Yo, It’s On

Last March, my sister sent me a link via Facebook to a book about the Appalachian Trail and the message “2020 yo it’s on.”  The book was Hiking Through: One man’s journey to peace and freedom on the Appalachian Trail by Paul Stutzman, and her message proposed we for real do something we had talked about for years – hike the length of the AT.

Within days of her message I was obsessively researching logistics, gear, and trail life, watching YouTube videos and Googling endless variations of “thru-hike,” “AT thru-hike,” “hiking the Appalachian Trail,” and so on. Soon enough I decided I’d rather set out in 2018 than 2020 – before I’m 60, before the next presidential election, and because I just couldn’t wait.

Despite my earnest planning, some important things remain up in the air, including where and for how long my sister and I will hike together, but I’m set to leave at the end of February 2018, northbound from Springer Mountain.

I’m 56, have been chronically under-employed and sometimes directionless over the last 14 years or so, since moving to Houston from Boston after finishing a masters degree in journalism.  In 2015, I earned a second masters degree, this time a master of fine arts in creative nonfiction.  I’ve worked as a freelance journalist and as Communications Coordinator for the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  I left that job two weeks ago. I now have about six months to focus on the AT.

In his book Appalachian Trials, Zach Davis (owner and editor-in-chief of The Trek) suggests that a hopeful thru-hiker take at least 20 minutes and write down all the reasons he or she is hiking the Appalachian Trail.  I’ll end this introductory post with my list, edited slightly to correct redundancies and delete trivial list entries.  I welcome your comments and questions.  Yo, it’s on!


1) I have imagined what it would be like to walk through life knowing that I did this thing, my secret cool thing that gives me power (note to self: would that be called confidence?)

2) I have started and failed and screwed up so many things in the last few years; thru-hiking seems like an opportunity to really start and finish something.

3) It will be an adventure.

4) Over the past few years I have had the blessings of money and time to do many things and yet have not. I should take advantage of my blessings.

5) I want to be strong and thin.

6) It is something I can call an achievement, without doubt and with truth.

7) I am terrified of the world right now and want to escape from it.

8) I am terrified of the world right now and want to gain strength to face it.

9) I will have time and space to reconnect spiritually.

10) I will have the opportunity to recall why I came to worship one God: the natural world He created, the intellect He gave mankind, and the difficulty and ease with which we co-exist.

11) I’d like to be competent at things like setting up a tent or purifying water or just NOT GETTING LOST (caps on to indicate how frequently this happens).

12) I’d like to know that being very short doesn’t mean not being strong (I’m 4’9”).

13) I’d like to get out of my lethargy.

14) I might as well.

15) Why not?

16) I want to cherish instead of fear insects.

17) Something in me broke. I want to fix it.

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 11

  • debra pulliam : Aug 24th

    i will be a week behind ya, i hope we get to meet! Old(er) Woman Power 🙂

    • Ruth Nasrullah : Aug 24th

      Right on!

      • John : Aug 25th

        Age isn’t a factor! I did it at 68, for the third time. It’s difficult but infinitely rewarding. There’s no reason not to go for it, and every reason to. Train smartly; most things on the trail are out of your control so be flexible and roll with the flow. Peace and Love from Team MoFo (my hiking group)!

  • Gary : Aug 30th

    While your training for the hike:

    If it is raining and Cole, Go for a hike!
    If you’re tired from work, Go for a hike!
    If you’re hungry and thirsty, Go for a hike!
    If you’re body is sore, Go for a hike!
    If your sleepy, Go for a hike!
    If it’s dark outside, Go set up your tent!

    Use all of your gear before the hike!
    Learn how to hang a food bag!
    Get you feet in shape now.Walk outside barefooted!
    Learn which way is north, Use a compass!

    Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses!

    • Ruth Nasrullah : Aug 31st

      My list would also include: When you’ve been sitting in front of your computer for an hour, go for a hike!

  • Jill Knox (Straps) : Aug 30th

    I started my thru-hike in March of this year but it ended due to injury at mile 378 (Carver’s Gap). I will be getting BACK on trail right where I got off in early April 2018. We’ll probably meet on trail. 🙂 I will be 59 when I get back on trail and I am 5’1 (on a good day). 🙂

    • Ruth Nasrullah : Aug 31st

      We’ll have to start a short middle-aged woman’s hiking group!

  • Will Renyer : Aug 30th

    #17 on the list it’s a good one, makes me think

    • Ruth Nasrullah : Oct 3rd

      Me too, Will. I’m not even sure what it is.

  • Patti Phillips : Oct 3rd

    I love your list! I was 54 on my thru attempt in 2015 and was out there for most of the same reasons. Although I only got 460 miles, it was an amazing, life-changing experience and I STILL feel badass with my secret cool thing! And I will fininsh, by God….after I have my knee replacement! And probably after I retire now since I had to go back to work since I went through my savings taking a year off. Totally worth it!

    • Ruth Nasrullah : Oct 3rd

      Yes, you’re definitely a badass.

      My next post is going to be about the run-up to my shake-down hike next week. It’s going to make me flex my confidence muscles.


What Do You Think?