Thru-Hiking the AT: What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

Inside My Decision to Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail

Hey there! Sam here. I’ll be starting my NOBO thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in April 2021.

When I share my plans with family and friends, I’m met with one of the following reactions (sometimes if I’m really lucky, I’ll get both): 1) people are very impressed; 2) people have absolutely no clue what would possess me to voluntarily do this.

Of course, these reactions spark the inevitable thoughts of, Oh, my gosh, am I actually doing this? Or, What have I gotten myself into? These are the questions I’ve been asking myself for eight months now.

So, what the heck am I doing, planning on living in the woods for six months?

Before I go on, there are a couple things you should know about me. I had never been backpacking prior to making the decision to thru-hike. The first time I entertained the idea of backpacking at all was when I read Wild for the first time (original, I know). So, my dreams of being a badass hiker chick have been simmering for about five years now.

No one who has ever met me would describe me as “outdoorsy.” The notion that I’ll be living outside for an extended period of time seems pretty bananas, even to me.

Why a Thru-Hike

After the initial shock of discovering that I’m dead serious about this whole adventure, people usually follow-up with, “Why not try a shorter trip first?”

For me, it’s mostly timing. Being able to drop everything and go sleep in a hammock in the woods for six months isn’t something that people can just do. You have to make it happen. I’m thru-hiking because I’ve been hooked on the idea for years, and I’m finally at a point in my life where it’s feasible.

Why the AT

I chose the AT for two main reasons: logistics and the social scene.

A thru-hike won’t be easy. The AT most definitely won’t be easy. It’s my hope that the notoriously welcoming Trail community will ease my nerves and homesickness, and the Trail’s proximity to civilization will mitigate my discomfort to the largest extent possible.

My Hopes, Dreams, and Fears

My most formative moments of growth have happened when I’m doing something outside of my comfort zone, and I sincerely think that this experience will teach me things about myself, and others, that I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to learn.

Of course, I’m freaked out about plenty of stuff, too. At the top of my list of concerns is Covid-19 and what the outlook will be come April.

I’m also very aware of the physical and mental challenges that the trail will present, but I’m not doing this in spite of those challenges; I’m doing this because of those challenges.

The unknowns are what give me pause. The unknowns of the trail, yes, but mostly the unknown facts of what my post-trail life will look like. We try to quell our fear of the unknown by making plans, but right now, the only plans I’m prepared to make involve reserving a room at Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge for April.

I hope you’ll join me as I embark on the journey of a lifetime!

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