A Letter to the Class of 2017
Dear 2017 AT Thru Hiker,
Congratulations on making it this far. You have planned, prepared, saved and dreamed for a very long time. Now it’s time to set off.
Remember how rare you are. Remember that very few people set aside jobs, security, and complacency for the unknown. Remember that you now belong to a very special and rare group of people. No matter who you were before, or how far you make it, you’re a hiker now.
Treasure every single moment. Even those steep uphill climbs in 95 degree heat. Even when it seems like the switchbacks just go on forever and ever. All those miles in the rain. When it seems like Virginia will never end. Every sunset and sunrise. Every instance of trail magic. It will get harder and harder to be surprised, or to find joy in every moment, but try your very best. Don’t take this journey for granted.
Take pictures of people, not just of views. Trust me, you will want to see those faces again when you look back through your photos. Even when you think you take SO many pictures, take more. Take pictures of shelters, trail angels, hostels and weird restaurants. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to take photos of you.
Go to Trail Days. It’s worth it.
Write everything down. It will be hard to summon the energy once you’re snug in your sleeping bag at night, but it’ll be worth it. Write down how you feel, what you saw, and the people you met.
Spend your money wisely.
Don’t sabotage your hike for the sake of someone else. Hike your own hike, at your own pace, however you want to.
Good gear is worth the money.
Don’t get discouraged that you aren’t doing big miles yet. You will get there. Your body will become a hiking machine before you know it. And those blisters? They’ll go away! Don’t get discouraged when you see the mile markers for how far you have to go. Just think about all the amazing experiences you”ll have on the way there.
Get out of your tent and look up at the stars.
Be nice to day hikers. When they ask you dumb questions, answer them with a smile. Remember, you used to be one of them!
Share your journey with others. Whether that’s through social media, videos, or just calling your mom. People are inspired by you and your journey.
Write down your “why you’re hiking” lists and read them every few days (especially when you’ve had a bad day).
Embrace the brutality and soak up every single minute. One day you’ll be standing at the top of Katahdin, wondering how you actually made it there. Then you’ll go home and it’ll all seem like a dream. One day you’ll go back home to your “normal life”, and you’ll be left with only your scars and your stories. The trail will always be a part of you, so appreciate it while you can.
Much love and happy trails,
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What a beautiful letter, Thank you!
Thanks for the thoughtful letter to the class. Inspiring!
makes me want, so much, to do this one day… thank you for this.. x
Beautiful sentiment! Great advice! When I hike the trail I want this letter in my pocket!