About the Author: Pat-Rice Z is a Jersey girl who has relocated to the DC area. She is a 2019 AT Thru-Hike hopeful who is considering going NOBO or leapfrogging, however the adventure unfolds. You can find her on Instagram @halfway_to_the_sky.

I just recently bought the book, “Appalachian Trials: A Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail” by Zach Davis. I have heard a lot of good reviews about this book because it details how to get your mind in the game while on the trail and how to cope post the trail. Getting your mind in the game. Yes. I need this. I grew up in the mid-Atlantic states and I am no stranger to our wet, cold, humid weather. Can it rain straight for 2 weeks? Yes. Will the mundane waking up every day just to walk in a green tunnel get old? Yes. Successfully thru-hiking the AT is a huge mental game. But in all honesty, it has been such a struggle just to get to the trail.

I got the great idea to hike the AT when I was 12 after I read a preteen novel entitled, “Halfway to the Sky.” It was about a rebellious young teen who runs away to the trail for comfort. It gave me the idea, I want to hike the Appalachian Trail. Then I told my mom and she was like, I want to do that! Then I told my dad and he was like, I want to do that! And that is where it ended, maybe…one day…. None of us ever thought that we would actually strap on a backpack and start this 6 month walk until I changed everything. This time two years ago, I made the decision that I was going to hike the Appalachian Trail.

At first everyone in my family gave me words of encouragement, “that is great! You can do it!” But as the time ticked on, and me hiking the AT became more real, everyone’s tune began to change.
My boyfriend was never a fan of me hiking in the woods. His first reaction was, “why would you leave me? I will be lonely.” When I finally got through to him that there actually is phone reception on the majority of the trail his later reactions turned less selfish and more protective, “I don’t like the idea of you hiking alone in the woods where people could hurt you.” So, I then started introducing him to how great and safe the trail and can be, the interesting people you meet, the mountain views you find, the Trail Angels who come your way. His latest argument is now, “Your head is in the clouds, you think everything is so great, you aren’t thinking realistically, it won’t be all great!” Sigh, it seems that I just cannot win. No matter how I try, my video game junkie of a boyfriend will never understand what hiking the trail means to me. But surely my family does, right? They shared the dream with me at one time!
I am now 60 days away from stepping on the Approach Trail at Amicalola and the once supportive platform my family held is now cracking. My dad used to pay attention to all the sales at REI, he was the one who sat in the backyard with me trying out different stoves. His conversation with me the other day? “This is not a smart financial decision, this is not a smart career move, you could die, you need a will.” A will?  Yes, my father instructed me that I needed to make a will, in the very rare chance that I die. Great. My mother? She is beside herself. I have had to lie about this “group” that I am meeting while down there. “No Mom, I am not hiking the Appalachian Trail alone, “ I have to tell her. The reality? I am starting “solo.” Who knows? I might meet people right away and I will have a Tramily before I leave Georgia. But for now, I am relying on me, myself and I. My sister also texted me the other day, “I do think that you’re taking a big risk and it’s one I wouldn’t want to take myself. As someone who loves you, I feel like it is my duty to make sure that you’ve thought things through and realize the risk.” Risk. That is all people remind me of, as if I didn’t have a creative enough mind to think about it already. Everyone approaches me and reminds me of risk, as if they are the first person to do so and it is so important that they do because no one else has done it before and it needs to be done.
At the end of the day, I am a woman. As much as I thought we lived in 2019 where women are strong, independent, and fearless; we are still told to check behind our shoulders and to fear dark parking lots. The other day I called my dad to tell him I got new license plates and his response was to install them the next day because it was already dark out and someone could come and attack me while I was preoccupied. My family does not trust other people. My family does not trust that I will be okay.  Not only am I beyond frustrated, I am also beyond anxious. Their fear mongering has done exactly that, installed a lot of fear in me. But I don’t care, I am still going, why? Because I am a very capable woman. I have a Masters degree, I studied abroad when I was 19, I’ve backpacked across Europe with absolutely no agenda and I survived over 10 hostels. I have been to the top of one of the 46 Adirondack peaks in a thunder storm, I’ve made my way out of the Palisades in New Jersey in the pitch darkness, I can read a map, I have an incredibly good sense of direction and my gut never lies. It was once an unusual sight to see a woman walking alone in the woods, let’s change that. No, I cannot guarantee my safety, but I will not go through life thinking what if. I have calculated my risks and I understand the consequences. Starting early April 2019, I’ll be hiking north from Georgia. Happy Trails.