Top 10 Things I Didn’t Expect About Thru-Hiking

My First Six Weeks – What’s Surprised Me Most

I expected the AT to be beautiful—and it is.

I expected to have time to process and heal and grow—and I have.

Cascade Falls around mile 400 (TN).

I expected to be so glad I came—and I am.

Happiness = a pulled pork barbecue sandwich.

But what I didn’t expect on the trail:

1. How Safe I Feel

Wouldn’t you feel safe with this crew? Slim, Gouda Buddha, and the Minnesota Hikings.

When I contemplated doing the AT this was one of my top concerns. Would I feel safe as a woman hiking solo?

I knew from the books, podcasts, and my friend’s 2018 thru-hike, that I’d often be around groups of people. But there’s a powerful narrative of “bad things happening to women alone in the woods.”

What kind of self-defense classes, pepper sprays, and mental strategies would I need to ward off harm? What sort of dangers lay in wait?

But let me say this: I feel safer here than I did in my lovely Yonkers, NY, apartment. I feel safer here than I did on my college campus. I feel safer here than almost any place I’ve lived or worked.

Elena, far left, another blogger!

Why? Hikers look out for each other. People who help hikers look out for us too—hostel owners, shop keepers, and shuttle drivers.

When I was sick, my friend Grubber walked back a mile and carried my pack to the shelter. When I ran out of food, friends gave me oatmeal, Snickers, and ramen. When I got to the 400 mile mark and felt bummed to be a day behind my crew, other friends came along and took me under their wing—bringing me along to a piano bar in the woods (this has to be seen to be believed).

When twice I arrived at a hostel after dark, both after 20-mile days, my fellow Kansas City friend Audible was there to yell “Sprout!” and offer a cold beer.

This kind of community creates not only a sense of camaraderie, but safety. Hikers a week ahead of me and a week behind me nearly all know my name, and I theirs.

When there’s bear activity nearby or a person on the trail with strange behavior, you hear about it early and often. Fellow hikers make sure you’re present and accounted for.

The point is—assuming you don’t take unnecessary risks or fall victim to really bad luck, you’ll be safe on the AT.

2. How Much I’ve Adapted

Before I left for the trail, my life was nothing if not comfortable. Warm, well-fed, air-conditioned, and dry. Organic mattress, filtered water, and daily green smoothies in the blender.

Amy and me, with our strong smoothie game.

I wondered then how I would do living among tents, storms, blisters, and bug bites. An ex-boyfriend once told me that among other inadequacies, I wasn’t rugged enough.

What if he was right? What if my grown-up life had become too safe and sanitized? What if I’d shrunk into a sheltered suburbanite whose adventure years were behind her?

My frontier roots begged to differ. Our ancestors who’d forged a path west into Illinois, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming whispered, “Go forth. You can do hard things. It’s in your blood.”

My bedroom went from this-

– to this.

Did it take me a few weeks to get the hang of setting up my tent and stove? Sure. Did hiking in the rain initially feel daunting? Yep. Did my first 20+ mile day feel like fresh hell to my feet? Oh yeah.

But exhilaration rises up in each of these moments too. For instance—after camping every day with groups, you call it a night and set up your tent solo in the woods. Stealth camping, it’s called.

The first time I did this, hanging my bear bag with no help or cables, I finally felt like a thru-hiker. After a few dreams about bear attacks, I woke up not to the sounds of tent zippers, but the songs of morning birds.

And I thought, “Here I am, living with the nature.”

A week later, on top of a mountain, long out of water and driving against the wind, I thought, “Here I am, pressing into the storm.”

And sometimes when I’m sloshing through mud and jumping over a fallen tree, I laugh, “Look at me, being all rugged.”

3. How Fun the So-Called Bubble Is

Another concern I had beforehand, reading through the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website, was the infamous bubble.

That is, the group of thru-hikers who all start in March and early April, and supposedly form a rip-roaring “party scene.”

I pictured a traveling frat party, full of litter, loitering, and lolly-gagging. (Needed another “l” word). I imagined raucous drinking games and crude conversation about women. The ever-present “bro culture” I’d heard of.

(I should also add that I have attended exactly zero fraternity parties so maybe they are nothing like this).

OK, here is what surprised me: whatever the bubble is or isn’t, I’m here for it.

What I have found are super great people who loosely caravan together between shelters and tent sites and trail towns.

What I have found are huge amounts of respect and help and encouragement and sharing.

What I have found is that AT partying consists mainly of laughs, food, music, drinks, and tall trail-tales. And for this 40-something gal, that’s pretty perfect.

I promise you it’s less stressful than a New York cocktail party. Less small talk, more burgers, and everyone sporting the same dress code: “hiker-trash chic.”

Even if you don’t partake of all of the frivolity, it’s hardly a bacchanalia in the woods. Most every hiker I’ve met is into moderation or not drinking at all. Trekking 15 miles hung over makes for a long hike.

Not even my drink, but sangria with an upside-down wine bottle is too fun not to photograph.

I have absolutely no regrets about starting my hike during the northbound peak season. It means more support, more friends, more fun.

Best trail party so far: the low-country boil at Uncle Johnny’s.

4. How Much My Body Is Capable Of

Amid all the doubters and naysayers, I loved this comment from one of my church members, a West Point grad. “Remember, your body is capable of so much more than you think it is.”

But even I doubted whether a middle-aged minister (me) was physically ready for this. I have never been an athlete, I didn’t exactly train for the AT, and I am a 5’1″ small female. I knew that my age, size, and gender would make me a minority out here. Could I hang?

I needn’t have worried. The trail has some steep hills and occasionally rocky terrain. And yes, I am only 430 miles in. But come on—this isn’t a trail for elite climbers and marathon runners—it’s one very long walk.

Once you whittle down your pack weight and develop those coveted trail legs, you’re good to go.

Don’t zoom in. The arm-pit sweat-struggle is real.

The best advice I got on this was from Drew at Outdoor 76 Outfitters in Franklin, NC:

“Remember, you are still in spring training. Everything up till Virginia (basically the first 500 miles) is pre-season. You are shaping your body and brain into that of a professional hiker. You are developing into an athlete. Be patient with yourself, increase mileage gradually, stretch and sleep a lot, and feed yourself well. The games don’t count until Damascus.”

(Drew also taught me that in a pinch of hunger I could cut a bacon-sized strip of bark from a white pine. You peel it back to the third layer and cook it up to chew on. Lots of nutrients, evidently. I am happy to report I have not yet had to resort to this.)

Here are some fun facts: most men out here seem to lose crazy amounts of weight, even in the first month. Most women do not. I do not know the biology of why this is. I, for one, have gained a few pounds—maybe muscle, maybe Southern barbecue.

Strike-out confirms that he’s already lost 15 pounds.

Either way, I am probably stockier than when I started. Not the elegant ballerina figure I aimed for in barre class back home.

My barre teacher Sian and me, being all svelte.

But here’s the awesome truth—my body does so much for me every day and I am so incredibly proud of it. I don’t care what it needs to become in order to serve me for the rest of this hike and beyond.

I’m astonished at the strength of my core, the sturdiness of my feet, the power of my legs, and the capacity of my heart.

So if this is my trail body, I’ll take it.

Mountain-top salute to all Southern food because I don’t even know what I was eating before this

5. How Much I Learn from Others

I’m not sure I’d even still be here if Flow, Monk, and Small Slice hadn’t taught me how to get my pack weight down. And if I hadn’t had the personalized shakedown from Special Brew, Compton, and Dirty Girl.

I wouldn’t wake up dry during a storm if Jim hadn’t taught me how to properly stake my rain fly. And I wouldn’t have the right pack without Justin at Mountain Bluff Outfitters in Hot Springs.

I wouldn’t be armed with key nutrition concepts for the trail if it weren’t for my wellness coach Katie and my researcher friend Amy. (Fats, proteins, greens, repeat!)

People have so much to teach you. Yes, the books and blogs and podcasts beforehand are helpful—but most of what you need, you learn along the way.

Pay attention to the people who seem to be rocking their hike—those who seem healthy and happy and grateful to be here—and find out what they’re doing.

6. How Generous and Kind People Are

I can’t say it enough—this hike increases your faith in humanity.

Not only in the hikers around you, but in all the trail angels and helpers and friendly faces along the way.

Trail magic from a church group in GA—grilled cheese sandwiches and more.

I have been astonished at how many churches and Bible study groups spend entire days just cooking up pancakes for hikers and passing out knit caps.

Free hiker breakfast at First Baptist in Franklin.

There is a former hiker named Odie—founder of the Hiker Yearbook—who stops at all the trail towns along the way and gives us rides in his converted school bus.

Odie and BC.

There is such a desire here to support and encourage people who are making this hike. And I feel privileged to be a part of it.

7. How Quickly You Can Go Deep

Yesterday I started the morning waking up at 5, ready to hike by 7. The morning was mostly me and Barbara Kingsolver, her voice on Audible reading from her Appalachian book, Prodigal Summer.

I knew my battery wouldn’t last all day, and by noon I was hoping to find company. As I set down my pack to take a picture of a beautiful view, along came my friend Kitty, whom I hadn’t seen in nearly two weeks. He had gotten off trail to replace some gear and visit his girlfriend.

But we hiked an additional 15 miles together, crossing over rivers, brand-new azalea blooms, and blazing mountain ridges.

Along the way we talked of his childhood in Maine, our families and friends, and the things we’ve learned the hard way.

Eight hours later, we high-fived each other for pushing through a long, hard hot damp day, together.

At nightfall he set up his tent down the hill and I checked into a hostel where a friend was saving me a bunk.

Who knows if and when I will see Kitty again? But the day was exponentially better because of him.

If you have a low tolerance for shallowness and pretense, this trail is for you. The alternating rhythm of silence, solitude, connection, and conversation has become one of the gifts I treasure most about the AT.

And when talking ends, we sing.

(With thanks to John Denver and Brandi Carlile.)

8. How Fun It Is to Hike with a Dog

I should preface this by saying that I am not exactly an animal person. (My family would roll their eyes and say, “That’s an understatement.”)

But dogs can be so fun on the trail! Not all dogs. Not aggressive dogs, barking dogs, or temperamental dogs. But there are some true canine gems out here.

I have hiked a lot with my friend Dean and his dog Blue. And I’m not sure I’ve ever met a dog I like more. Blue is a great pacesetter, a sweet buddy when you need a hug, and a ready friend who can’t wait to be petted and loved.

What’s more, she often displays what we all internally feel. After miles and miles in the hot sun up a hill, Blue finds the nearest shady spot and conserves all energy. She closes her eyes and takes a nap, and 30 seconds later when we tell her it’s time to keep going, she opens one eye and looks at us like, “You have got to be kidding me.”

Blue is a rescue dog, and her every move seems to be one of joy and gratitude that she is alive, that she is out here, and that she gets to be with us. She is friendly to all, but not annoying. It’s hard to describe how playful she makes a hike and how she draws people to her. (She also sometimes leads us off trail.)

9. How Much We All Revise As We Go

I have a confession to make: six weeks in, I am already on my second pair of shoes, and my third backpack.

How did this happen? I started with a pack that was designed for ultralighters, and it was too unstructured for me. Once I put more food in it (along with winter gear), it pulled on my shoulder.

I sent it home.

Then I got an Osprey 58 (I think?), which was initially better because it had over-the-shoulder load-lifters.

I feel happy and excited!

Until I don’t. Because after my multiple shakedowns and sending several sets of things home (totaling almost ten pounds), I need a lighter smaller pack, one that doesn’t require me to cut up foam padding from my sleeping pad in order to cushion the straps.

I send it home.

See DIY shoulder-strap attachments.

Finally—and I sincerely hope the third time’s a charm—I arrive at the Osprey Lumina 45.

Lumina means “light.” Lumina means lovely. Lumina carries just what I need and nothing more. And now my snail-shell of a home fits me.

Just. Right.

Here is the takeaway that surprised me: figuring out your pack and gear is truly something you have to do for yourself.

You know those “must-have” gear lists for thru-hikers? Most are written by men and for men. Usually men who are at least 140 pounds.

If you are a small female, and you want to enjoy your hike, your list of essentials simply has to be shorter.

Here are some of the “necessities” that I sent back, which changed nearly everything about my hike:

Camp shoes, sleeping pad (still have a half-length Z-lite mat), most first aid, extra socks, extra camp clothes, and now I carry less water (I drink at the streams) and food (I make up for it in town). And I have barely noticed they’re gone.

Some things I kept that true ultralighters would not have: headlamp, medium-sized battery charger, Jetboil stove, pack cover, Nalgene bottle, spot GPS, facial cloths, nail clippers, tea tree and thieves oil, a good razor, and black mascara. (Yep.)

After six weeks of finagling, my pack now weighs—with food for several days—a whopping 21 pounds.

My goal is to get it below 20, which will be easier with summer coming. Lightness means freedom. Lightness means happy joints. Lightness means a lighter spirit.

“Angels can fly, because they travel lightly.”

10. How Hard It – Isn’t

Here is what I want to tell you, especially if you have been thinking and dreaming about hiking the AT and aren’t sure you can do it.

Maybe you’ve heard horror stories about ice storms and lightning and shelter mice and crazy people. But what I want to tell you is this:

If you are a basically healthy person, you can totally do this. And if you don’t feel basically healthy right now, maybe you can work on that in the months ahead to prepare yourself.

Astonishing beauty awaits.

You do not need to be an athlete. You do not need to be a thoroughbred. You do not need to be an Eagle Scout, a spiritual giant, or an outdoor gear specialist (though that would’ve saved me serious cash!).

You just need to love the outdoors, crave adventure, and be open to new people and places. It helps to have a few core purposes for your hike as well.

Whatever you do, don’t get hung up on your age. I have hiked out here with people ages 17-73, which puts me squarely in the middle.

Maybe your life circumstances don’t allow you to take off six months (yet), but you’re dying to do a one- or two-week section. So plan it and go!

And get ready to be surprised:

You, my friend, are way more rugged than you think.


Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 66

  • Daddy Longlegs : May 4th

    Fantastic post. (Might actually need to hear you give a sermon…perhaps just did!)
    Paradoxically, it seems most head out on the AT for a “return to nature” but for the folks I hiked with, the true wealth of the AT experience was/is the human connection.

    Keep up an attitude of gratitude, stay present in the moment, and HYOH. The first third of the trail is physical, the next third is mental (and is when most people check out), and the last third is spiritual. You got this!
    Happy Trails,

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Belated thanks for this, Daddy Longlegs! Alas, I never got to that final third of the hike (due to injury), but can’t wait to resume next year! So glad to hear you have enjoyed the AT too, and I am honored that you followed my journey. Sincerely, Cari

  • tripledip : May 4th

    I love when someone “gets it”. Your insights after only 6 weeks are profound.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Thanks for this, Tripledip! Great name. Hoping it refers to mint chocolate chip ice cream.

  • David Odell : May 4th

    Great Post. Good luck and enjoy the rest of your hike on the AT. David Odell AT71 PCT72 CDT77

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Thanks, David! I am honored to hear from a true Triple-Crowner! Which one was your favorite??

  • Ruth Anne : May 4th

    Cari–You inspire me! I am loving following along while you hike. This is my dream, too; hoping to be out there (with my now puppy) in another 2 years. Thanks for putting it all out there in your posts. Thank you thank you!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Belated thanks for this, Ruth Anne! Here’s to your 2021 hike, with pup in tow! – Sprout

  • Dave Sailer : May 4th

    I don’t really know what to say except “thank you”.

    You write well, simply, and honestly, with grace aforethought. Now I can die happy.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Wow, David- belated thanks for this! I really appreciate you following my journey. – Cari

  • Doc : May 4th

    Way cool Cari. Congrats on making your hike a reality. I hope to someday as well.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Belated thanks for this, Doc. You WILL make your hike a reality! Hope to cross paths with you on trail one day. Sincerely, Cari


    You are definitely my hero. Who knew!! Beautiful hike and beautiful writing. Everyone excites me for the next.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Aw, thanks for this, Dick! That means a lot to me. Peace to you, Cari

  • Wayne Westfall : May 5th

    Great post! Thanks! I’m recovering from illness and can’t wait to get back to hiking and camping I’m 72. God bless you!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Dear Wayne- belated thanks for this. Blessings of healing to you as you recover, and prepare for more hiking and camping. Here’s to you at 72! God bless you too! – Sincerely, Sprout

  • Professor Tea berry : May 5th

    I am so proud of a human I have never met. Words of inspiration that can only be heard from one that appreciates live.
    Thank you

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Wow, thank you for this, Professor Tea! I am honored you followed my journey. I do try to appreciate life. Some days are easier than others, no? Blessings to you! – “Sprout”

  • Marty : May 5th

    I’d love to hear what you have in your pack so that it only weighs 21 pounds, and what your meal plan is for the food in your pack

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Thanks for following, Marty. By the end I had it down to 18.1 pounds, with food! I will write another post on my final pack weight and choices of gear, as well as menu plan that I carried. Thank you for asking!! Peace to you, Cari

  • Dan : May 5th

    Great story, excellent view on life, enjoy the 1st leg of the Triple Crown!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Wow, thanks for this, Dan! That sure would be a life goal for me, especially finishing the AT and then the PCT someday! The CDT, well… I’m not sure about that one! Sounds like that’s a professional-grade kinda hike. All the best to you! Cari

  • Zach : May 5th

    Wonderfully written and beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing, Cari!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Belated thanks for this, Zach. Loved following your recent journey on the Long Trail!

  • Diane : May 5th

    Thank you for the inspiring post!! I so want to do this (in my mid-50s) and this blog really helps!! By the way, I’d be interested in the zpack if you still have it 🙂

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Dear Diane- so glad you are planning on an AT hike! 50’s is nothin’! You’ve got this. I sold my extra packs, but since you mentioned Zpacks- I did end up using one of their tents, the new Pleximid, and am happy to tell you the pro’s and con’s of it, in my opinion. All the best! Cari

  • Diana Edstrom : May 5th

    Hi Cari….Oh my gosh, look at you…you are amazing!!! Am in Bronxville with Dad and Marjorie at Rosie’s before heading off to ” The Gathering”. We all miss you and think of you often.

    Keep praying, hiking and having fun!!!



    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Belated thanks for this, Diana! I am so delighted to hear you read this while in Bronxville, enjoying time with Warren and Marjorie!! Blessings to you, Cari

  • Liberty’s Dad : May 5th

    What a great read. Thanks for taking the time to write. Write more, we’ll read!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Belated thanks for this! Are you Liberty Reign’s dad? You must be so proud of her! What a truly remarkable young woman, and I loved hearing her share about her family, home-schooling, and what amazing parents she has!! Blessings to you all, Cari

  • Christine : May 6th

    What a lovely post full of positive energy! Beautiful read!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Belated thanks, Christine!!

  • TBR : May 6th

    What a well-written post, and full of on-target insights.

    A wise walker!

    If you are looking for something to do when you return to the real word, consider word work. You are a natural.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Belated thanks for this, TBR! I appreciate the encouragement, and I do hope to do something with writing. I’m open to ideas and suggestions! Thank you for following my blog, Cari

  • Rancelot : May 7th

    Sprout!!! It was funny how you passed me twice after I got lost on the Balds. Arugula and I loved meeting you at the Stan Murray shelter. What a terrific read! We’ll enjoy keeping track of your awesome journey. Best wishes ?

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Hi Rancelot! Yes we passed each other several times on that awful dry windy day when I was sooo thirsty I could hardly talk, haha! Thank you so much for following my journey and blog. It was lovely to meet you and your wife! Blessings, Sprout

  • Kevin Newsome : May 7th

    Beautifully written, Cari. Thank you!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Many thanks, Kevin!

  • Jimmy Dean Blair : May 7th


    Your blog ‘appeared’ on my Facebook feed out of the blue. I started reading it without noticing you were the author. Then I saw the KC Royals hat and thought, ‘That sure looks like Sprout!’ Scrolled some more then back to that start and, ‘Hey! That’s Sprout!’ I’m so happy to hear you are doing so well on the trail. We were able to help Salamander at a couple of places on the trail. She arrived at Elk Park on the 6th.

    I told you the trail would change your life. It appears not to have waited til Maine and it shows.

    One last thing…This is a verse for the downhills…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

    Jimmy Dean

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Belated thanks for this, Jimmy Dean! I love that Philippians bible verse. And I am so happy I met you on the trail! Many thanks for your kindness, rides, and encouragement! Sincerely, Sprout

  • Mike Carbonneau (strummystick) : May 7th

    Love your reactions to AT partying and enjoying the bubble. I totally agree! The physical exertion seems to set pretty good limits, and with just a few exceptions, the focus is on first class communication, massive quantities of food, and a well earned happy buzz!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      You said it, Mike! Glad that was your experience, too 🙂 Belated thanks for this, and reading the blog! – Sprout

  • Arnold “Bloodhound” Guzman : May 7th

    It’s wonderful how insightful and instructive your story is. It should be a must-read for anyone—especially women—who is thinking about hiking the trail some day. Happy trails!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Many thanks for this, Bloodhound! I appreciate you passing it on to anyone you think it might help! All the best, Sprout

  • Grace : May 8th

    Love your posts!!! What are you sleeping in? Are you using a quilt with the ZLite or a sleeping bag?

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Belated thanks for this, Grace! I am sleeping in a Feathered Friends UL Flicker, 40 degrees. And in the colder climate I was in a Feathered Friends 10-degree bag that I forget the name of… Petrol, maybe? It is in my 3rd or 4th blog post, I believe, on my “top five favorite gear items” page. Only a z-lite for a pad. That seemed to do the trick, and I cut it down to short torso length. I always slept with my feet propped up on my pack.

  • Gail Pells : May 9th

    As I write, my fiance is doing another section hike without me, and I can’t wait for him to read your post. I’ve hiked Mt. Washington and some of the Whites. Nothing like the ridge to Lafayette. Hope you have a gorgeous day for it! I love your reflections and honest appraisal. Keep enjoying! Outstanding attitude! Hugs.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Thank you, Gail! Wow, you have hiked some hard terrain up there in NH! I never made it that far, due to injury. But I can’t wait to continue next year. Thank you so much for reading my blog and encouraging me in my journey. Sincerely, Sprout.

  • Tempe' : May 9th

    If you can sing like that hiking up hill- imagine the in-town open mike nights that await for the lucky townees!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Haha, thanks, Tempe’! I’m not sure the singing was too on-key, but I had some good harmonizers along with me that week!

  • Buzz aka Caboose (AT 2014) : May 10th

    Cari – enjoying your adventure and reliving mine. Great posts and great attitude. Keep it up and keep sharing. You didn’t mention it but it sounds like your mental strength is even greater than your physical strength. Enjoy your hiker family out there!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Thank you so much, Caboose! Congrats on your hike in ’14!

  • Bruce : May 10th

    Hi Cari! Love your attitude! Last September I hiked the final 270 miles with my son on the CDT. I used the Osprey Levity which is the men’s version of your Lumina. Within 5 or 6 days I noticed a wear hole developing in mesh where it contacted the small of my back. I was wondering how your Lumina is holding up? I ended up returning my pack when I got home.
    Happy trails!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Hi Bruce- thanks for the note on that. I used my lumina for a full 3 months (I had to get off trail due to injury in NJ), and loved it- I didn’t have the issue you mention, but I did have another little area inside the top pouch that formed a hole and had to be patched up. Osprey did it for me for free at Trail Days, though. Happy hiking and congrats on your CDT thru! That’s a major achievement!

  • Joe MacKrell : May 10th

    Your posts are an inspiration! I’m impressed by how many thoughtful writers are out walking around this spring. And that they have enough energy at the end of the day for such endeavors.

    Let me know if you really need to unload your packs, I have a Scout in the family who wants to hike the AT before college (and he’s almost your size!).


    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Thanks, Joe, and I hope the pack is working out for your son! Let me know when he decides to do the AT!! – Cari

  • Dr. David Galloway : May 11th

    Just a word of encouragement. Enjoyed you comments on settling in to the Trail. Hope you continue to find the rich community along the path. I told the group of Episcopal clergy that I gather about your journey. You have been put in their Morning Prayers. Enjoy the gift of this time. Bathe in gratitude. Mindfulness in your steps.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Thank you, Dr. David- I really felt your prayers!

  • Brahman Levy : Jul 12th

    Thanks Cari! For such an inspiring post.

    I am 72 and in the early planning stages of a go at the AT.

    I found your words and music! uplifting and inspiring! You make it sound so do-able!

    Best of luck for continued wonderful journeys!

    Keep on keepin’ on!


    • Cari Pattison : Sep 23rd

      Thank you, Brahman- let me know when you decide to go start the AT! There’s nothing you can’t do at 72! Just like my 42!

  • Jim Cruiser : Jan 6th

    Hey reading your post is enjoyable! I think you found your smile out there in the sunlight. My girlfriend and I did a day hike on the AT right after Christmas this year near the pigeon river area. The trail was calling us, so we got off of us40 and walked up the hills and entered the woods. We found our smiles too. Amazing what good air, peace, sunshine and the sound of a bubbling brook will do for the soul. God can be heard here. Fair trails in the future. Enjoy!!

    • Cari Pattison : Jan 16th

      Hi Cruiser! God can be heard out there for sure. And anywhere, but sometimes we listen better in the woods, don’t you think? Glad you and your girlfriend got to experience that. Happy hiking!

      • Jim Cruiser : Feb 6th

        I can’t wait for Spring again. Hoping to get a week or two break to hit the trail. So much to see and photograph, so many people to meet.

  • Lisa Garner : Jun 27th

    This was a lovely post. I would like to share something that happened to me on trail with a hiker that was mentioned in your post. Dirty girl seemed kind at first and I connected with him over his Buddhist ideals and his passion for hiking. I had thru hiked in 2016 and was dropping him off trail and had planned to do a two week hike with him. I love the trail and consider it a second home. I am comfortable with the trail and love the community that comes along with it. But hiking with him turned into a complete nightmare and he become verbally abusive and he was sexually inappropriate. He has since showed no remorse or understanding that his words and actions could be damaging. It affects me to this day and I just wanted to share my experience. I am so sad that this is now part of my trail story when I think about the AT. A part of the trauma I suffered was being silenced. I am doing my best to move forward.


What Do You Think?