The Five Most Common Questions I’ve Been Asked About Thru-Hiking the AT
Are you going alone?
After taking into account that this question usually (not always) stems more from safety concerns because I am a female than it does out of curiosity, I give benefit of the doubt to the asker and let them know that I will be going alone. After looking at their shocked face, I reassure them that I won’t be completely alone. Having the class of 2020 rerouted to the 2021 class as well as the already planned 2021 hikers, I believe that the trail will be a tad more crowded than in previous years. And for obvious reasons. And I let them know how excited I am that I will be able to meet new people and connect with them, and share a community that I will remember forever. I’m also excited to be alone in the wilderness as well. Having the ability to hike as I please without any obligations is something I look forward to, as well as meeting new people.
How long is it going to take?
This is a fun question because you get to inform the asker of the history of the trail and how it’s over 2100 miles long. Again, after another shocked face, you let them know that it’ll take about five to six months to complete, and yes that you will be walking the whole way. You get to let them know how you’ll resupply into cute trail towns, and how you’ll hitchhike into those said towns. You’ll get to tell them about all the junk you’ll eat along the way and how you might pay to stay at a hostel overnight or maybe just pay for a shower. I think back to how my father wanted me to become a teacher, and section hike it during two back to back summers. That is possible, however, it has never been in my plans. My plan has always been to finish the trail in one attempt. I feel like this is my perfect time. I am 27, a recent graduate with an MBA, at a job that I don’t love, so yes. This is the perfect chance to take a break from all aspects of life and head out on this adventure.
What about bears?
I answer this question with a smile on my face as I get to inform the asker that I am much more worried about other human beings than I am about wildlife. Yes, I believe that 99% of the people I will meet on the trail will be extremely nice and caring humans. However, I’m not naive. I have read about instances of creepy men pink blazing women on the trail. I’ve read about the weekend hikers saying and doing uncomfortable things to female hikers. And as a 27-year old female, I will definitely have to keep my head on a swivel and always be aware of my surroundings if I am going to enjoy my journey. But I will trust my gut and instincts. So, in reality, bears are the LEAST of my worries. And to answer the question, I am bringing bear spray and a bear canister. So I’ll be alright.
Have you done something like this before?
Nope! It’s not the easiest thing for someone to take half a year off to go hike in the woods. There’s a lot of life elements that need to be figured out. The planning process of this thru-hike attempt has been a long process for me. Sometimes, I get a little overwhelmed when I research all the different things I need or don’t need. But, the AT alumni have been so helpful and beneficial in my planning process, and I am extremely grateful to the online community that has formed from this trail. Also, if Grandma Gatewood can do it, so can I!
Why are you doing this?
Because I want to!
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A male doesn’t get asked if they’re hiking alone? Really?
I get asked these questions daily.