This week, two fabulous, successful people in my life said, “I want to walk the Appalachian Trail.”
Into my head flash the radiant feelings of thanksgiving and amazing accomplishment that I felt when I stood on Springer Mountain to complete my own 2,000 mile walk six years ago. Along with it wash in the memories of the challenges and doubts that clouded that vision as it unfolded. All of it – the joys, the challenges, the ups, and downs, the sunny days and the rainy or snowy days were all part of my Appalachian Trail walk. I assume they would be part of anyone’s walk. So, where does one start after proclaiming, “I want to walk the Appalachian Trail?”
As I look back on my own walks, I realized that there are five, maybe six, essential areas to prepare for a successful hike.
1. Know your trail
Read. Get one of the popular guidebooks about the AT. Explore among the many books and journals. Talk with other AT hikers.
Here’s a start:
2. Consider your timing
How long do you want to be on your journey? Are you determined to walk the entire 2,181 miles in one trip? Are you happy with walking the trail in sections? How much time can you dedicate for your walk? That will help you determine how to create the journey within your life. A “Thru-hike”, when one walks the entire trail in one walk, takes 4-7 months for most hikers.
3.Love your Gear
What you carry – or if you carry your gear – is an exploration that will pay off with ease and enjoyment every step of the way. Take your time, and don’t be afraid to try out several versions of each piece of gear. Get out on the trail and meet hikers to see all your choices. They are endless! At some point, you’ll settle on what’s right for you. Try borrowing or renting your first gear to get the feel of it. But, where to start? Here’s my list of gear for a summer pack:
4. Have Support
Only around 11,000 people have completed the entire Appalachian Trail. Most people think it’s a dangerous, arduous, almost impossible feat! You will probably meet more naysayers than supporters for your hatchling idea. Talk with people who have done it! They’ll cheer you on and lure you into the fold. These people know in their bones that it’s one of the most satisfying things they’ve ever done!
Read Trail Journals at http://www.trailjournals.com
Or, join a class, a virtual campfire to prepare. My friend, Carla Robertson has a unique and supportive class. Check it out here:
5. Be prepared for the UPs and DOWNS emotionally. The mental journey!
There are many “energy-shifting” practices to use when the going gets tough, you doubt yourself and your journey, it rains for five days straight, or snow covers the trail in April. My favorite, because it invites me to do something with those feelings, is Radical Forgiveness. With the tools of Radical Forgiveness, you can methodically, quickly, and easily, with no special skills or discipline, turn those troubles into blessings.
Walking the Appalachian Trail obviously involves a lot of walking. Perhaps, one of the best ways to get ready for your own walk is to walk! Start walking wherever you go, whenever you can. It’s as simple as that. An Appalachian Trail walk is a long string of day walks built into a long string of 5-day backpack trips. Start with day walks right where you are!
Walking the Appalachian Trail is a big dream. Most people who strike out on this journey don’t fulfill this dream. Follow these essential steps and fulfill your dream.