Appalachian Trail Interview with Old Soul

Did you have a trail name? If yes, which one and why this particular name?
My trail name was Old Soul. I think people gave me that name because they were always surprised by how young I was (only eighteen) after talking to me for a bit.

Could you give us a rough estimate when you started and ended hiking the AT?
November 3rd, 2017- August 1st, 2018. But I took a break from December 2017 to the end February 2018

Did you go NOBO or SOBO, and why did you choose that option?
NoBo. I live in the south and wanted to be nearer my home in the beginning, so that I could easily go home if I found the trail was too challenging.

Why did you choose to hike the Appalachian Trail over another trail?
Simply put, I fell in love with the Appalachian Mountains- not the Rockies, and not the Sierra. Maybe later I’ll feel another mountain range calling me, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Summit Picture - Old Soul

Preparing for the Trail

Did you do any kind of training before embarking on the AT?
Not really. I decided to let the AT get me in shape itself. My mileage did start out low, but I was overall happy with my decision.

Did you pack a lot of clothes?
I started in the autumn, so I did need to pack a lot of warm clothes. When summer came I was able to drop most of them, and I had a skirt, shirt, puffy jacket, and underclothes. That was about it!

Did you mentally prepare yourself for the trail? If yes, what did you do?
Oh, a ton. I wrote on my blog a lot, journaled, read books, and thought about it obsessively. Saving money was also, in a way, a form of mental preparation. I was telling myself that this goal was so important that I was working long hours to achieve it. I think that cemented my commitment to the trail within my mind.

On the Trail

How would your average day look like on the trail? 

Normally I got up about a half hour to a full hour after the sun came up. I broke camp, got water, and set out. Normally I ate breakfast on the go. After roughly ten miles, which normally corresponded to noon, I would sit down for a long lunch, which generally lasted about an hour.

If it was too cold for a lunch, then I just ate snacks and kept moving. By the time I was too worn out to keep walking, usually well before dark unless it was winter, I would stop for the night, make dinner, maybe talk to the other hikers or read, and go to bed. I usually made between fifteen and twenty-five miles in a day.

What did you mostly eat and what was your favourite food on the trail?
I usually ate larabars, peanut butter, trail mix, tuna, freeze dried ground beef, freeze dried beans, and olive oil. People also gave me food all the time, so there was usually some variation.

My absolute favorite food was my trail mix. I never got tired of it.

What was the most beautiful section(s) of the trail ?
The Whites, without a question. They were incredibly challenging but so, so beautiful. Other than that, Max Patch was magical. I got to walk it by moonlight and I’ll never forget how enchanted that night was.

Did you see a bear or moose?
I saw a baby bear but luckily no mama. Unfortunately I never saw a moose.

Challenges

Did you have any injuries during your hike? If yes, how did you handle it?
I got trench foot in Massachusetts, which is caused by feet being wet or damp for excessive lengths of time. The problem was that my boots were trapping sweat and moisture inside themselves, so I solved the problem by buying breathable hiking sandals, and dousing my feet in baby powder whenever possible.

Unfortunately, I still didn’t entirely recover until a few weeks after returning home.

What was the hardest part of the hike?
That’s tricky. The isolation and cold, towards the beginning, were very difficult. But fatigue and almost constant pain, towards the end, were also hard to cope with. I don’t think I can choose between them: both were very trying.

Gear

Did you use a tent or a hammock? Why did you choose this option?
I chose a tent, simply because I was more familiar with them.

Was there anything you wish you had while hiking the AT?
Not really. When I wanted something badly enough that I was willing to carry it, I normally bought that thing.

Where there any items you ditched during your first days/weeks?
I brought a lot of home-dehydrated ground beef the first few weeks, which really didn’t taste very good. I got rid of it after the first month.

How did you filter your water?
I used a Sawyer filter. They get a bit slow after a while, and I kept losing them, but I had a nice experience overall.

After the Trail

What did you appreciate the most when you were back home?
As my close trail buddy put it “being horizontal”. That is, being able to lie down whenever I pleased, as long as I pleased.

Do you have a rough estimate on how much money you spend on the trail?
I’d guess somewhere around $5,000-$6,000

What would you change if you would do it all over again?
I think I would take more breaks, and stop when I was in pain. I really pushed myself too hard at times, and my experience would have been better if I hadn’t done that.

Did you loose any weight? If so, how much?
I lost weight the first month. I don’t remember how much… maybe 10 lbs? I gained that back over my winter break and after that maintained a consistent weight. I also didn’t gain any weight after getting off trail, so overall I’ve remained quite constant.

What’s Next?

Do you have plans for future hikes?
Not really. Maybe in the distant future I’ll do the JMT, but nothing is set in stone.

Anything else that you want to tell people who are preparing to hike the Appalachian trail?
You can do it. Really, you can. It’s not hard in the traditional sense, where you need some innate skill to succeed. You just need to stick with it, endure the sucky parts, and get a bit lucky.

Do you have any online presence (blog or social media) where we can follow you?
I keep a blog here: https://andifistand.wordpress.com I didn’t blog much while on the trail, but I was meticulous in recording my preparation. So if you need ideas for the prep stage, you may find it useful.

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