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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

Thru-Hiking the AT

Jun 30, 2021 05:06PM ● By Jared Zornitzer

This summer marks the beginning of my journey to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Two years ago, I made it my goal to hike the entire 2,190 mile long Appalachian Trail (AT) after I graduate from college. My mom and I are starting to train for the hike this month by going on a four-day guided trip in North Carolina which will teach us the basics of making camp, preparing food and hiking the AT. One question all thru-hikers are asked is, what are your reasons for hiking the AT?  

My number one reason for hiking the AT is to experience a true adventure. What better way to venture into the unknown than to set off on a 2,000-mile trip through the wilderness? I love exploring new places. Not only will the trail present me with a new perspective on nature every day—it will also expose me to different ways of living and unique trail towns. Ever since I began learning about the AT, the thought of being out on the trail enthralls me. 

As an avid hiker, the AT is the ultimate test of my physical strength and resilience. It is typical for thru-hikers to traverse 15-20 miles each day, including steep ascents and descents, all while carrying a 30 pound pack. They do this in temperatures below freezing and above 100 degrees, and in rain and snow. Their diet is whatever fits in their packs in between re-supply trips at trail towns, which might only occur once per week. I am eager to face these challenges and for my body to become stronger and adaptable to harsh conditions.

One of the biggest obstacles which I anticipate is motivating myself each day to continue on the trail for over five months. The AT may seem all grit and glory to me now, but the reality is that in the midst of the thru-hike, the trail can become monotonous and unforgiving. More than physical strength, I believe that the greatest indication of one’s ability to persevere is fighting the urge to quit and successfully hiking from Georgia to Maine. I think that this hike can push my determination to its limits and increase my fortitude.

Finally, immersing myself in nature excites me as a change from living in the comforts of home.  I look forward to witnessing sunsets and sunrises, hearing the noises of nature outside of my tent, gazing up at the stars by a campfire and countless other aspects of daily life on the AT. The thru-hike can provide me with a break from school, work and a society that moves quickly and often forgets to live in the moment.

Overall, the AT can give me months of enjoyment in nature. At a time in between college and starting to work and become a true adult, it can help me reflect and shed light on a new trail to follow in the outside world. In short, I have no doubt that the Appalachian Trail will forever change my life.

Jared Zornitzer is a full-time college student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY studying engineering. An advocate of balancing work and school with exercise and healthy living, he loves hiking, biking, running, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and learning in his classes. 


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