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I realized early into preparing for the AT that I needed to get my mental state in check if I wanted to make it to the trail. I also needed to keep that mental state in check if I were going to finish the trail. In all the books I have read and all the REI Thru-Hiker Presentations that I have attended, there is one common theme between them all: The AT is a serious mental/emotional challenge. Many people claim that the mental challenge of the AT is the main reason why people quit short of their goal, so I decided to critically look at my life, what I take for granted, and how I respond to discomfort to see how I would fair.


One of the first things I did was check out how many hours a day I spent on my smart phone. My typical day went as follows: wake up and look at phone, go to the bathroom and look at phone, get ready for work and look at phone while waiting for the elevator, work and look at phone at lunch, look at phone while walking to my car from work, coming home and looking at my phone the rest of the night right up to when I went to bed. Geez when did I turn into such a technology dependent millennial? Seven years ago I did not even have a smart phone yet I had turned into a person who woke up and went to bed looking at my phone. My phone has the ability to record screen time and calculate how much time is dedicated to each app. I was averaging 3 hours and 45 minutes a day or more. Ewwww, whenever I was bored or frustrated, upset or just needing to pass the time, my phone was my go-to.

Well, a phone is pretty useless in the wild except for taking pictures. You cannot scroll through a feed when trying to not trip over a rock and fall down a mountain. It also rains a lot and well technology is not very suited for water damage….then again…maybe useless was a strong word, I have found many features helpful. There is a light for when I miscalculated the sunset and am stuck scrambling rocks in the dark (true story twice). A compass (yes there is a compass – I cannot attest to its accuracy). And lastly, the AT is actually plotted on Google Maps, I used this feature multiple times when walking with friends for day hikes and we wanted to see where we were. But all in all, your skills should never rely on a piece of technology that can break and better yet run out of battery. I decided that I wanted to cut my dependence on technology prior to hiking the AT and only use my phone for emergencies such as calling emergency services or a shuttle to town.
I put restrictions on all of my social media apps and set up a “bed time.” I now can only use social media for 30 min a day and I cannot access most apps between 10pm-7am. So far, my screen time is averaging 1 hour and 36 min. Still not where I want to be however it is a lot lower than before. Magically I have more time for other things including AT prep (go figure). While hiking the AT, I want to be in the moment and not feel the pull to whip out my phone whenever I am sitting down for a break. I also do not want to feel phone withdrawal out on the trail while I am also feeling the withdrawal from family, friends, a warm apartment, a comfy bed and an accessible shower.


Back in November I had this crazy idea that I needed to adjust to the cold and be used to being cold so that my hiking experience would be more enjoyable. I hate being cold and instantly reach for a blanket or jacket when I feel a slight chill. I decided that I was going to bundle up every day and drive to work without heat. I have to laugh now because that lasted a total of 3 days before I called it quits. I also decided that I needed to get used to not showering every day, not shaving, and wearing repeat smelly sweaty clothes (my boyfriend really appreciated this idea of mine). Well, I have found that I can stand my greasy disgusting hair for 3 days before I need to jump in the shower but yes, I am back to showering everyday why? Because I am not sure that that matters now, plus, I have to go to work at my real job and actually look like a professional. For some people this might sound gross, but I love not shaving. I simply do not care. The only person to make fun of my furry legs and arm pits was my mother. She now refers to me as a wild woman. But it is winter now and no one other than me really knows this life change.

Side note: This reminds me of a funny story, my cousins live in Duncannon which is a small town that the AT actually runs through (if you have walked the entire trail as a purist then you absolutely walked in front of their house because there is a white blaze next to the mail box). The resupply point in Duncannon is often Mutzabaugh’s Family Market and one day while visiting when I was 12, my cousins and I went to the grocery store and met a bunch of hikers outside. It was a small group of 4-5 men and 1 woman. Her legs looked exactly like the men’s! As a pre-pubescent 12-year-old I thought her legs looked so funny! Interesting how I now choose this life. HA!
Okay back to the prep. I do wear my work out clothes repeatedly for 3-5 days. Why? I just figure that if I can get used to being a little uncomfortable then maybe I will be able to adjust to the discomforts of trail life a little quicker. Now digging a cat hole and pooping in the woods? I’m not there yet.
During the next month of prep I really do intend to take long walks in the rain and take long walks in the rain while wearing my glasses (my vision choice for the trail). This is also a way for me to see how my gear works and if I need to upgrade or make some adjustments. I have been “taking my back pack for a walk” as I call it, which is me walking up and down the 18 flights of stairs at my apartment complex or walking the treadmill late at night or very early on Saturdays, so I do not get too many weird looks. I am trying to mentally prepare my mind for the long strenuous days with a heavy pack and also physically prepare my body to carry the load. As of now, my right posterior deltoid is sore (I have no idea why) and my clavicles are bruised. I am learning how to properly adjust my pack but in general there will be more soreness from day to day. While hiking you push through the soreness, I have never had to do this for 6 months straight. Can I mentally put myself through this discomfort? I guess we will find out.


In this day and age of technology there are a ton of helpful resources for people preparing for a long-distance hiking trip like the Appalachian Trail or any other physical feat. I have really enjoyed watching Dixie from Homemade Wanderlust on YouTube. Whenever I become a little defeated, I bring up her earlier videos from the AT and feel inspired again. She is now a Triple Crowner (a thru-hiker who has accomplished the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail) and has a multitude of helpful how-to videos. I find her to be unbiased and honest, plus she is a badass woman.

I also recently picked up a small yellow book by Zach Davis, “Appalachian Trials: A Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail.” It is a handy little book that is pretty popular among hikers. I would recommend for AT hopefuls to borrow one from a friend, find it on Amazon for new or used, or take it out at the library for a look. He speaks a philosophy that I agree with, so it is my latest homework to try to get mentally in-shape for the trail. He recommends for people to physically write down why they are hiking the AT, what they want to get out of it, and what they would do instead if they quit as a way to organize one’s thoughts and also to use as a motivator on tough days. My lists are long for each category, but I would like to share the highlights of my reasonings.

Why I am hiking the Appalachian Trail

1. I always wanted to

2. I want to experience the Wild East

3. I will always regret this if I don’t even try

When I successfully hike the Appalachian Trail

1. I will have the confidence to enact the changes that need to happen in my life

2. I will have finally accomplished THE dream

3. I will have given myself the adventure of a lifetime with memories and friends for life

If I give up on the Appalachian Trail

1. I’ll be disappointed but mostly lost and have severe FOMO (fear of missing out)

2. I will have to look for a job sooner than expected

3. I will have lots of expensive gear that I might never use again

If you are seeking out resources to prepare for your hike either mentally or physically keep in mind that every person’s mind set is different. I have read advice from previous thru-hikers that I agree with and that I don’t agree with. I am not very head strong about reaching Katahdin in one 6 month thru-hike. A thru-hike is the plan however I just want to hike the AT. I want to experience the trail, I want to see the rolling hills of the south and experience the small-town charm, I want to walk into Duncannon and surprise my grandmother, I want to glimpse the vistas of New England, and yes I want to step foot on Katahdin. I know I will get there one day and hopefully it will be this September however if something happens and I have to come off the trail, I will not feel like a failure. Why put that on yourself? Any length of time spent on the AT is something to be proud of. Illness, disease, injury, and family trouble are somethings that cannot be avoided or planned for. I hope to summit Katahdin as a 26-year-old however I would also be okay with summitting as a retired 65-year-old too.
All in all, I have really enjoyed preparing for this trip. I love looking at reviews and selecting my gear. Gear purchases are like a mini Christmas every time. I love strapping on the pack to work on my physical game and them looking internally to work on my mental game. No, the AT will not be easy however there are enjoyable days and moments that take your breath away (cause if not, no one would hike it!). Hopefully the philosophy of “preparing for the worst and hoping for the best” is the strategy that successfully takes me from Georgia to Maine.