Torn between Excitement and Fear

With only a short time remaining before the start of my thru-hike, I can no longer ignore the truth.  The endless months of fantasizing and dreaming have given way to the stark realization that I’m actually going to do this thing.  SOON.  In just a handful of weeks I’m going to be living in the woods, depending on my gear, supplies, and knowledge (or lack thereof) to survive.  This hike is real.  And I don’t mind admitting that I’m scared.

hatsYou might wonder what I’ve been doing all this time.  After all, I’ve had nearly a year to prepare. And that’s the problem, I think.  I’ve had too much time.  The initial excitement of entering this new world — researching and buying gear, reading all I could about the trail, trying to educate myself about the hiking culture — gave way to complacency as the months ticked by.  After half a year of studying I knew enough not to feel quite so ignorant.  I still had no real experience aside from my weekly day hikes, but I had plenty of time.  The thru-hike was distant enough that I didn’t feel any urgency.  Instead, I spent my time fiddling around the edges — testing out various hats, second guessing my choice of shirts, trying out my rain gear in the local park.

box1Until now.  Now it has finally hit me that my time is up.  I need to make my decisions now — and then live with the consequences.  Starting to box up my mail-drops has driven that point home, giving me visual proof of how unprepared I actually am.

So as the final weeks rush by, I’m torn between excitement and fear. Excitement because I’m going to have an adventure.  I’m going to leave my life behind.  I’m going to meet people with different lifestyles, see places I’ve never visited, and change in ways I can’t even imagine yet.  But at the same time I’m scared to death.  I’m worried that my body will fail me. I fear I’ll face dangers I can’t surmount.  And most of all, I’m scared that I won’t live up to my expectations, that I’ll discover I’m more of a coward than I care to admit, and that I’ll end up letting myself and my husband down.

But for better or worse, I’m doing this thing. It’s real.  It’s here. It’s going to be amazing.

And I’m utterly terrified.

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Comments 22

  • Lisa : Jan 24th

    I’m feeling ya! I’m 2018 but the fear is already mingling with the excitement. All I know is I can’t live with myself if I don’t do it. I’m sure you’re the same. Cheering for you!!

    Reply
    • Gail Barrett : Jan 24th

      That’s exactly right, Lisa. I’m determined to do this, but I still have so many doubts. But maybe sometimes you just have to plunge in? I do know that the times in my life I’ve taken a chance have ended up being some of the best experiences I’ve had.

      Reply
  • Kate Gewehr : Jan 24th

    I am feeling the fear, too! I agree that the planning so long it part of it. I have been planning since April of 2015 since I originally wanted to thru-hike last year but decided with life circumstances it would be better to wait until 2017. I’ve had all of the big things dialed in for a while, but now that it’s finally so close, I realize all of the million little decisions I still have to make and things I still need to prepare. And I’m even starting to second guess some of the big things like my pack!

    Reply
    • Gail Barrett : Jan 24th

      I’m doing exactly the same thing, Kate. I’m even back to questioning my shoes!!! I’ve had to force myself to just stop thinking about my gear because there are too many other things that need my attention now. It feels pretty overwhelming at this point. I just hope that after we’ve been on the trail for a few months we’ll laugh at our needless anxiety! When is your start date?

      Reply
      • Kate Gewehr : Jan 24th

        I’m planning to start from Rockfish Gap on April 19th. I keep trying to tell myself that even if I forget something minor or discover I made a poor choice, I can still change my mind and fix it once I’m on the trail. With shoes in particular, they’re vitally important, but it’s also pretty much guaranteed that if you keep hiking you will go through several pairs, so you can decide on a different pair at any point in your hike. I’m currently fixated on shoes for the rocks of Pennsylvania since I’m not sure my trail runners will give my feet enough protection for that stretch. I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling overwhelmed at this point, though. It’s hard to stop thinking about gear when I’m filling out the cool new gear list on my profile!

        Reply
        • Gail Barrett : Jan 24th

          Kate, I think shoes are the hardest thing to figure out. You’re right that we will go through several pairs, so there is always the option to change if a particular type doesn’t work. But you are also right about their importance. Having the wrong shoes can cause misery! I started out training in trail runners (Saucony Peregrines), which I loved. My feet did feel pretty battered by the rocks here in Maryland, but the real problem came when we started increasing our distance and I developed plantar fasciitis. I tried all sorts of different trail runners and insoles after that, and finally ended up with Oboz Sawtooth hiking shoes. They are a little heavier than all those trail runners, but they really do protect my feet from the rocks. On the other hand, I don’t think the grip is as good as some of the others, such as the La Sportiva Bushido, and they haven’t solved my plantar fasciitis problem. I am also leery of fording a stream in them. I don’t think they will dry as quickly as the trail runners do. So in the end, there doesn’t seem to be a great solution. Every shoe has its pros and cons. I guess I’ll start off in the Oboz, get through the rocks in PA, and then decide whether to stick with them or not.

          Reply
  • Dennis : Jan 24th

    Hi Gail

    Just read your very honest appraisal of your Thru hike in April. I pretty much feel the same way. My brother and I are flip-flopping from Harper’s Ferry to Maine. Then we will take a train back to Harper’s Ferry and hike to Georgia. That’s the plan. There are a million things that could go wrong but I feel that even if we don’t make the entire distance, our success comes in the form of the attempt. Most people would never try let alone this 70 year old man and his “younger” 59 yr old brother. Best wishes on your hike. Maybe we will meet on the Trail ….

    Reply
    • Gail Barrett : Jan 24th

      We are doing the same thing, Dennis. We live right near Harper’s Ferry, so we’ll head north from here, come home for a week or so to recoup, and then head south from HF after that. I hope we see you on the trail! Right now we are looking at a late March/early April kickoff date. My husband is 64 and I’m 62, so we are close to you in age, too. I feel some urgency to do this now because I know that the longer we wait, the more difficult it will become, due to our age. Every year we seem to develop more problems (aching hips, worsening vision, etc.), enough that it puts succeeding at a huge endeavor like this in doubt. But as you said, all we can do is try! And you’re right about another thing — no one else we know would ever try this. Either they lack a sense of adventure or are less foolhardy than us. I guess we will find out!

      Reply
  • Tory White : Jan 24th

    Hi Gail,

    I’m also doing a Flip Flop hike starting in April and you have put all of my feelings into words so well!

    Reply
    • Gail Barrett : Jan 24th

      Thanks, Tory! It helps to know that I’m not alone. I hope we see you out there!

      Reply
  • Mickey B : Jan 24th

    Thanks for your honesty and post. I look forward to future posts and stay safe. You got this. 😉

    Reply
    • Gail Barrett : Jan 25th

      Thanks, Mickey! I appreciate the support!

      Reply
  • Jen Gleason : Jan 24th

    Everything I’m feeling, you put into words! I starting my NOBO hike on March 22 and it’s all I can think about lately. Each day I alternate between waves of excitement with waves of fear and anxiety. I’m also starting to question my gear choices, but I think I’m just overthinking everything at this point! Best of luck on your journey! 🙂

    Reply
    • Gail Barrett : Jan 25th

      I totally understand, Jen. I think that having some fear is healthy. An AT thru hike is a huge endeavor. But hopefully once we are out on the trail we can focus on the fun. I hope I see you there! Good luck!

      Reply
  • Heather Provoncha : Jan 24th

    Gail,

    My husband and I set off in less than 40 days, so I totally get your feelings. I feel kind of powerless right now….too much time to worry and over-analyze. I am itching to get out there and just start living the trail rather than talking about it. The anticipation is driving me insane. Are you mostly doing mail drops? I plan on 1 per month, but haven’t thought much into it yet. I guess I can fill my time up that way!

    Reply
    • Gail Barrett : Jan 25th

      Heather, we are definitely doing mail drops for the first part. We will go home at the midpoint when we do our flip, and then make plans for the second part. By then we should have a better idea of what works for us. Right now we are too inexperienced to know. Good luck on your hike! Here’s hoping that it will be amazing!

      Reply
  • Mary meixner : Jan 24th

    Hi Gail!
    I feel exactly the same way–and my start date is still about three months away! I’m excited and scared to death, haha. 🙂 I’m flip-flopping starting from HF as well, probably later in April than you guys, but hope to see you out there!

    Reply
    • Gail Barrett : Jan 25th

      Mary, we will probably be slow, so you might catch up with us. We will be the old people toddling along!

      Reply
  • Ruth Morley : Jan 25th

    Gail, what date do you plan on starting? I will be going to the ATC’s Flip Flop Festival on April 22, and then, on the 23rd, hiking north for a week as a shakedown hike. In July, I’ll return to Harper’s Ferry and hike down to Springer Mt, and will do the northern half, spring and summer of 2018.

    I’ve been following your blog, and I’d love to be able to share part of my one week in April with you. We are very close in age, so we can blame any discomfort on that!

    Reply
    • Gail Barrett : Jan 25th

      Ruth, unfortunately, we are leaving before then. We are doing Maryland in late March (slackpacking from home) and heading north from PA in early April. We might catch up with you on the southern end, though. If all goes well, we should be heading south some time in July. It would be fun to meet up if the timing works!

      Reply
  • Jeff Mann : Jan 25th

    The time is rushing in quickly! I have five weeks left before I take the “Next Step” At Amicaloa Falls!

    Reply
    • Gail Barrett : Jan 25th

      Good luck, Jeff. I’m excited for you!

      Reply

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