The Siren Call of the AT Grew Louder until I Answered

It started as a whisper. I could hear the Appalachian Trail calling to me and my response was to say not now but maybe later, maybe eventually I’ll get to you. Over the course of 15 years, through law school, a move to a new city, several job changes, and a marriage, my response remained the same. After a heart-related health scare, the AT changed from a whisper to a scream. And I realized that later was no longer acceptable.

Testing the Waters

So I started to actually talk about it out loud. First to my husband, Ron, who didn’t laugh uncontrollably and shut it down right away. Next to friends to gauge any possible interest, of which there was some but no one serious enough to put their life on hold for six months. After a couple of years of this, and after once more checking in with Ron, I decided that I wanted to hit a milestone birthday (the big 40) while on the grandest adventure.

2018 Would Be My Year

That’s when the tough stuff started. There were hours and hours of gear research to be done, decisions on what, if any, of my current gear would make the cut, more hours spent reading blogs and watching videos to prepare mentally for what a thru-hike entails, and lots more hours spent walking, both on streets around my neighborhood and on trails in parks in the metro area. Plus, Ron and I had to work out how to deal with the financial ramifications of me walking away from my job and thereafter losing both my salary and excellent health insurance. (Ron has his own consulting company and so has no employer-provided health insurance.)

Making Final Preparations

After ringing in the new year, it all started to get real. I gave notice at my job and started making announcements to friends and family that I wouldn’t be around for a large part of 2018. People’s reactions ranged from disbelief to worry to happiness to jealousy, sometimes all within the same person. I’ve answered lots of questions about the trail itself, about gear, about security and whether I’m bringing a gun, and especially about why I want to walk away from my life for so long. Not many people get it. But some understand the desire to chase a dream. And there are a few who have done things that others don’t necessarily understand, like ultramarathons, Ironman competitions, or extensive long-term travel. Then there are one or two who have heard the AT’s siren call themselves but haven’t yet worked out how to make it happen. Almost everyone, however, expressed a desire to stay up to date on my journey, which is what has led me to this blog.

Writing a blog is totally different than anything I’ve ever done. And, if I’m being completely honest, the idea that not only my friends and family will read this but also total strangers is scarier to me than the idea of hiking 2,200 miles by myself. However, since this is the year of stretching my comfort zones, I’ve committed to doing it. I’ll try my best to update relatively frequently and to make sure my posts reflect my reality. So be prepared for brutal honesty as you follow along on the biggest adventure of my life.

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Comments 23

  • Erin : Feb 22nd

    YES!!!

    Reply
  • Patty : Feb 22nd

    Good luck Beth. Proud of you for answering the call and following your dreams. I will be praying for you and anxiously waiting to hear about your journeys.

    Reply
  • Keith : Feb 22nd

    Good luck, “Beth”! 🙂 Look forward to vicariously hiking along along with you. On on!

    Reply
  • Mike : Feb 22nd

    Great start, Beth!

    Reply
  • Adam : Feb 22nd

    So excited for you, Beth, and I can’t wait to follow you along your journey – it’s sure to be an experience that will shape your life forever!

    Reply
  • kathy aka mom : Feb 22nd

    Okay, so Beth, I’m nervous, excited, worried, proud, and not surprised that you are about to undertake a journey of a lifetime. One foot in front of the other.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth Schneider : Feb 23rd

      Funny, I’m also nervous, excited, and worried about this also. We have so much in common! Thanks for your support. I wouldn’t be doing this without it.

      Reply
  • Tara : Feb 22nd

    I’m so excited for you and all of the above as you have stated. I will be thinking about you, Ron, your family and everyone involved in your experience! Can’t wait to read more….

    Reply
  • Laura Givens : Feb 22nd

    This is really neat. I look forward to stalking you (but for that, you will not need a gun). Yay! I hope that by commenting here, I will be updated when you post.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth Schneider : Feb 23rd

      Thanks for reading Laura! I think if you want updates when I post, you have to go to my author page and put your email into the box under where it says Subscribe to Elizabeth Schneider’s posts.

      Reply
  • Dawn : Feb 22nd

    Beth, I’m anxiously awaiting your exciting journey to begin!! Are you going to the ATKO the couple of days before you start? I read all about it on here & it sounds like it’s not to be missed! Each time that I bake something new in class, and put some of my love into it, I think of you! I will continue to do so as I follow along with you here. I love you friend & I am very much in awe of your bravery!!

    Reply
  • Angie Campbell : Feb 22nd

    This is amazing Beth!! Love the blog… can’t wait to hear every detail!!

    Reply
  • Laura L : Feb 23rd

    Love ya!

    Reply
  • stealthblew : Feb 23rd

    Please allow your body to catch up with your inner spirit. You will need to start moving as much as possible during the day to emulate your upcoming lifestyle. Once on the trail your opportunities to recover after a hard work out will be diminished. Of course, slow and steady should be the ticket for most if not all hikers. This is especially true for those who are older or have been living a sedentary lifestyle.

    Good luck and have fun!

    Reply
    • Elizabeth Schneider : Feb 23rd

      Thanks for the advice! I started walking/hiking a couple times a week several months ago and have been steadily increasing my mileage. I’m planning on keeping my mileage pretty low to start off with in an effort to allow my body to adapt. This is no sprint. It’s a marathon!

      Reply
  • stealthblew : Feb 23rd

    Please allow your body time to catch up with your inner spirit. You will need to start moving as much as possible during the day to emulate your upcoming lifestyle. Once on the trail your opportunities to recover after a hard work out will be diminished. Of course, slow and steady should be the ticket for most if not all hikers. This is especially true for those who are older or have been living a sedentary lifestyle.

    Good luck and have fun!

    Reply
    • Ernie Lukacs : Feb 25th

      Sounds like good solid advice!! I’m turning 60 in two weeks. And waiting for my time to go.

      Reply
  • Ernie Lukacs : Feb 25th

    Hope all goes well. Good luck. Keep on trucking dudet!!😎👍🏼

    Reply
  • Reg Billington : Feb 25th

    Best of luck. Be sure to take care of your feet. Keep them dry. Myself i always bring bear spray on camping/biking/hiking trips. I know its unlikely a bear or coyote would bother or i would ever need it for wildlife. But for me its a security thing. Makes times alone at night more relaxing 🙂

    Reply
  • Sharon : Feb 27th

    Have a wonderful adventure, but be careful out there!!

    Reply
  • Leighann : Mar 4th

    This is also a dream of mine. I might have to wait a bit longer than 40. I’m 35 now and have 7 children the youngest is 1. When I go, I imagine it will be alone considering my husband has no interest and my girlfriends still smile when they say yeah we’ll do it. I will be praying for you and looking forward to your posts. Please post pics and give all of us dreamers a little something to hang our hopes on.

    Reply
  • Ron : Mar 11th

    I love reading these posts from folks who have decided to live their dream. I admire your sense of adventure and applaud your courage to tackle the AT. I will follow your journey and help cheer you on.

    Reply
  • Carolyn Enyeart : Mar 11th

    God’s blessings to you in your adventures. My dream to hike the AT started about 15 years ago. I am so looking forward to be moving (a lot) outside 🙂 I love hiking. I know there’s a lot to consider and learn even before I start, but can one be totally prepared? Maybe it’s one of those things you just have to experience to really know it. I’m excited for you. If (or when) you get discouraged, tell yourself this is normal and you’re strong enough and smart enough to get through this. Besides, God is with you every step of the way. I’m 68 and I don’t want to leave my 93 year old mother but she’s doing well. I’ll figure it out soon. You’re doing great.

    Reply

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