What’s Between My Ears on the Walk to Katahdin?

Ready to Go for a Walk?

When you start to prep for your first thru-hike what is the first thing that comes to mind? GEAR! What’s going to be the lightest, most cost-efficient, and accessible. After you have your gear set you start to think about what am I going to eat on trail. Trail mix? Heck no! Ramen, and sour gummies sound great! Next stop is training, get out and hike, and wear that pack around, maybe throw in a leg day and you are good to go. OK, time to hit that trail and start making miles, right? Wrong! The one thing that I have fallen victim to is the mental game, what am I going to do when it’s been raining for five days straight and everything is soaked. One thing that must not be forgotten about is how to stay mentally tough when things get rough.

I’m here to share somethings that I have been doing to help me mentally prepare for the trail!


Do Stuff That Scares You

To work on my mental game I have been doing more things that puts me in uncomfortable positions, and force me to work through my emotions. For me that consists of doing top rope at my climbing gym, and climbing that 40- to 50-foot wall and topping out. When I’m tied in and ready to climb I’m cool as a cucumber, but the second I look down and I’m 30 feet off the ground my brain starts to panic. What scares me the most is trusting the gear and my belay partner, so when my life is in their hands I start to freak a little.

What I have been doing to work through that is climb halfway up and just sit there for a bit, and sit with my emotions and figure out why I feel this way. What I found is that I can control lots of things but in that moment all I can do is trust that everything will work how it is supposed to, and I am safe. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, slow my heart down, and start climbing again, and eventually I top out. This has been huge for my mental strength and helping me work through uncomfortable situations and really made me sit with my thoughts and accept them. Whether you are rock climbing or going for a hike solo, do something that scares you and don’t bail when it gets mentally tough!

Singing in the Rain

It’s no surprise that the AT is a wet trail, and many days and nights are going to be spent in the rain. It can be so mentally draining to be soaking wet all day and have to go to bed in a wet cold tent. How are you going to handle that? My best form of training for that is to just get out and hike in the rain; it’s not sexy but it has to be done. I check the forecast and when I see some rain coming and it’s a little cold out I grab my pack and head out the door and hit the trail for a nice wet cold hike. The only way to train that brain muscle is to just do it and accept that you are going to get wet.



Last thing I have done which you can probably see coming is reading Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis. The book really speaks volumes to the mental side of the AT, and how to prepare for most of the situations that you will encounter. My main takeaway was really know your why and own it and believe in it, because that is what will get you through those hard days, and never quit on a bad day!

I hope that the mental  prepping I have been doing will help me on the trail, but there is only one way to find out. As someone who suffers with anxiety working on my mental game was super important and crucial for me, and could not get thrown by the wayside.

Thanks for reading along, if you have any other tips for mentally preparing leave a comment because I would love to hear some new ideas!

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Comments 2

  • connie b : Mar 10th

    Loved your piece Carley. Informative, inspirational, clever and entertaining!

  • Chris : Mar 11th

    Great post. Looking forward to more.


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