Hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) is something that has interested me for about a decade now. Well, let me rephrase.. thru-hiking, in general, is something I’ve wanted to do. I was first inspired to do something like this when I learned about the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which is the west coast equivalent to the AT. Before you start to think I’m crazy, I have put a lot of thought into this and I fully understand what I will be getting myself into. Live in the wilderness for six months with only the materials you can carry on your back? Hell yes, sign me up.
I am at a point in my life where I am constantly seeking personal growth and a new challenge. The AT will help me grow mentally, physically, spiritually, and so on. Probably the only way it won’t improve my life is financially. The trail can end up being pricey, especially considering the six-month vacation I will need to take from work and a steady income. At this point, I feel the pros outweigh the cons.
Why I Am Going to Thru-Hike
I am currently in the process of reading Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis as a way to prepare. I promise not to give any major spoilers, but this is basically a book to prepare you mentally for what’s to come on the trail. Most people assume that the AT is strictly physical, however, a majority of thru-hikers throw in the towel because they weren’t mentally ready to face the trail. So far, this book is setting me up for mental success. It asks you to take time to reflect on why you are doing the hike, how you’ll feel when you finish, and how you’d feel if you don’t make it to the end. The idea is to really dig deep and understand these aspects so that when things get tough, you don’t bow out. Rather, you remember why you are there in the first place.
In the book, Davis recommends making lists to identify the reasons you are looking to thru-hike, and how you’ll feel when you finish. I’ve decided, as a form of accountability for myself, to make my lists public. It is possible I still may fail. My intentions in doing this pre-trail mental preparation is one of many attempts I am making to prevent failure.
Five Reasons I am Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail
1. I Need a Major Change
When I originally decided to commit to this six-month-long adventure, I was stuck in a high-stress job with no work/life balance. Each and every day I would wake up dreading what was in store and I desperately needed to re-evaluate my life. In preparation for this transitional period, I resigned from my role as Regional Manager for a large franchise. At some point, I decided that happiness is more important than money and decided to trade in my manager hat for some trekking poles. Since then, I have been just working random jobs here and there to save up enough to hit the trail.
2. I am Seeking Personal Growth
I am at a point where I feel like I have plateaued. Thru-hiking the Appalachian trail will challenge me in more ways than I can even begin to prepare for and that is exactly what I need. Feeling stagnant causes me anxiety and I know it is time to shake things up. Among other things, the AT will help me grow mentally and physically. I also know that when I complete the 2,200 miles, I will feel empowered and unstoppable which will help me be successful in my future career/educational goals.
3. I Want a Physical Transformation
For as long as I can remember, I have always struggled with my weight fluctuating between “average” and overweight. I was a chubby kid growing up and slimmed down towards high school, thanks to sports. After graduating, I gained sixty pounds and from that point, lost and gained that same sixty pounds up until now. I have a hard time motivating myself but have slowly tried to make changes in my life to be healthier. This feat is a perfect way for me to kick my fitness goals into gear. On the AT, I will be burning on average 5,000 calories per day which over the span of my trek from GA to ME, should result in some weight loss.
4. It is Time for an Adventure
Who doesn’t want to live an adventurous life? If this is you, maybe you’re reading the wrong blog. To accomplish something as crazy as thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail would be beyond amazing. Even as my countdown to the AT is only nine weeks, it doesn’t feel real that I’m really going. I have worked extremely hard over the past 10 years and feel that this “break” is well deserved. I know that most people would not have the opportunity so I will not take this for granted.
5. The Trail Aligns With My Passions
As an aspiring sustainable studies major, living off what I can carry on my back for six months is right up my alley. Humans can be wasteful. It is as simple as that. The planet can not continue to sustain itself at the rate we are taking advantage of recourses and producing waste. The trail is a great way to prove to myself that we don’t really need all the things society tells us we do. My hope is to come back to begin a more minimalist lifestyle post-trail.
Follow Me on my Thru-Hike Journey
I will be hitting the trail on February 9, 2021. My family is going to be driving me to Amicalola Lodge in GA. This is an extremely common starting point. I plan to enjoy my “last meal” at the famous breakfast buffet before taking off. From here, I will hike 8 miles to the approach trail, and then the journey beings. I plan to write about my adventure as often as possible and update on my blog, Instagram, and I may even dabble in TikTok. Stay tuned, the eight week countdown to the Appalachian Trail begins NOW.