I have a confession.


 If you’ve been under the impression that I’ve been playing it cool prior to our thru-hike, then I’ve done a good job of hiding that fact. I think it’s pretty normal to feel nerves before embarking on something big in your life. It means that you care about what you’re doing and want to succeed in that endeavor. But the past couple of weeks have not been easy on me emotionally or physically. I can’t fall asleep when I go to bed and then when I finally do fall asleep, I find myself waking up multiple times during the night. I’ve had a cold for the past week, probably in part to a weaker immune system since my body hasn’t gotten proper rest. And man am I anxious about our hike. I am so ready to do this thing, but my nerves get the better of me and I think about all of the worst possible scenarios that we could encounter. One of us gets hurt and we have to head home, the weather is too cold to bear, we run out of money, or maybe thru-hiking just isn’t for us. Those thoughts have even infiltrated my dream state. Actually, I think that’s where it all started a couple of weeks ago when I had my first thru-hiking dream/nightmare. I suppose the anxiety has always been there, but it slowly dug itself out of my subconscious and became ever-present in my conscious self. Damn you dreams and your ability to recognize my anxiety before I’m actually aware of it.

Yep. That's me at the moment.
Yep. That’s me at the moment.

As I write this, I should be sleeping. I’m tired. I’m beat. I’m toast. I should get up early and be productive. But…I already know that’s not going to happen. I’m using blogging as my therapy right now. A coping mechanism as they might say. Now don’t be alarmed fellow readers. I’m not going to have a mental breakdown or anything and I’m pretty sure I’m overreacting here, but writing it all down does help. Hopefully I’ll look back on this post in 6 months and laugh at myself and think, “hey, that whole thru-hiking thing wasn’t so bad, right?” I can only hope that I feel that way by summer’s end.

A little over a week from our start date, I’ve got everything I need. Gear. Funds. Food. Moral support. Toilet paper. What else do I need? Why am I so worried?

Maybe I’m thinking too hard about this whole thing. One strategy that we hope to utilize during our hike is taking it one day at a time and t set small mileage goals along the way. I think I might need to apply that strategy to my life even before I start my thru-hike. I’m ready and anxiety isn’t going to help me out at all. Instead, I’m going to set my focus back to being a little lazy, get in a couple more meals at my favorite restaurants here in Portland, and spend time with my family and friends before we leave next week.

Ah, the power of the written word. Funny how when you write it all out, the solution seems so simple. All I had to do to stop my pre-hike anxiety was to write a blog post about it?!

I think some of the anxiety will still be there tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, but maybe, just maybe I’ll sleep a little bit better tonight. And hopefully tomorrow, I’ll think more about all of the awesome reasons of why I decided to thru-hike the AT and less about the fears that I cannot control.

Let's do this thing.
Let’s do this thing.

4 thoughts on “Confessional

  1. You will be fine. It’s just walking.

    I’ve heard a lot of people say to just do whatever necessary for your health while on the trail to keep you on the trail. Take a zero day, sleep in, hike 7 miles/day.

    The active mind worries, while the active body calms. Get some sleep. 🙂

  2. I believe that once you’re well underway on the trail, your anxiety will transform into excitement. Keep the vision, and hike one day at a time.

  3. You’ll be great! Just from the few posts I’ve read, you clearly have your mentality straight. From all of the reading I’ve done, it’s not the physical stuff that ends up mattering. Most things you can deal with. Sprained ankle? No problem, take a few days off and then get back on. Bad cut? Deal with it and move on. Fell on your face in the mud? Laugh it off and keep going. Get sick? Get a comfy hostel/hotel room and wait to get better. You’ll be great!!!! It’s the mental stuff that gets people off the trail. One great rule I heard from a few thru hikers was this “I don’t let myself go home unless I have an entire week of bad days” “I always take a zero before actually going home if I feel the urge” For both of them, they never went home!!! The first one never had more than one bad day at a time and the second one always felt anxious to get back on the trail after one zero day! 😀

  4. You will be ok, the pre hike jitters is a normal feeling. Give yourself some mile posts like: Neals Gap, then Franklin, then Hot Springs, then Gatlingburg, and then Damascus. Then 4 days from Damascus you will hit Atkins, VA and you will be a quarter of the way through the trail, and then before you know it you will be through VA and at Harpers Ferry and halfway done. Just plan for a zero day at least every 6th or 7th day in the beginning, you’ll need the rest, and don’t worry about spending the money for these days in the beginning, because as you move on you will need less zero days, and you will find places that will take you in for free that will make up the earlier costs. After two weeks on the trail you will feel like and be a seasoned AT hiker.

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