If you are interested in hiking the Appalachian Trail, or just want a peak into what life is like out there, then this one’s for you.
I had dreamt about thru-hiking the entire 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail for a long time. I had gotten it stuck in my head that *one day* I would hike it, but was always waiting for the perfect time. I was always waiting for a chance to take 6 months off work, waiting for enough money to be able hike for that long, waiting for a buddy who was as desperate as me to do this thing.
Waiting, waiting, waiting.
Until one day, I realized, my car was about to be paid off and I had just about enough in savings to be able to launch a frugal-style hike of the Appalachian Trail.
My boyfriend, and coworker, at the time had always talked about wanting to hike with me. Just as I was about to burst with excitement, I told him. It was time. I was going to put in my notice and start hiking the Appalachian Trail in March.
“What do you think? Will you go with me?!”
A couple things happened in that moment – my boyfriend stopped talking to me, literally gave me the silent treatment for the rest of my time in the state of Maine, and I realized what a terribly unhealthy relationship that was!
But I was determined, I stuck to my plan. I quit my job, bought a southbound train ticket to Georgia, and set off to hike the Appalachian Trail. Alone, as a single, 23-year-old, solo-hiking woman. (Despite my mother’s warnings and pleas.)
This was going to be amazing! This was my chance to finally be me, to travel, to do what I loved, and not have to answer to anyone else!
Admittedly, I had never been as terrified as I was on that train ride. There was no turning back, and no one by my side.
But you know what? It was the best thing I could have done for myself! I don’t regret a thing and I’m stoked to share some lessons learned along the way.
- Listen to your body. Early on, I had horrible blisters, the worst I’ve ever seen on any hiker in real life. I had white blisters, I had blood blisters, I lost toe-nails and I hadn’t even been hiking for a month. The blisters were really slowing me down and forcing me to take zero-mile days to try let them heal. But they would not let up. Everyone around me kept telling me to hike through it, keep breaking my boots in, keep my socks dry, and that it would get better with time. So, I hiked on for a couple weeks like this. Shockingly, my feet did not get better, only worse. I knew something was wrong so I finally hitched a ride to a gear store and bought new boots. And then *magically* my feet healed and I could keep hiking. The take-away: Don’t let other people convince you they know what’s best for you!
- Always, always, always hang your food. Now, I already had a few years of backpacking trips under my belt, and wasn’t going into this Appalachian Trail adventure totally blind. I absolutely knew better, and knew to hang my food at night to prevent unwanted visits from bears. And I always had, every night I had slept outside I always hung my food. Except one night. Literally the one night I could not – because of some technicalities and mishaps with my rope – I, and one other hiker, left our food on the ground. I read online that lots of people do it, so it must be ok? Nope. Not ok. That was the night a black bear stole all our food, most of our gear, and my friends tent. The take-away: Always hang your food. Really though. (And I’ve never had my food stolen since then!)
- Sometimes the universe has different plans. Most of my motivation for this hike was to declare my independence, rediscover myself as a single woman, discover and develop my strengths all in the comfort of nature. All by myself. I wasn’t going to get involved with any more guys after the last one. But then I met Shenandoh (his trail name.) He was funny, sweet, charming and had the most wonderful beard. But I happily hiked on, alone, because this trip was about me, myself and I, not him. But he kept showing up, that’s what happens when you’re walking north on a 12-inch wide path with hundreds of other people, you run into each other. Every time he would ask if I would date him. Every time I said no. For months this went on! Then I realized, I did like him and was just saying no because I told myself I would say no. Finally, I said yes. The take-away: Now, almost five years later, Shenandoh and I are happily married.
- Live simply. After spending five months living out of a backpack in the woods, you truly find out what you need, what you don’t need, and what your priorities are in life. My husband and I live in about a 300 square foot apartment, and everything we could ever want is in there with us. The take-away: Less really is more. I promise.
Whether you want to hike the Appalachian Trail, or move to a town on your own where you don’t know anybody, I can’t urge you enough to take the plunge! Because after all, how else are you going to learn and grow in this life?
Author: Mallory Moskowitz
Author Bio: I am an avid hiker, backpacker and owner of Your Adventure Coach. My mission is to provide women with the resources, skills and confidence they need to be prepared, not scared, of their first long distance hike. I like to move around a lot but am currently nestled in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
Link to social media or website: https://www.youradventurecoach.com