“So, who are you going with?…”
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me the question “so who are you going with?” after telling them I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail next year, I’d be rich. Well, maybe not rich but I’d definitely have a good chunk of money that would help fund my trip.
I don’t know if I just look a lot younger than I am or if people genuinely believe that a girl in her early twenties needs another person with them to successfully complete the Appalachian Trail. Sure, a lot of women either hike it with their significant other, a friend, family member, or even a dog (and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that) but that’s not something that is required to complete the trail as a woman. Plenty of women have done it alone. I mean, look at Grandma Gatewood. She was the first woman to solo hike the AT, did it three times, and was in her 70’s by the third time! There’s the Bionic Woman who had a prosthetic leg and yet completed her thru, Chipmunk who holds the record for the youngest solo thru-hiker, Special K, who, if she completes the trail this year will break that record, and there’s Anish who broke the record for the fastest unsupported thru-hike of the AT. And those are only a few of the many badass solo female AT thru-hikers. (Honestly any woman that completes the AT is a badass in my book)
Most of the time when strangers ask who I’m hiking with I’ll reply with “no one” and the next question they usually ask me is if I’m scared. Honestly, I’m scared shitless. I’m scared of bears. I’m scared of snakes. And spiders. And moose. And getting lost while I’m trying to find a good spot to pee. But I’m not going to let my fear get the best of me. I know that when I’m finally out there it’ll be worth feeling a little scared at first. There’d be something wrong with me if I wasn’t even a little bit afraid.
Now, I will admit that I have asked my dad to hike with me through the 100 mile wilderness when I get there and he’s offered to drive along and meet me at some road crossings during the first couple weeks, but I won’t be hiking all day every day with him or spending every night in a hotel. I’ll be sleeping in the woods and carrying my pack the entire time. It’ll be comforting to know he’s just a short drive away at first and I can’t wait for the trail magic I’m sure he’ll be giving out to hikers, but he still has to finish his own hike that he started this year so he can’t stick around for too long.
So, after I tell whoever is asking me about the trail that yes, I am indeed a bit scared the next question I get is usually “Then why are you even doing it?” And that is a very good question with many answers.
- I’m doing it because I’ve wanted to since I was a little kid.
- Because once I decide to do something, I never back out no matter how long it takes to do it.
- Because I’ve loved hiking my entire life.
- Because I seek adventure.
- Because I’m at a point in my life where I don’t know what I want as far as a career or where I’m going to live and 6 months in the woods seems like a great place to think about those things.
- Because I suffer from generalized anxiety but for some reason as soon as I start walking through a forest my anxiety seems to disappear.
- Because I’m a photographer and while researching the Appalachian Trail I’ve found maybe three photography based books on it and I’m determined to make my own to share my experiences with the world.
- Because my father is my idol and his 1980 thru-hike is something he’s talked about my entire life.
- Because I’m sick of working in retail where people get so mad about materialistic things that will probably break within 5 years anyway.
- Because I want to meet interesting people.
- Because I want to make lifelong friends.
- Because of the people who think I can’t do it. (I’m incredibly stubborn).
- Because I feel like if you can walk the 2189.2 miles of the AT then you can do whatever you set your heart on in life. I mean, you basically climbed Mt. Everest 16 times…
- Because I know my family is supportive of me and will help encourage me on the hard days to keep going.
- Because all my life people have made me feel weak for being a girl, being short, being shy and quiet, etc, and I want to feel strong.
- Because life is short and should be lived, not imagined and planned.
- Because I didn’t want to come home after my week long section hike last spring.
- Because it feels like it will be one of the greatest experiences of my life.
I know that’s a lot of reasons and I’m sure there’s more that I can’t even think of right now, but when I try to think of a reason not to attempt a thru-hike of the AT, my mind comes up blank. There’s no reason not to.
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