In the words of Bilbo Baggins, “I’m going on an adventure!” A GREAT adventure, in fact. I’m going to hike the AT!!
In case you’re unfamiliar, this means I’m embarking on a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, a 2,190-mile hiking trail along the Appalachian mountain range in the eastern U.S. The dreamer and adventure seeker deep in my soul has won out over the more practical, career-oriented version of me for the time being, and barring injury, illness or insanity, I will literally spend the next six months journeying on foot from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine with everything I need on my back.
For the last six and a half years, I’ve been settled down in our nation’s bustling capital, working on my career, spending my days in a cubicle and regularly staring dreamily out the window. I’ve adapted to (and come to really like, if not love) city life, which was mostly foreign to me when I arrived here. (WOW that seems like a lifetime ago). I earned a master’s degree, survived three and a half years at a fast-paced public relations agency, worked to save the environment at two influential non-profits, met my childhood celebrity crush, formed deep friendships with some incredible people, and created some truly amazing memories. It’s been a productive and engaging few years, and I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had these experiences and build up my resume. Working at WWF has been a dream come true, and I’ll truly be sad to leave (I literally cried for 20 minutes in my boss’s office when I told him I was leaving). But I feel in my bones that it’s time to move on from D.C. (shall we blame the seven year itch?), and what better way to do so than to chase a dream and have an adventure?
So, I’ll soon be off to reacquaint myself with dirt and sunshine, the buzz and chirp of the forest, and of being wild and free.
Yes, I am serious.
A few of you have already had questions, so I’ve decided to create a little “frequently asked questions” section here to help you all understand what this will entail.
Q: Are you going to hike the entire thing?
A: I’m going to try!
Q: Why would you want to hike from Georgia to Maine?
A: For the adventure, of course! You only live once, and I (and my joints) am not getting any younger.
Q: Will you be in the woods the entire time?
A: I will hit a town about once a week (the East Coast “wilderness” often isn’t that remote), so that is when I’ll be able to resupply food, shower (yes, I’ll only be doing this once a week…), do laundry, call home, etc.
Q: How long will it take you to thru-hike?
A: About six months.
Q: What about your job?
A: I’ve made the difficult decision to leave my (great) job because I feel strongly that it’s time I move on from D.C. I’ve had in the back of my mind for a long time that I would take on this adventure when I was ready to go, so here I am.
Q: What about your apartment?
A: I’ve been on a month-to-month lease and have given my landlord (and my wonderful roommates) notice that I’ll be moving out. My home for the foreseeable future will be the trail. I’ll find a new place to live when I’m finished.
Q: Are you going alone?
A: No, I’m going with a friend from college study abroad. Her name is Natalie and she’s awesome. We spent three months living in tents in a rainforest in Madagascar together back in 2005 and still liked each other by the end, so I think our chances of staying together are pretty good.
Q: Are you taking a gun?
A: No. Gun laws vary by state and legally taking a gun through 14 states is next to impossible. I’ve been told the trail is very safe and the community looks out for one another. I’m excited to experience said community. It’s one of the things I’m looking forward to the most (aside from the endless amounts of natural light and the expected flow of endorphins from working my body to the max every day).
Q: Are you afraid?
A: Of course I’m afraid! I’m getting out of my comfort zone and don’t know what each day will bring. Maybe I’ll hate it (I don’t think I will). Maybe I’ll never find another job (I really hope that’s not the case). I’m sure there will be nights when my brain turns mice into bears and the wind into murderers. It’s new and it’s scary. I’m probably (definitely) not going to love every second or every day. But I don’t think that’s a reason not to do it. I can’t let fear rule my life (and neither should you). Also, I’m considering buying a pair of ear plugs.
Q: Will you take any breaks?
A: Yes, aside from short trips into trail towns for resupply, I’m also planning a couple of quick stops for a music festival and a wine festival (it might sound silly, but it’s my favorite event of the year and will be my 10th one so I can’t miss that!).
Q: Will you have your cell phone?
A: Yes, but I won’t always have service or battery life. (I have an external battery to charge it while I’m out there).
Q: Are you going to cut your hair before going?
A: No way! I love my long hair. 😊 My hiking partner might shave her head though.
Q: What will you eat on the trail?
A: Backpacker food! Lightweight, high calorie goodies like oatmeal, granola bars, protein bars, dried fruit, trail mix, tortillas, Nutella, peanut butter, instant mashed potatoes, ramen, rice and beans, candy bars, mini pies, Little Debbie’s snacks, and the like.
Q: Will you be blogging about your journey?
A: Yes! You can follow along on my adventures on The Trek. I will also occasionally post here, but not as often – The Trek will be my primary writing outlet. I will also be vlogging (video blogging) so please visit my Youtube Channel and subscribe! And of course, you can follow me on Instagram for more frequent updates and glimpses into trail life.
Q: Can I do anything to support you during your hike?
A: Of course! Words of encouragement are ALWAYS welcome! I’m sure there will be dark times and cold days of slogging through rain and mud ahead when I’ll wonder why I left my comfortable life (and bed) behind. Kind words at those times and others will be so important and helpful. In return, I promise to share lots of stories and photos and to be as honest as I can about the journey.
A few kind people have asked if they can send me a care package or a letter. It’s a bit tricky, but it can be done. Here’s a helpful article on what makes a good on-trail care package and another here. Lightness is key (and ignore the jerky part – I’m a vegetarian). Here’s a helpful article on how and where to send it. You’d of course have to let me know in advance so I know to check at the post office!
And if you want to donate to my gear replacement fund (the typical thru-hiker goes through four to five pairs of shoes on trail, among other gear replacements), that would of course be completely unexpected but very much appreciated! Even better – meet me for a hot meal or a cold beer in a trail town if you happen to live nearby the trail (and please let me use your shower).
Q: Will you send me a postcard from the trail?
A: Sure! Send me your address and I’ll do my best!
Q: What will you do after the AT?
A: Re-enter the workforce, of course! I’m taking a break from convention for a while, not leaving the modern world behind for good. A girl’s gotta eat (and thrive), ya know? I’m eyeing Colorado – the mountains are calling.