Some people think thru-hiking is a long vacation. Perhaps this may be true, but hiking all day every day (almost) is both physically and mentally demanding. Sometimes it takes me hours to fall asleep in the cold weather (or I toss and turn all night), making it even harder to get up in the mornings. Mornings can also be tough because you have to decide whether you want a hot breakfast or if you should start hiking to catch up on miles. Then there’s the mental and physical challenge of hiking the constant changes in elevation all day long.
Each day is different. Your mood plays a big role in how you hike and it’s also important to pay attention to what your body is telling you as you walk. Most hikers will tell you Georgia is one of the hardest states and taking it slow will increase your chances of making it through. I’ve taken this to heart, making sure I don’t push myself too far.
Each ascent I make sure to walk at a steady pace, focusing on my breathing and telling myself I will make it over each mountain. On breaks I make sure to take my socks off and look at my feet to find any spots that may blister or swell. I’m already experiencing bruised feet and a pulled tendon in my inner right foot, so I’ve been taping my foot and have already planned for a new pair of shoes to arrive at my next stop in town. After all, your hike depends on your feet.
Hiking the AT is far from easy. Sometimes I’ll think to myself that my feet won’t make it up the next ascent, but I continue to find ways to increase my moral. It may sound cheesy, but the little things really do make climbing these hills easier. I’ve found that turning on some tunes, slowing my pace, or even just talking about what food I’m craving or plan to eat for lunch or dinner helps. I find it important to also remember where I am and look around me and take in the sprouting buds, mountain views, green tunnels, silcence, etc.
On hard days I think about the fact that this is my job now and if I can make it to the next site I’ve done a good job. Even if I walk a few miles I’m still closer to Maine. Despite the hard days I know this is where I want to be and for the first time in a long time I know where I belong – here in the mountains. I’ve only been on the trail for a week and am already learning so much about myself. This is the best decision I’ve ever made and I can only continue to grow from here.