The (Patiently?) Waiting Game

Currently I’ve hit a sort of pause in my Appalachian Trail preparations. I’ve purchased all of my “main” gear items, only a sleeping pad, winter layers, and new boots are left to gather. I’ve tested everything out on section and day hikes and am so far pleased with the results. I’m going to the gym to try and loose some of this stubborn layer of pudge. Hunting season has returned to Virginia so I am hitting the woods early in the mornings to get my mountain legs back. But I still have this nagging feeling, what’s become a constant anxiety….Am I doing enough?


I call this face…”Trail shock”


My first section hike I attempted was a complete failure. Well…not a complete failure… I learned some valuable lessons but I still didn’t reach my set goal. I had to get off early because I pushed too hard in bad weather and got sick, then I ran out of vacation time to attempt again. I tried to beat the trail but, as many of you know, that’s not possible. Since then I’ve been mainly day hiking with a full pack to get used to the weight.


The summit of Sharp Top

I’m planning on starting my hike at the beginning of March, so this leaves four and a half months left to prepare. For most people, this may seem like plenty of time but for future thru-hikers that time is going to fly by. To be honest, I’m kind of freaking out. Winter will hit soon and it’s crunch time on decent weather gear testing. (March will be cold enough to hike in, and I want to enjoy central heating or a woodstove while I  have access to them.) I’m worried I won’t get time off for another section attempt. Will I be able to purchase my remaining gear before the cold weather really hits? The last pair of boots I ordered were too small, what if that happens again? My current ones are falling apart after three hunting seasons and I was hoping to have new ones nice and broken in by now. What if all the physical training I’m doing won’t prepare my body? I’m trying to remember to follow my own advice to rest and make time for friends and family, but at this point even when I’m with them the constant “Am I doing enough?” persists. It will probably never be enough. Nothing can fully  prepare you for backpacking weeks on end other than actually doing it. And I can’t wait to get out there.

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Comments 4

  • Chris : Oct 10th

    I don;t know if you are doing enough or not, but I was reading a couple of your other blog posts earlier today, and I was thinking, “Wow, she is really a lot more prepared than I am. I need to get my stuff together!”

    Anyway, it’s way too early to panic. There will be plenty of time for that later!

    Hang in there!

  • Brave Turtle : Oct 11th

    Your anxiety is perfectly normal. I went through all of the “what ifs” before beginning. How can you not? Your life is about to significantly change. I hope this advice helps, though.

    Do not treat your hike like a 9-5 job and allow these feelings to manifest any further. When I say your life is about to change once you step foot on Springer, it’s going to change for the better. While thruhiking is very mechanical in that you do have to plan ahead with your water and at best, get an idea of where you’re going to at least set a daily goal that will lead you to your ultimate one, stay present and worry about things later. You will find yourself beating yourself up, otherwise. The last thing you want to do is look back and ask yourself why you were so stressed. You will find that planning is more stressful than doing, and this, I promise you.

    For your shoes, take precautionary measures and tape your feet up for a week. You will need to do this anyway when you replace shoes on the trail, unless you are tougher than I am and can suffer through the blisters without being phased. I avoided blisters this way; I only had them in Georgia because I didn’t do this, initially. So if you take care of your transportation before it’s a problem, you can knock this off as one less stress.

    As for not doing enough, perhaps you’re doing the complete opposite and you’re doing too much. The trail is going to get you into shape whether you want it to or not. There’s no way to prepare for thruhiking until you actually do it. You’re about to do high physical activity every day sustained for months, so it goes without saying that you can expect the pain. While it does become tolerable and you’ll feel like you’re made of steal after you get your trail legs, I hate to tell you that the pain never quite goes away, but you’ll be able to handle it like a champ. When you get to camp, stretch your muscles and massage your feet. You’ll be surprised when you wake up in the morning and the pain is gone after your body repairs overnight.

    Take a deep breath, don’t overplan, and enjoy the trail when you get there. Other than getting your gear and financial ducks in a row, there’s no other amount of preparation that matters past what you’ve already done. I spent a year and a half planning only to find out it meant diddly squat, and my stress was silly in retrospect. Your success is purely based on your attitude and spirit, and you’ll be successful if you roll with the punches and save the “what if” for later.

    • Ashley Hill : Oct 11th

      Thank you for taking the time to give me advice it is very much appreciated! Anything else you can add on future articles feel free to do so!

  • Rich : Oct 12th

    I’m in the exact same boat as you, I’m in this lull right now and work has taken over so am I not doing enough or should I be doing more? I’m actually not doing anything at all! I don’t know what to do but I know March is going to come quick. My email is [email protected] if you want to chat more


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