Thru-Hiking the AT: What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

Inside My Decision to Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail

Hey there! Sam here. I’ll be starting my NOBO thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in April 2021.

When I share my plans with family and friends, I’m met with one of the following reactions (sometimes if I’m really lucky, I’ll get both): 1) people are very impressed; 2) people have absolutely no clue what would possess me to voluntarily do this.

Of course, these reactions spark the inevitable thoughts of, Oh, my gosh, am I actually doing this? Or, What have I gotten myself into? These are the questions I’ve been asking myself for eight months now.

So, what the heck am I doing, planning on living in the woods for six months?

Before I go on, there are a couple of things you should know about me. I had never been backpacking prior to making the decision to thru-hike. The first time I entertained the idea of backpacking at all was when I read Wild for the first time (original, I know). So, my dreams of being a badass hiker chick have been simmering for about five years now.

No one who has ever met me would describe me as “outdoorsy.” The notion that I’ll be living outside for an extended period of time seems pretty bananas, even to me.

Why a Thru-Hike

After the initial shock of discovering that I’m dead serious about this whole adventure, people usually follow-up with, “Why not try a shorter trip first?”

For me, it’s mostly timing. Being able to drop everything and go sleep in a hammock in the woods for six months isn’t something that people can just do. You have to make it happen. I’m thru-hiking because I’ve been hooked on the idea for years, and I’m finally at a point in my life where it’s feasible.

Why the AT

I chose the AT for two main reasons: logistics and the social scene.

A thru-hike won’t be easy. The AT most definitely won’t be easy. It’s my hope that the notoriously welcoming Trail community will ease my nerves and homesickness, and the Trail’s proximity to civilization will mitigate my discomfort to the largest extent possible.

My Hopes, Dreams, and Fears

My most formative moments of growth have happened when I’m doing something outside of my comfort zone, and I sincerely think that this experience will teach me things about myself, and others, that I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to learn.

Of course, I’m freaked out about plenty of stuff, too. At the top of my list of concerns is Covid-19 and what the outlook will be come April.

I’m also very aware of the physical and mental challenges that the trail will present, but I’m not doing this in spite of those challenges; I’m doing this because of those challenges.

The unknowns are what give me pause. The unknowns of the trail, yes, but mostly the unknown facts of what my post-trail life will look like. We try to quell our fear of the unknown by making plans, but right now, the only plans I’m prepared to make involve reserving a room at Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge for April.

I hope you’ll join me as I embark on the journey of a lifetime!

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Comments 9

  • Megan : Nov 15th

    I’m so excited for you, Sam! I can’t wait to follow your journey!

  • Alyssa : Nov 15th

    Yay!! Can’t wait to follow along on your new adventure!!

  • Robb : Nov 16th

    Seems like a swell idea. Actually, recent changes in my life have opened a window for this opportunity for me as well, maybe. Perhaps I’ll see you on the trail. In nay event, best of luck!

  • Wes Laudeman : Nov 16th

    Great post! I love seeing total newbies going out on thru hikes! I’ve been backpacking for years and I can’t imagine the kind of balls it takes to embark on this endeavor with no experience! You’re way braver than me! I hope to see you out on trail!

  • Emma Slaughter : Nov 16th

    I am so excited for you! Hope to see you out there!

  • Shannon Ramsey : Nov 17th

    Best of luck man! You’re going at a great time, I’ve heard the weather is awesome in April and you miss the cold/snow. I’m leaving in late February since I have to be back in “the real world” by late August so fingers crossed I make it through the snow alright! Looking forward to following your journey, kudos to you for going for it, enjoy the ride!

  • Sam Cermak : Nov 18th

    Thanks for all of the support!! Can’t wait to share this experience with everyone 🙂

  • christopher armstrong : Nov 19th

    Best of luck. I would say “hope to see you out there”. But if I do, then something went wrong with my start date or I’m taking too many zeros. I’ll be starting mid March.

  • pearwood : Dec 1st

    Cool. #AppalachianTrail2021 #Birthday71 #PandemicPermitting.
    Finally gave in and added the final hashtag to the collection.
    Maybe I’ll see you on the trail.
    Steve / pearwood


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