These Are A Few of My Greatest Fears
“Are you going to bring a gun?”
That’s the first thing pretty much anyone I’ve told about this hike has asked me, especially when they hear that I’m hiking part of it solo. Now, I’ve been living in a fairly conservative area of central Virginia for the last two years; nearly every home has at least one gun, and many of those have more guns than people. I usually laugh the question off and tell whoever is asking that a gun weighs too much.
But sometimes I like to delve into what, specifically, they’re asking about. No one asks if I’m also bringing a fishing rod, so it’s not about eating on the trail (let’s pretend I’m not a life-long vegetarian for just a minute here). They often bring up bears, and I parrot the same advice I’ve been hearing from park rangers since I was a kid. Every so often, though, they’ll ask me about the danger that other people pose.
Here’s the deal. I’m not scared, in so many words, of the very real dangers of bears, snow, ice, snakes, or whatever else nature can throw at me. Nature is going to do what nature is going to do. It’s my job to not be a dumbass. When you compile all the statistics of violence that other humans have committed on any of the trails, it’s still much safer than any city I’ve ever lived in. But I do have two big fears, or at least significant worries, about the trail.
I have major FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to life on the trail. This isn’t your typical FOMO, though. I’m not worried that I won’t be able to binge the second part of season 4 of Stranger Things the second it drops on Netflix. I’m worried about missing out on big life events.
When my dad left for the AT in 2017, my mom told him that if anything happens back home, he should stay on the trail. She never said that to me, but the words stuck with me. When I arrived in Hot Springs after several days in a cell phone dead zone, I discovered that my grandfather had passed away. She flat out told me that I shouldn’t get off the trail, that my grandpa would have wanted me to keep hiking. Logistically, I couldn’t have gotten from North Carolina to Wisconsin in time. I know all the facts, but it still eats at me.
My worst day on the AT, the day I nearly quit, was a dull, rainy, chilly day in southern Virginia. Other than the people I’d shared a shelter with the night before, I didn’t see a soul. This came just a few days after I’d been left behind by some folks I had been hiking with.
Luckily, I remembered a piece of advice that I now apply to every aspect of my life: don’t quit on a bad day. Instead, I hitched into Bland, splurged on a motel room and tons of pizza, and called my parents.
When I did the AT, there were almost always people around. I started with the bubble and stayed just ahead of it most of my hike. But on the PCT, I’m doing a non-traditional hike. I’m flip-flopping starting in Ashland. It’s likely that sobos won’t be that far south yet, and nobos won’t be that far north for a little while longer. I’m fully prepared to not see many, or any, people for stretches at a time. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t scare me, though.
I’ve got a strong support system and I’d like to think that thanks to my introverted nature, I’m more able to handle loneliness, but thoughts of missing more life events and long, lonely nights do tend to creep into my thoughts when I’m feeling particularly nervous.
Oh, also spiders. I can’t stand spiders.
Photo courtesy of Dreamstime
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I’m packin’ two guns! “Walker” and “Texas Ranger” . Seriously though, guns are the problem. I’ll just leave it at that.
To alleviate any confusion please know that the comment system of this website deleted the note on my previous comment about “Walker” and “Texas Ranger” being my left and right arms.