what scares me about thru-hiking the AT

I’m pretty clear on why I want to hike the Appalachian Trail. Thinking about those things makes me excited. But I also think it’s useful to acknowledge the shadow side of things. Not to dwell on or worry over, just to go forward clear-eyed. So in that spirit, some things I’m worried about on our thru-hike:

Getting injured. I’ve been committing mentally to this thing for more than a year now—I don’t think I’m going to leave the trail for a psychological reason. So I’m most worried about having an accident or getting a hike-ending injury. And I’m most worried about my knees. This worry is mostly outside of my control, but I’m doing what I can now to prepare. I’ve seen a physical therapist recently who gave me a bunch of strengthening exercises to do and scraped out some old scar tissue so I can start as strong as possible. Other than that, I’ll just have to be careful.

Being a homeless homebody. I’m not a recluse, but I do really like being cozy and comfy and at home. I also really like backpacking. Up to this point, all of my backpacking trips have come to a quick end. The car was only a day or two’s hike away, and once we got there we’d go home and shower and put on clean clothes and eat good food and relax. It will be interesting to see how such a long trip is for me. I hope I can feel “at home” being out in the world with thin walls.

Bugs. I think I can handle the rain, but I’m pretty sure bugs will make me really grumpy. I hope to have acquired some significant hiker zen by the time they’re a real problem.

Cramps. I spend one long night each month curled around the heating pad on the bathroom floor, getting up every now and then to throw up. And then one or two days where getting off the couch for anything at all just seems like too much to ask. Those days are tough, every time, even with all my splendid comforts. I can’t imagine how they’ll be when there’s no heating pad, hot showers, or episodes of Radiolab to get me through. I’m just trying not to think about it right now.

Hitchhiking. I am so glad Eric is coming with me. Because he’s a lovely person to spend time with and our marriage will get stronger and all that. But mostly because I’m terrified of both trying to get into stranger’s cars and getting fussed at by the police for it.

My yoga practice. I don’t expect I’ll be able or want to keep up my current regime of doing yoga five or six days a week while I’m hiking. And that is a little nerve wracking. Yoga, and doing it really often, is a huge part of my identity. I haven’t not done yoga in nearly a decade—what will I be without it? And what will I feel like? What will my body do? Will I lose all the length I’ve so carefully eeked out of my hamstrings over the last eight years? But of course I’m only talking about asana. So yes, the five months I spend on the trail will not be my time to nail handstand or get my foot behind my head. But the trail is actually the perfect place to practice all the rest of yoga—meditation, emotional flexibility, mindfulness, inquiry.

Not too bad. Not too scary. And it’s nice to have it all out in the light, so to speak.

5 thoughts on “what scares me about thru-hiking the AT

  1. I can relate to a lot of what you wrote here! My right knee is troublesome, but I’ve also been doing strength exercises and experimenting with braces. I also have at least one day of HORRIBLE cramps. I’m going to either have to take a zero or nearo in the woods on those days or see if prescription strength ibprofen works. And, I also practice yoga, not as often as you do though. I plan on working in about 20 mins a day of yoga at lunch breaks. A little every day is better than nothing is how I’m looking at it. My husbands name is also Eric 😮 and I’m so happy him and I are hiking together!

  2. Gede Prama says:

    Thank you friend for sharing this article quite interesting, hopefully we all get real happiness yamg rays began to warm our hearts and make the heart glad, when we can share it with sincere to each other. Affectionate greetings from Gede Prama 🙂 🙂

  3. Great post! I’m worried about my knees as well. If you’re open to wearing braces look up cho-pat dual action knee brace. That’s the kind I plan on wearing, I’ve read so many great hiker reviews, and from my tests, they feel wonderful.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion—since I know what muscle weaknesses are causing my knee pain, I’m going to try to work hard to strengthen and hike without braces. Maybe some tape for rough days. But if that doesn’t work out, I’ll keep those in mind 🙂

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