I've been reading as much as I can about anything and everything on the Appalachian Trail. I've read about the physical challenges, how to train, what to buy, what to eat, where to stay, how to get food, the best places to take awesome pictures, and how to not smell like a hobo (impossible).
One of the most important things that hikers tend to overlook is the mental aspect of the hike. Most thru hikers quit while still physically able; they are mentally done. And that makes sense. Being in the middle of the woods by yourself trying to dodge lightning while the frozen wind blows heavy drops of rain straight through your waterproof jacket and trying to ignore the rumbling in your stomach because all you have is peanuts and easy mac when you arrive drenched to the hole riddled shelter in another seven uphill miles isn't what people dream about when deciding to hike the AT. All the more reason to prepare for this inevitable scenario.
I'm currently reading Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis, a former thru hiker. He suggests answering a few questions before heading out on the trail because these are questions you will be asking yourself when you're out there. Writing them down and keeping them with you to remind yourself during the rough times may be the difference between quitting and carrying on. So here's my initial shot at it:
I am thru hiking the AT because...
- It is a physical challenge and I love competing, whether against myself or a five year old girl in a game of one on one, make it take it bball.
- I will get to hang out everyday with one of my best friends that I don't get to see nearly often enough.
- I wake up everyday with the possibility of seeing beautiful and natural and majestic scenery that can only be seen and appreciated by doing what I'm doing.
- I want to see a bear and a moose! Not too close up though...
- I will get in amazing shape by doing something so much better than running around in pointless circles.
- I will get to eat anything and everything I want all the time. Trying to eat 5,000 calories a day is another challenge I look forward to undertaking.
- I want to meet interesting people, hear their stories, and make some new friends in the process.
- I know that it's time for something new in my life.
- Going to an office and sitting for eight hours a day at a cubicle is much worse than the worse day hiking in the mountains.
- I love seeing and experiencing new things, and the AT will bring new and unexpected adventures everyday.
- The AT gives you total freedom.
When I successfully thru hike the AT, I will...
- Have a sense of accomplishment that will last forever and no one will be able to take away.
- Have stories that I will never get tired of telling, even if others may get tired of hearing...
- Know that there is no physical challenge I will not be able to conquer.
- Be more confident in all things because I've done something physically and mentally more challenging than most people have ever done.
- Know how to live with less.
- Not take seemingly simple and obvious things for granted, such as indoor plumbing and microwaves.
- Return to loved ones triumphant and proud.
- Put that shit on a resume.
- Have the freedom in my life and career to go and do anything, anywhere and feel really good about it. As loose as a life plan as I have right now, getting to Mt. Katahdin is my one set goal. As long as I reach that summit, even though I may have no idea what I'm going to do next, I will still feel like my life is on track.
If I give up on the AT, I will...
- Always look back and regret it. Always.
- Feel a sense of shame when seeing friends and family that I told I was hiking the entire trail even when they inevitable told me, "It was a good try. You did the best you could." Not good enough.
- Know that this is the first time that I failed to accomplish something that I really, really put my mind to.
- Want to try again, but this most like will be my one and only chance.
- Miss out on a lot of beautiful and awesome people, sights, sounds, and experiences.
- Still not have been to Maine.