Why Would You Ever Want to Hike Over 2,000 Miles?
As I have been preparing for my hike from Georgia to Maine, I have received the question of, “What in the world would make you want to do that?” more than any other question.
Let’s Throw It Back to 2018
To understand why I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT), you have to understand how I found out about the AT.
The summer after my freshman year of college, I got a job working for a non-profit in Harlan County, Kentucky. Harlan County is in the heart of Appalachia, and for the first time I was in an environment that at first felt very different than my own.
However, in no time at all, I found myself feeling more at home among the trees listening to Bluegrass music than I had in my college life that was nonstop meetings and classes. Working in the mountains showed me a way of life that prioritizes human connection and tranquility while perfectly balancing that simplicity with never ending adventure.
One afternoon, a man came by the organization I was working for to drop off some donations. In the array of items he brought, I found an old file cabinet that was covered in bumper stickers, and one of the stickers was a vintage AT sticker.
The man ended up sharing stories of the glory of the trail, and my coworkers went on to talk about the importance of the trail and of their own personal desires to hike it. It got my mind reeling, but summer soon faded.
I left that summer on a mountain high, and when I got back to college the busyness of life soon picked back up. In all the back-to-school festivities, I took a “little” in my sorority (a little is a younger member you mentor). One of my first conversations with my little was about the Appalachian Trail as she had always dreamed of hiking it. Coincidence? I think not. (She’s hiking it with me this season)
Now Bring It Back
Fast forward, and I’m nearing graduation. I had to start thinking about what post-grad life was going to look like. As I was trying to make that decision, the world was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. This made me realize that globetrotting in Europe after graduation might be off the table (I knew I wanted a gap year of some sort).
Everyone experienced the pandemic differently, and my experience was mentally taxing. I struggled with depression in high school, and COVID-19 threw me back to dark places I thought I’d left. It was a season of life that made me feel like there was no light left to see.
As the world began to open again, I decided to go back to the place that had been so restorative for me in the past – the woods. I started hiking six days a week and attending class from trails. Some of my classes I had to have my camera on, and it became a joke that I would undoubtedly be attending class with a Zoom background that was too realistic to be just a background.
It was in this time of nonstop hiking that I started to seriously consider this crazy idea of walking all 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail. If you’re someone who hikes, you know that spending a lot of time in thought outside gives clarity that isn’t found indoors. It was in this unadulterated time in the woods that I said to myself: why not?
Although I know the AT is not for the faint of heart and will indisputably present me with challenge after challenge, I also know that an experience such as thru hiking has the power to mold me into the best version of myself.
When people ask me why I’m hiking the AT my answer isn’t always the same because there are so many layers to why I’m hiking (like Shrek and his onion analogy). I want to prove to myself that I can overcome anything. I want to show that even when life takes you to a low place there are always heights worth seeking, and I want to have the adventure of a lifetime.
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“I want to prove to myself that I can overcome anything. I want to show that even when life takes you to a low place there are always heights worth seeking, and I want to have the adventure of a lifetime. ” <3