Why I Chose to Section Hike the AT (AKA Why I Didn’t Thru-Hike)


So, I’ve established when the ‘A.T. Bug’ bit me in my last post. Now comes the obvious question, “Why are you section hiking instead of attempting a thru hike?” Well, that is a very good question…one I’ve asked myself many times since my A.T. section hiking adventure began back in 2012. There are all the “traditional” reasons, of course:

  1. I didn’t have the money.
  2. How could I just pack up and become “homeless” for 6 months?
  3. What would my answer be when my loved ones asked, “Are you out of your mind? “Normal” people don’t just leave their lives behind to spend 6 months living in the woods!”
  4. What if I start and have to quit? How will it feel if I fail?
  5. What on earth would I do when I got back? I’d have no job or place to live (enter sounds of impending doom).


In some ways, I suppose all of the above are valid reasons in one way or another. And for me, well, I was actually staring what might have been my one opportunity to actually attempt a thru hike in the face a couple years ago. I’d actually thought about it. I mean really thought about it. I’d even gone so far as to make arrangements with my oldest son to stay with him upon my return until I could re-establish myself. If I was ever going to do it financially, that would’ve been the time. I did meet with resistance from some on the home front and actually, I couldn’t blame them for questioning my sanity at that moment. What I was planning went so totally against everything everyone had ever thought or known about me. I simply wasn’t someone who did that kind of crazy thing! In the end, I have to shoulder the blame for not trying. I let fear stop me. Sure, I said it was because the timing just didn’t “feel” right but that wasn’t being honest with anyone, let alone myself. While the prospect of setting out to hike the A.T. by myself was exciting, it was also completely terrifying to me. Put simply, I doubted my own ability to do it. My fears stopped me.

All that being said…with hindsight being 20/20 as it always is…I can say now that I made the right decision when I opted not to begin a thru hike. By section hiking, I’ve been able to include my siblings in my great adventure…..



Scott and me at the summit of Springer!



Debbie, Scott and me at Winding Stair Gap!




Debbie and I reached the Smokies!


…..and I’ve still met some amazing people along the way. We’ve shared shelters. We’ve traded trail stories. We’ve laughed and yes…they’ve even seen me cry. Best of all, I’m slowly but surely making my way from Georgia to Maine, even if it is only one usually short section at a time.


Neel's Gap!

Neel’s Gap!


Each year I get to set a new goal and set it into motion. I get to feel the rush that comes with taking that last step and arriving at my destination. For me, it’s like I get to summit Katahdin every time I go out on the trail. Sure, I have no doubt that one never forgets their journey of an A.T. thru hike but I look forward to making new memories and reaching new goals each year for many years to come. Who is to say that one day the opportunity to head out and complete whatever part of the trail I’ve got left won’t present itself? When/if it does, maybe this time I’ll be ready to face the challenge (and my fears). I’ll admit that I’m envious each time I read of a fellow hiker’s thru hiking adventure and I feel a part of me that longs to venture out on my own. For now, however, I’ll “keep on keeping on,” as they say. It just never gets old for me! For anyone who might be out there, questioning whether hiking the A.T. is for them, I suggest starting out as a section hiker. I bet you’ll be amazed at just what you’re able to do! I know I certainly am each and every time I complete a section. There’s just nothing like it! It’s something that can’t be put into words. Guess you’ll just have to head out there and find out for yourself!

Happy Hiking Everyone!

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 2

  • Galia Goodman aka Quill : Dec 17th

    Hey Dreamer! I get it. And I’m with you. I started section hiking two years ago with the class of 2014, did three sections that year and three more this year. I am having a blast planning the next three that I’m planning for 2016. I’ve done just under 500 miles and really, really want to finish Virginia in 2016. They don’t call them the Virginia blues for no reason!

    As a sixty five year old with a partner, a dog, and a career as a working artist, there just was no way to do it all at once. And I think I am actually having more fun. I am still in touch with people I’ve met, and am pulling more into the hiking circles by offering to go out with folks who are not sure if they can do it. (So far they all can!) And now, as people take it seriously, I am reconsidering doing longer sections, and eventually hope to do the last 200 or so miles in one chunk. So, keep on keeping on! And write back if you’ve a mind.

    • Dreamer : Jan 10th

      Hi Galia!

      First let me apologize for the delay in my response! I must say I admire you and all that you’ve done on the A.T. I love your idea of going out with groups who think they can’t do it. I’ve been thinking about trying that but was wanting to get my SOLO Wilderness First Aid first. At any rate, please keep me updated on your progress this year cause I’ll be out here, cheering you on!


What Do You Think?