You’re Invited to a Thru-Hike!

Who:

My name is Susan. I live in the suburbs of Chicago, where I grew up.  I like to bake, experiment with cooking, can knit and crochet, and like trying DIY body care projects like soaps and lotions. I teach people about the outdoors when they come to visit me for field trips and programs, but I don’t have to fill out a lot of paperwork or grade papers. It’s the best. I like the teaching part of my job a lot, but working in an outdoors career in the suburbs of Chicago can be taxing. I have been slowly going stir crazy, surrounded by concrete and have decided I need to spend more time surrounded by green space and less time in my car. I’m pretty new at backpacking, but am an avid lover of  nature and really look forward to the challenges that are coming my way. I have no doubt I will be pushed to my physical and mental limits while out on the AT, and I can’t wait to get out there.

Where:

I’ve decided to do a thru-hike of the AT, but on a less common route. Instead of hiking north from Georgia to Maine, as most thru-hikers do, I have opted for a later start time from the middle of the trail. I’ll be doing what’s called a flip-flop, where I start at the unofficial halfway point of Harpers Ferry, WV, and hike to the Northern Terminus at Mount Katahdin in Maine. Then I will go back to Harpers Ferry and hike the southern half down to Springer Mountain. This option is the best choice for me because it allows me a later start date, almost ensures avoidance of the large crowds (aka, the bubble), and lessens the impact of hikers all on the same parts of the trail at the same time. While this may not be the norm, I think it will be just right for my hike.

What to Bring:

Well, the easy answer is everything I will need. The more complicated answer, especially for those who have never backpacked, is explaining how I will survive without things that may seem necessary. The big three (a backpack, a place to sleep, and something warm to sleep in) are essential. Other than that, every hiker will have different things with them depending on what they deem important. I’m already going rogue on my big three and bringing a hammock to sleep in rather than a tent. For me, sleeping is 5,000 times more comfortable in a hammock and I feel better off the ground. It isn’t the most popular choice on the AT, but it isn’t unheard of. As far as the other gear goes, I’ll go over my choices in later posts (mostly because I haven’t made them yet).

Why:

This is the big question, isn’t it? Why on earth would someone choose to leave the comfort of their home and job to live outside for six months, walking through the woods. This is a big question; it has a big answer. The biggest factors of my why that I feel comfortable sharing and that I truly understand right now are these:

  1. The timing is right. I’ve just graduated with a master’s degree and don’t have any idea of what’s coming next.
  2. I’ve have been in a perpetual state of wanderlust for outdoor adventures since I started teaching outdoor education in 2013.
  3. I’m turning 30 in July. I have this very romantic idea of starting the next decade of my life surrounded by nature.
  4. I am eager for the challenge. I have grown very complacent in my life the last few years and am ready for a shake-up.
  5. I have emotional junk that I need to sift through and I need time away from everything familiar to wade through it.

RSVP:

I want to share my journey with you from beginning to end. I have a lot of interests that I would be happy to blog about, including a strange obsession with taking pictures of mushrooms and fungus. I’d love to know what you want to hear about. Are you interested in seeing my camp setup each day? Do you want to know all about my food? Do you want to see all the little moments I happen upon that make me smile? Let me know so that we can enjoy this together.

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Comments 16

  • Avatar
    Michelle Race : Dec 31st

    Hi! You are amazing. I want to hear about all of it!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Frank Dorman : Dec 31st

    I have always wanted to do the AT but now it will have to wait again. Due to a bad knee. But i still dream of it some day. So for know hike for us both. And may God be with you every step of the way. I will be following . But just by email.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Jen Giles : Dec 31st

    I am so freaking excited for you and cant wait to follow you through this adventure. Also I love that you have the same strange obsession with taking pictures of fungus, they’re so cool!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Turtle 🐢 : Dec 31st

    Wishing you allllll the love, happiness, encouragement and determination Songbird!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Claudia and Keith : Jan 1st

    Susan, you rock! I love that you are doing this! I want to know everything and see everything! Pictures of amazing trees, water, leaves, and of course, fungus. Ha! Cant wait to live vicariously through you.
    Journal your nightly prayers!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Josh Jansen : Jan 1st

    Go get your adventure Susan! We will be following you all the way! I wish I had the courage you do. Would love to hear about your camp set ups and cooking explorations.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Dee from Redondo Beach, CA : Jan 1st

    As I’m reading your post, I’m thinking this is what I want to do. And yes…..going to root for you all the way!!!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Deb Lingford : Jan 1st

    I am also doing a flip flop hike starting at Harper’s Ferry right after the Flip Flop Festival. Perhaps I’ll see you out there!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Emily Vincent : Jan 1st

    I will anxiously await to read all you care to share. Stay safe. I too live in Illinois but raised in Maine. I need to flip- flop from Illinois back to Maine. Best wishes.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Sandrine : Jan 1st

    Definitely interested in the hammock set up and keeping warm. Thanks in advance! And Good Luck!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Mark : Jan 1st

    Hammock guy. Looking forward to following your adventures.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Hanaa : Jan 1st

    I love this and want to hear everything. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The inspirations and frustrations. Must do’s, must haves, what NOT to do, etc.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Robert Wray : Jan 1st

    Good hiking and enjoy, can’t wait to read your journey.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Michelle : Jan 1st

    Can’t wait to hear about your journey…..my plan is to thru-hike in 2021!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    “Grateful” : Jan 2nd

    So excited for you!! I too will be starting from a little past the midway to finish up my thru hike…..I adore pictures of fungi of all kinds and will be rooting for your hike and success along the way!!⛰⛺️

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Mary Ellen Turner : Jan 4th

    I admire anyone who makes this journey, however they do it! I’d love to see pictures of your campsites, the beautiful vistas, and to know you are safe. And, to always hear about the daily challenges and joys you experience. You GO, GIRL!

    Reply

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