Why Am I So Nervous? I’ve Been Waiting So Long For This Moment!

Okay, now I understand. I’ve read so many blogs written in the final days before hitting the trail. Just about every one expressed anxiety, self doubt, nervousness. I assumed either these folks had never done a big trek before or they were just under prepared.

Well,  here I am. We drive tomorrow from Ohio to Harpers Ferry, WV. I begin my SOBO (southbound) hike (joined by hubby first 5 days) to Springer Mt, GA.  And my heart is racing, my palms are sweaty, I can’t seem to concentrate on getting my final preparations done.

And I HAVE done big treks before. And I HAVE been so thorough in my research, preparations and training that you might, just might, call me obsessive. Okay, yes I am.

But my meditation guru on the Headspace app tells me that whenever I feel anxiety, just pause and note that it is occurring. Then observe without judgment or intent what the physical manifestations are. And then move on. Don’t try to stop it, just note it. Eventually this should help reduce the frequency of occurrences.

Okay, so, yes, my breathing is slightly shallow and more rapid. My palms are a bit sweaty. And now I move on.

The training has been done.

A week’s training hike on the AT in April.

Hiking in Red River Gorge in nearby Kentucky this spring and summer

We even got in some hiking in Japan with our kids, kids-in-law and the darling granddaughters.  It looks like they really enjoyed time out in nature


The food has been prepared and is ready to be shipped.

Lots of interesting things are going in my food packs.  I brought back some of my favorite Japanese nori (dried seaweed) as a trail snack. Everything had to be sorted into little one-day packs.

I’m going to be sweating a lot out there. Nuun electrolyte tablets were removed from their heavier tubes and repacked into daily 3-tablet-sized tiny plastic ziplocks.  Thank you, Amazon.com, for having nearly everything I could imagine and need for this trip.

My favorite snack bags I made were affectionately dubbed, “Bag O’ Choco.”  A little bit of this, a lot of that. Needless to say, I have not lost any weight lately, even with all the training I’m doing.

Even a diet full of fruit, veggies, healthy meats, greens, electrolytes and dark chocolate needs supplements. I spent 4 hours one day sorting out the dozen or so supplements I take every day into 91 tiny pill bags.

A few few days later, I opened a third of those tiny bags again to insert a meter of dental floss. A hiking dental hygienist friend suggested leaving the floss dispenser at home (weight savings) and using one piece for 3 days.

In the basement, an assembly line was set up  of all the dehydrated meals I had prepared. Bill and I spent several hours preparing a numbered gallon sized ziplock for each of the 91 days I plan on being out: breakfast, lunch (homemade jerky and dehydrated veggies), dinner, 2 snack bars, a snack bag of dehydrated fruit, 1 bag o’ choco (including nuts and seeds), a green tea bag, protein powder, Nuun tablets, homemade gluten free fruitcake and snickerdoodles.

The bags were carefully stacked in numerical in one of our two deep freezers.

Several sizes of Priority Mail boxes are stacked at a mailing center set up by the freezer and shelves of extra supplies. Bill will periodically mail a 3-5 days’ food supply to me a week before needed. They will either go to hostels or hotels where I plan to stay, or to “General Delivery” at small town post offices relatively near the trail.


The projected itinerary has been set.

Anything can happen on the trail. Thunderstorms might keep me inside a hikers’ hostel an added day. A root or a rock might decide to Connect with an ankle.

But I have two excellent guides to help me project my prospective hiking distances each day.  I also have found lodging and small towns where I’ll take a “zero day” once every 5-7 days.

I like paper. So my primary resource will probably be the A. T. Guide: a Handbook for  hiking the Appalachian Trail”, by David “AWOL” Miller.

The pages are set up to show your elevation  profile and the location of shelters, water sources, nearby towns, hostels, etc. The above page shows the mountains just north of the Smoky Mountain National Park.  Those will make strong legs.  Or just tired.

My other resource is a superb downloadable app called “Guthook’s Guide to the Appalachian Trail.”  It gives you an interactive map of each section of the trail, with the ability to see photos and read up-to-date hikers’ comments of shelters, water sources, hostels, etc. It also can pinpoint where you are. Now there’s less chance of going astray when stepping off trail to visit the bushes for a minute.

I’m taking my new iPhone 7 Plus, along with a pretty powerful battery pack for recharging, so I should be set.


The gear has been selected, sewn and tested.

Many hikers try to get the base weight of their packs down to 10 lbs or less.  This is considered “ultralight.”

Base weight includes the pack itself with all the items that won’t change during the hike. Consumables such as food, water, fuel, sunscreen, and medication are not included in this weight, nor hiking clothing worn every day.

Your “pack weight” includes all of the above.

After a lot of research and gear changes, my base weight for summer is right at the 10 pound point. But I will be switching to a heavier sleeping bag and pack more clothing when fall sets in.  The weight and volume requirements will go up, so I’ll switch to a slightly larger pack then.

I’m projecting that my total pack weight will never go over 22 pounds.  And by day’s end, that will feel like 50.

So here’s what I’ll be carrying on July 25, 2017.

Column 1, on the left:

  1.  2600 cubic inch  Ray-Way backpack.  Amazing.  Just 10.6 ounces.
  2. white trash compactor bag to use as a waterproof liner for backpack
  3. Pataginia waist pouch, containing cash and cards in waterproof ziplock, iPhone in plastic case and ziplock, and spare glasses with clip-on sunglasses.
  4. 2 bandanas: a half bandana as a pee rag; a full banadana as a sweat-wiper, washcloth/towel for trail “sponge baths,” a hot pad for cooking, and a way to hide my horrible hair when I take off my cap.

Column 2:

  1.  Warm weather Ray-Way sleeping quilt in stowbag
  2. Sea to Summit inflatable pillow
  3. Thermarest Neo Air inflatable mattress. I must be comfortable sleeping.

Column 3:

  1.  Ray-Way net tent that attaches under:
  2. Ray-Way tarp (I love my net tent and tarp!)  The tarp also has a covering for one end, for more protection from wind or rain
  3. Rolled up vinyl ground cloth for under net tent
  4. 8 tent pegs
  5. small cookpot in odor-proof plastic bag. Presently wrapped in insulating layer that lets me heat food to boiling and then steep w/o using fuel
  6. Gas canister and Pocket Rocket burner
  7. long handled titanium spoon and Bic lighter
  8. 2 plastic Smart water bottles. One for water, one for Nuun electrolight drink
  9. 2 rolled up water bags
  10. Sawyer water filter. Dirty water from water bags in one end, clean out the other in bottles.

Column 4:

  1.  Sea to Summit bag with roll down top to put food bag in when hanging up at night, away from bears’ reach
  2. rolled up odor proof food bag
  3. rope in small bag: used to hang bear bag from a high branch out far from the trunk of the tree.  Hypothetically.
  4. extra clothing: 1 pair undies, 1 spare sports bra, 1 pair extra socks, rain jacket, rain kilt for lower body, insect net head cover, tshirt and knit capris for clean sleepwear
  5. Road I.D. bracelet. I heartily recommend this for all running, cycling, hiking, walking.
  6. guidebook and waterproof Rite in the Rain notebook/journal and pen
  7. Medical bag
  8. insect spray, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, lip balm, eye drops
  9. tech/bedtime bag:  phone battery pack, cables, eye mask, ear plugs, lightweight Petzl eLite headlamp
  10. hygiene bag: liquid Campsuds for body and cook pot, toothpaste tablets (yay, Amazon!), toothbrush with handle cut in half (such a classic backpacker thing to do), face cream
  11. half a roll of TP, small ziplock to collect used TP, tent peg to dig holes for #2.  It’s important to “Leave No Trace” that you were there.  No, toilet paper doesn’t decompose quickly.  Kilimanjaro was littered with it.  Disgusting.

That’s it, folks!

Bill and I will drive to Front Royal, VA, early tomorrow, leave the car at a hotel and catch a shuttle ride north to Harpers Ferry, WV.

Tuesday morning, the elusive dream turns into hard reality. Bill will hike 5 days with me back to the car, say sayonara, and I’ll be on my own on the trail.

Sort of.  Don’t be surprised by future stories of some interesting folks I meet along the way.

And thank you for reading this LOOOONG post. Trust me, they’ll be shorter from now on. ?


Sorry, ticks, you can’t hide under this short hair!  Thanks, Connie.

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Comments 33

  • Jon : Jul 23rd

    I thought you said you were prepared…

    • Ruth Morley : Jul 24th

      Oh, my son. You always know what to say. ?

  • Otto : Jul 24th

    Good luck on the AT.

    • Ruth Morley : Jul 24th

      Thank you! Just having my backpack all ready calmed the nerves last night.

      I’ll give it my best and take care of myself out there. That’s all I can do.

  • scott : Jul 24th

    Looks like you are prepared. How much does the battery charger weigh? Have a great hike!

  • Tiffany : Jul 24th

    Have an excellent hike and please keep me posted. I am really curious about how your own diy dehydrated food holds up. And if your tent system holds up. It looks wonderful. And how about your knees? I would love to hike the AT but have to wait a few years until i am 55. I cant eat all that junk food those kids eat on the trail. Best of luck!

    • Ruth Morley : Jul 24th

      Tiffany, I know what you mean about not being able to eat the junk food. And, after a couple of years like this, the only junk I crave are the occasional potato chips.

      In searching for dehydrated recipes for the trail, I was really happy with the Backpacking Chef’s website. His excellent book had even more good info and recipes, which are nutritious and delicious and easy to heat on the trail.

      I expect my backpack, quilt, tarp and tent to hold up fine. Ray Jardine’s instructions had me reinforcing everything multiple times, and the materials are top quality. I have high hopes, but anything can happen.

      Good luck on your section hike. Remember, take what you need, not just want.

  • Linda C : Jul 24th

    LOL Ruth, you are very organized and prepared. Now go and enjoy your hike. Thanks for your post with pictures. Being new to backpacking, I’m forever trying to figure out how to lighten my pack. Will be doing a section hike later this summer and, after reading your post, feel better prepared. Looking forward to your upcoming posts.

    • Ruth Morley : Jul 24th

      Linda, thank you for reading my post. I know I learned so much by reading other’s gear lists. That’s why I went into so much detail.

      Once I bagged my food supply for the first 5 days, I panicked. So heavy! But with a light base weight, it won’t be as bad as it could have been. That’s why I weigh everything, cut off labels and pass the first purchases (i.e.: heavier gear) on to my husband. ?

  • Mark : Jul 24th

    Enjoy the hike Ruth!
    Thanks for all the tips and Godspeed

    • Ruth Morley : Jul 24th

      Thanks Mark for finding my blog.

  • Elizabeth : Jul 24th

    It all sounds amazing and you definitely did your homework. Enjoy your hike. Be of luck to you. Get some rest. Love the hair?

    • Ruth Morley : Jul 24th

      Thank you, Elizabeth. I find it’s fun having such a short haircut. On the trail, all I’ll have to do is dunk my head in a stream (way downstream) and run my fingers through it. I do have a 10 cent comb (10 for $1 at Dollar Tree) in my hygiene bag for dress up time in trail towns.

  • Little Bear Stumbles : Jul 24th

    This was an excellent blog. As you know I have exited the honeymoon phase and have been dealing with anxiety and this post really motivated me and I feel better about the trail. Kind of like it’s new again. I signed up to receive blog updates so I can keep up with you and you can keep me motivated.

    • Ruth Morley : Jul 25th

      I’m so happy you’re following my blog. I have totally enjoyed reading yours since you began in April. I do hope that I can help encourage you to hang in there. You will be so proud of yourself for persevering.

  • Ron Webber : Jul 24th

    Hi Ruth, sounds like you’re very well prepared. I thru hiked in 05 at 51 and wasn’t nearly as prepared and it all worked out. Don’t be afraid to change gears because things will probably not go as planned. Just go with the flow and enjoy your hike. It’s more mental than physical.

    • Ruth Morley : Jul 25th

      Thank you for the great advice, Ron. I agree completely. I just like to plan trips and try to do all I can in advance to ensure success.

  • Ernie : Jul 25th

    I’m sure this will be one amazing journey. Godspeed!

    • Ruth Morley : Jul 25th

      Whatever happens, it will be an adventure. Day One went well.

  • Connie Kroos : Jul 25th

    Good luck dear Ruth! Have a safe and amazing journey! I’ll be reading your blog everyday!

    • Ruth Morley : Jul 25th

      Aha, it’s Connie, who gave me the great haircut! So glad to hear from you. We had beautiful weather for our first day today and a relatively easy hike, and look forward to our night of camping. And the short haircut works perfectly.

  • Leo Yermo Adan : Jul 25th

    Are you going to post a blog or just here? Either way, looking forward to all you have to say.
    I enjoyed your gear list. Always nice to see new recommendations.
    Trek on . . andale!

    • Ruth Morley : Jul 28th

      Leo, this IS my blog. This is it. And I’m very happy you have found it!

  • Beth : Jul 25th

    Best of luck to you! I look forward to hearing of your adventures!

    • Ruth Morley : Jul 28th

      Thank you, Beth. 4 days done now. I’ll be posting again in a couple of days.

  • Myra : Jul 28th

    Thinking of you every day Ruth and wishing you the best of luck! Thanks for the detailed entry, it helps us all to remember how well prepared you are both physically and mentally. It must be a huge help to fellow hikers as well. I’m looking forward to your next entry and a full report from Bill.

    • Ruth Morley : Jul 28th

      Myra, I’m so happy to hear from you. I couldn’t be doing the things I’m presently doing without the past 5 years of your Pilates instruction. Sometimes when I make an unusual move while setting up my tarp, I think,”I’ve done something like this at Pilates!” Thank you again.

  • Soldierbags : Aug 10th

    Loved the article guys! lot’s of great info that would come in handy for any camper!
    Our bags would be sure to keep your food items clean, dry and safe.
    Check us out at http://www.soldierbags.com

    Would be glad to provide free samples to site admins 🙂

  • Carla L. Frantz : Aug 16th

    Love your blog. I’ve always wanted to hike the AT but have been at loose ends on how to reduce my pack weight. You seem so organized! And have managed the light weight thing. I hope to hear more about your adventures on the AT. Keep hiking! Did you take any rain gear?

    • Ruth morley : Sep 12th

      Carla, I apologize for not having seen your comment till now yes, I took a Gortex rain jacket by Marmot and a rain kilt by Z packs, which I highly recommend. I also have Z pack’s rain mittens for colder weather and love their ultra lightweight wind jacket.

      I’m now home with some foot injuries, but will recommence next spring. Show me a long distance AT hiker and I’ll show you someone who hurts somewhere in their body!

  • Christine Graeter : Sep 12th

    Wow…. details, details! The strength of a Type 1 in action. 🙂

    • Ruth morley : Sep 12th

      I think by preparing so thoroughly I feel like I’m doing all I can to assure success. Works sometimes. ?


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