The Idea to Thru-Hike

2/4/2019

My name is Sydney Reichert and on March 18th, 2019, I will begin my thru-hike of the 2,190 miles on the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine. This is a promise to myself that I will give 110% effort to summit Mount Katahdin (and, read this Mom & Dad, to leave the trail safely). I am 23 years old and have loved hiking and the outdoors for the majority of my life, though I have limited backpacking experience. This journey will surely be full of highs and lows and I am expecting days on end out in the cold and rain to test my will and endurance, but I am up for the challenge! This blog will recount my experiences pre-trail, on-trail and possibly post-trail mostly for my own recollection. That said, I hope you follow along 🙂

I graduated college in 2017 and, after a bit of traveling through South East Asia with a couple friends, went straight to a corporate full-time job like many of my classmates. At work I learned a ton, developed professionally and personally, and had many great experiences, but after about 14 months I started feeling disconnected from my day-to-day and desired a change. Envisioning myself applying to different jobs or graduate schools didn’t feel like moves in the right direction and surely not moves backed with much certainty. For 2 more months I continued working and living in New York City, very aware that I wanted a change.

In mid-September of last year, I was leaving a doctor’s appointment and out of nowhere the idea of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail popped into my head (I grew up near sections of the AT in New York, was vaguely familiar with the concept of thru-hiking, and when I was a little girl my Dad planted the seed of one day hiking the AT in my head). I thought about this idea for a couple minutes. Walked past my subway station to train home. Thought about the trail for a few more minutes. Missed another train station, lost in thought. Then swiftly walked the 7 miles back to my apartment, the entire time thinking about how I was going to make this happen and making a list of the reasons I want to thru-hike the AT in my phone. Before arriving to my apartment, I stopped in a paper store and bought a 2019 planner (which is now full of Appalachian Trail notes). I was going to make this happen in 2019. I’m young, don’t own a house, no pets, no relationship, could benefit from some time to think about my future – when would be a better time than now? It felt as if the moment the idea to thru-hike popped into my head, I had already decided I was going to make it happen.

View of Bear Mountain Bridge in New York, seen from the Bear Mountain to Harriman State Park section of the Appalachian Trail.

Personally committing to myself to make this happen was the first step.

Second step was telling my parents I wanted to leave my job and take time to thru-hike the AT, while figuring out what comes next. (Thank you for continuing to be fully open-minded and supportive).

After that came many questions. How do I quit my job? How do I tell my roommate? What about our apartment lease? Where will I store my car? When will I start my thru-hike? How will I get to the trail? The list went on.

2 months later I was having my exit interview at work and packed up to move to South Carolina, where I am now living, working a part-time job and preparing for the trail.

One of many practice day hikes before beginning my thru-hike on March 18th! Taken on top of Table Rock in Pickens, SC.

I am incredibly grateful for my support team in all aspects of this transition: My parents for supporting me from the day I told them and helping me think through logistics of this transition to even make this thru-hike possible. My wonderful former roommate (and still awesome friend), Hannah, who was incredibly understanding and supportive in my move and finding someone to sublet. Everyone at work who I got to know during my 18 months; thanks for making my departure as seamless as possible. Last, thanks to all of the wonderful friends and people I have met throughout the planning process for your backpacking advice, used gear, dehydrated meal recipes, playlists, and support!

Time has flown by since I made this commitment to myself back in September. In 42 days I will step onto the Appalachian Trail, hopefully not stopping until I reach Mount Katahdin in Maine. What comes after the trail is undecided, but now I am focused on getting the most out of this experience and accomplishing my goal! I would love for you to follow my journey…