that I was carrying way too much stuff . Try to reduce your pack weight as much as you can … it will greatly improve your experience and your chances of doing a successful thru-hike . Early March sounds like a good start date … wish I was going with you …

    • Katie : Feb 20th

      Sorry to hear your first start didn’t go well, Pearwood, but glad you have the opportunity to give it another go! Best of luck, and hope to see you out there!

  • Ashley : Feb 16th

    I wanted to say hi because I’m originally from Buff too! Hope to see you out there!

    • Katie : Feb 20th

      Omg! Hello! Love meeting fellow Buffalonians. Hope to see you out there, Ashley!

  • Jay : Feb 21st

    Katie, as a father of three girls, 2 of which are MDs, and who finished his only 2 marathons after the age of 58….one of the best ways to gain self confidence and courage is to set a great goal and accomplish it. I’m not saying the thru hike is that “star” for you, but do SOMETHING you think is out of your league. One item to consider, your body can take a lot more than you think it can. I only learned that from my training. Good luck lady. I’m excited!!!

  • Cassie : Mar 2nd

    You are such an inspiration! I have no doubt you will live a happy, fulfilling life with this mindset. We can get so wrapped up in living conventionally (somewhat like a robot) we can forget that life is for LIVING. I look forward to hearing more!


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