This article originally appeared on my trail blog for The Trek which you can read here
The Appalachian Trail is more than just a physical challenge, a great majority of it is actually a mental undertaking. What makes a person successfully walk 2,200 miles through the rain, over mountainous terrain, sleeping in unfordable conditions, with a probable injury and in the company of only themselves most of the day? The short answer to this would be a strong mentality behind completing the trail. In 2017 the Appalachian Trail Conservancy reported that 19% of people who attempted a northbound thru hike were successful. See statistics on AT thru hiker completions here.
In preparation for my journey I have read the book Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis, the owner and editor-in-chief of the website theTrek.co. This book discusses the psychological and emotional aspects of successfully thru hiking the entire AT. The book helps you mentally prepare by guiding you through exercises that will help you before, after, and during your thru hike. These exercises include the making of three lists. I am making my three lists public so you can know the answer to why I am hiking the trail. The first two are fun to read, the last one, not so much.
I am thru hiking the Appalachian Trail because …
– I will never stop thinking about it if I don’t
– Now is an opportune time in my life to do so, if not now then when?
– I want to experience a long term solo journey while also challenging my mind and body
– I want to become more confident in myself and decision making skills
– I want to experience this historical trail and it’s culture before the opportunity to do so is limited and the nature of the trail is compromised
When I successfully hike the Appalachian Trail I will…
– Have achieved the hardest thing I have ever tried to accomplish
– Feel as if I can accomplish any goal I put my mind to
– Have lots of stories to share, memories to treasure, and experience to rely on
– Have turned my body into a lean hiking machine
– Have no regrets
– See life in a new perspective
If I give up on the Appalachian Trail I will…
– Be disappointed in myself and feel that it is okay to settle in other aspects of my life
– Have to explain my failure to others
– Live with the fact that I had an incredible opportunity to achieve a life goal and I gave up on it
– Feel embarrassed and ashamed
I know that there will be many days where I will think about quitting. The purpose of making these lists in advance and also making them public is first to remind myself why I want to accomplish my goal and second holding myself accountable. If you are reading this and are someone I may potentially be calling from the trail telling you I want to quit, please remind me to look at these lists again and why I am doing this.