For years I have wanted to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT for short). I kept putting it off for a thousand different reasons. I finally decided 2020 would be my year. I turn 30 in May, so what better way to celebrate and finally do something I have wanted for so long. Sadly I do not have enough time off from work to do a full thru-hike (thru-hike: to hike the entire trail in one calendar year). Instead of once again putting it off for hopes of having more time in the future, I decided to go ahead and hike as far as I have time for. Depending on how things turn out, I will have roughly 108 days to hike over the summer.
I would rather hike some of the trail when I have the time then never get the chance to hike any of it. So approximately on May 9th-ish, I will leave to hike as far as possible before having to return to work in September. Whatever is left of the trail will then be hiked in the future whenever I can. Even if it is just a few miles here and there over long weekends or breaks. I will slowly but surely complete the entire trail, no matter how long it takes me.
There have been so many people who have called me crazy or flat out said I would never make it. Who knows, maybe I won’t make it, but how will I ever know if I never try? I will not let the doubters keep me from attempting my dream. There are a lot of reasons people don’t complete the trail: injuries, family obligations, finances, decide trail life is not for them, etc… These are only a few of the bigger reasons but everyone has their reasons to hike and their reasons to stop.
Besides dreaming of hiking the AT for years, I have a few other reasons to help keep me going. My life has not gone according to my original plans of getting a career, getting married and starting a family and everything else people want in life. I let my health problems, depression, and many other things destroy my life. I never started that career and along with turning 30 this year, my divorce will also be finalized. Not exactly where I saw myself at age 30. I have been slowly trying to figure out this new life path I am on. It is very rocky and I have no idea what the future holds, but one thing that has remained is my love of hiking and dreams of the AT. So this summer I will take an adventure and walk hundreds of miles on a beautiful trail to gain a new perspective of life and hopefully find some much needed peace.
The thing about wanting to hike long distances for months is you have to plan accordingly (not exactly more strong suit). Many people don’t think about the difficulties you face before even getting out on the trail. For one thing, hiking the AT is actually rather expensive. How expensive can living in the woods for months be? Very expensive indeed. Just because I will be living on the trail over the summer does not mean I get to stop paying my bills at home. I will not be making any income on the trail, however rent for my apartment will still be due on the first of the month, car insurance, phone bills, student loans, and all other bills are still due regardless of where I am. Then there is all the gear, food and other resources needed along the way. Needless to say, I have been trying to save up for this for a long time.
The proper gear is incredibly important and an expensive investment. Without the right gear you are setting yourself up for failure. I have been trying to buy as much of my gear on sales from REI as I possibly can. I highly recommend using REI for your hiking and camping needs (they also have other outdoor sports equipment as well). REI has an incredible return policy for all of their stuff. I have already bought and returned two pairs of hiking shoes because I can’t find the right ones for me. As long as the tread is still good, you can return them up to a year. As I am slowly testing out my gear I am able to return any of it for up to a year. This really helps make sure you find exactly what you need. They also offer some really great sales throughout the year.
I have been slowly buying my gear over the past year. Tent, sleeping bag, sleep pad, clothes, etc… There is a lot of thought and research that goes into gear purchases. The weight of the items is incredibly important. You have to fit everything into your backpack and carry it for X-miles over a few months. Every ounce of an item really adds up. The lighter the gear, the more expensive it is too. So I have been trying to find a balance with price and weight of my gear. I can’t afford the top of the line, the lightest gear possible but I am trying to cut weight were I can.
I have already been called crazy for wanting to bring my Cannon XS on the trail. I love photography and if I am going to be walking the trail, I am bringing my camera. Yes, it will be a heavier base weight for my pack, but I am willing to do it. I want to really experience the trail, I don’t want to rush miles just to have the highest mileage per day. Maybe if I was doing a full thruhike I would feel differently, but since I won’t be able to, I want to take in all the views and really experience everything. For me, this means bringing my camera and taking photographs along the way. There is a term on the trail called ‘Hike Your Own Hike.’. That is exactly what I plan to do. I will hike my own hike with my camera and hopefully have some awesome pictures to show people when I get back.
I am honestly not worried about the hiking part of the trail. It is the camping I am worried about. I love to hiking. I enjoy camping but I am what you would consider an amateur. So while I will be training for the hiking aspect, I will definitely be practicing my camping skills more. Practicing speed setting up/taking down my tent so when it is pouring I can do it in as little time as possible. Practicing using my camp stove and water filtration techniques.
Once I dial in all of my gear, I plan on writing a gear blog. I will explain everything I chose and why. It will not only be a good way to share with everyone, but also a good way for me to compile everything to see if I missed anything or could cut some things.
Also over the next few months some blogs will be about my training for the AT. I will be doing various practice hikes with and without gear to get myself more in trail shape. I will write about how things went and what I learned.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.~Still debated who actually said this.
(Regardless of who actually said this, it resonates with my goals)