Welcome to my Appalachian Trail 2013 Thru-Hike Blog

Hi friends! Welcome. Welcome. Well, to get right to the point…

It’s official: I’m going to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 2013.

For those of you who know me well, why hello, fancy seeing you here.  For those of you who don’t, a little about me.  I’m a planner, always have been.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve tracked my life with “Five Year Plans.”  That’s not to say that my plans are necessarily the typical “climb the corporate ladder” or “get married/have babies” plans, but they ground me nonetheless.  And, most of the time, I accomplish the broad goals I lay out (strategy = aim low).  If it weren’t for this habit, I wouldn’t have spent two years in AmeriCorps – both as a corps member and as a team leader, studied abroad in Singapore, backpacked through India, studied three years for my master’s while working full time, or (most recently) gone on a month long road trip of national parks.

Here the problem begins.  I just finished grad school and am no longer tethered to that cause.  And I’ve worked five years for my current employer.  Sometimes I do a good job of convincing myself I like my position.  Other times, like now, when finishing my degree has opened up a natural transition, I realize my discontent. It’s nothing personal toward my employer (“it’s not you; it’s me”), but the feeling is there.  Well then, what’s next?

In enters Bill Bryson, stage left.  I figured my road trip would quell my restlessness.  Instead it only served to intensify it. A few days after I returned, I was reading A Walk in the Woods.  I know, I know, I’m not the only one. Perhaps a little over-referenced, but Bryson’s book sparked my desire.  Usually at this point in the “Jor’s crazy scheme” process, I start mentioning it to friends and family, and they have the good sense to try to talk me out of it.  But that’s not what happened.  Instead the responses I got included, “You should do it,” “sounds right up your alley,” and “hey, it’d be cheaper than paying rent.”  Even from my mother: “I want you to do it if it’ll make you happy and give you perspective” (not in the Jewish mother handbook) and “I could even bring you chicken soup somewhere along the trail in Virginia” (definitely in the handbook).  Well, then, it’s decided; I’m going to hike the Appalachian Trail.

I plan to begin on Springer Mountain in Georgia on March 12, 2013 (03/12/2013) because I like the repetition of numbers in the date. I’m a little superstitious, and I think it bodes well.  OK, the real reason is that it’s my 30th birthday, but when a friend responded that it was very “Eat, Pray, Love” of me, I decided I had to come up with another reason.  Seriously, though, I’m still not sure about my departure date because I hear it can be a wee bit chilly in the mountains that early in March, and I want to make sure I come out of the woods with all my fingers and toes.

I wasn’t raised in an outdoorsy family by any stretch.  Growing up in Virginia Beach, VA, my idea of a mountain was the local park known as Mount Trashmore, literally an old landfill covered with dirt – I kid you not.  When I started at the University of Virginia, I remember struggling to go up the hill from my dorm to the central part of campus.  It couldn’t have been more than a 25 foot increase in elevation (I’m totally making that up…I really hope for the sake of my ego that it was 25 feet).  I’ve come a long way since that first hill; now I enjoy hiking and camping. BUT I’m by no means a mountain woman (is that even a phrase?).  I’ve just made up my mind that I’m going to do this; that’s all there is to it.  I also recognize that 70% of people who begin a thru-hike do not finish it, so prepare I must (refer above to “being a planner”).

Over the next six months, I will be going from 0 to 60 in terms of preparedness.  I am going to write about my preparations and concerns –  both physically  and emotionally – as I approach departure.  And once I begin the journey, I plan to journal the experience as well.  It’s my pleasure to share, and I hope you’ll join me along the way.

Meandering yours,



183 thoughts on “Welcome to my Appalachian Trail 2013 Thru-Hike Blog

  1. Looking forward to hearing more about your training and hike. I’ve always been interested in hiking the whole AT. Best of luck and I’d be happy to talk about your efforts on my blog and via my Twitter feed (@litarider).

  2. My dad is planning a partial hike. He’s thinking of starting somewhere in Virginia and hiking south for about six weeks. He’ll see how far he can go, the return home to farm. Maybe go back once the corn and beans are planted and pick up where he left off. I’ll have to tell him to look for you or vice versa. He wants to start at the end of February, but that may be a little early. He’ll find out, I suspect. He’s 63, but will be 64 by then. Still a young buck.
    Enjoy the planning.

  3. I understand being disillusioned and hope that the training, the actual hiking and the thoughts along the way, with support from your followers will lead you to a more meaningful future. I admire what you are doing! Thanks for reading my blog, too.

  4. Pingback: Do these trail runners make me look fat? « My Meandering Trail

  5. I think the word you were looking for was ‘mountaineer’ (as opposed to ‘mountain woman’ XD), but this is brilliant! I really hope you make it all the way! =D Wish I could do it….

  6. If you were inspired by Bill Bryson, you must be ‘good people’! Have you read his book about Australia? It’s hilarious…every creature there, he swears, is out to kill you. Fortunately, not quite the case where you’ll be. Good luck.

  7. Ah, I know Mount Trashmore well. Used to be the highlight of my 10-mile runs when I lived in VaBeach. More power to you, chica. Happy trails — I don’t know you, but already have no doubt you’ll succeed.

    • Oh man, the one time I actually ran in high school around Mt Trashmore, I just about died. That was the first and last time I practiced with the cross country team. I’ve come a long way, for sure.

      I’ll say it’s not a bad place for a 10 mile run, but the routes to/from it aren’t as pretty. Independence Blvd?

  8. Bill Bryson is overly-referenced, because he’s a shlub like the rest of us–except he writes really well. I always laugh when I think about how he describes researching how to protect oneself from bear attacks. Cracked me up.

      • I just meant that he’s an everyman. If he can take on a big chunk of that long path, then it’s inspiration to do it. Plus, he’s such a good writer and popular. Either way, I didn’t mean any part of it as an insult. I was (a) not calling you a shlub–i had myself in mind for that (b) in case it was the writing part–I didn’t mean anything there either. I need to be more careful in my ‘sandwich at the desk quick comments during work’. Sorry!

      • Haha, no problem. I figured you didn’t mean anything by it. And if using Hurricane Sandy as an excuse for hanging out in my pajamas until past noon on a Tuesday doesn’t make me a shlub, then I don’t know what would.

      • Also, I’m super-jealous! I planned briefly to take it on. My then fiance even indicated that she’d be into it. She’s now my wife, but not so psyched about a really long walk. 🙂

      • There you go! Good idea. She’d probably enjoy an occasional B&B meetup along the way. Of course, the kids… the high-powered insurance sales job I got (again, a bad joke)…. I live vicariously through folks like you! Maybe it’ll be how I retire.

  9. Nice to meet you! Hiking sounds like it’ll be extremely fun! Best of luck and don’t forget to tell us all about it!

  10. I knew you were a southern girl the minute I started reading. 🙂 Good luck on the hike. I plan to keep an eye on you here. Old southern women are everybody’s granny, you know. 🙂

    • Haha, uh oh. I can either get defensive and protest that Virginia Beach is a tourist and military town (not southern!), or I can accept your comment as a compliment and say thank you. What to do, what to do…

  11. Virginia Beach might very well be exempt from the label that you find objectionable, but Virginia is about as Old South as it gets. I certainly didn’t mean any offense. Take care of yourself on the hike. And, read John Muir along the way. 🙂

    • Haha, I know you didn’t. It was just something I had to defend against all my NY and NJ cousins when I was growing up. And, truth be told, now that I’ve moved away, when I go back, I do catch a whiff of the South a bit. A couple of my sisters live in Richmond, speaking of Old South…

      Already have several John Muir books downloaded to my Kindle. Can’t wait!

      • You’re going to enjoy his journals. I grew up in NC. The whole mountain range is just so beautiful. I know this experience will change your life forever. Happy trails, Jordana!

  12. Perhaps you would like to come to Denver for some elevation training and to take your backpack for a shakedown hike. Shopping at REI was a boon for me because of their great customer service. I was sent a replacement tent when the zipper broke in mine. Good luck and enjoy the adventure.

    • Shakedown hike, likely. Denver, probably not. I do have to keep reminding myself of REI’s excellent return policy when I think of purchasing slightly less expensive items elsewhere.

  13. Hey, great article! I’ll also be hiking the AT in 2013. When you said Mount Trashmore did you mean the one in chicago? I went to high school in WRP! what about you? Also a jewish kid? I started compiling some towns with synagogues in them for potential shabboses. Also trying to figure out how to do some sort of shabbat thing in the wild. Want to do something like that?
    When do you start?

    • I was talking about the one in Virginia Beach, VA.

      If our paths crossed, I’d be glad to do some sort of Shabbat, but I’m not much of a “you can only walk 3,000 feet on Shabbat” kind of Jew. I would be interested in knowing where the synagogues are if you’re willing to share. It’s always good to know where the resources are. If you’re willing, I’ll email you off-line.


    • I think that’s wonderful that you’re getting back in shape for your A.T. goal. I would be happy to encourage you. I’m pretty awesome at being supportive and encouraging, if I do say so myself. I can’t wait to hear about your progress. : )

  15. I did a hike this past summer and just stumbled across your blog.. good luck it is a rewarding experience. You don’t have to spend a ton of money but get your pack weight as low as possible. Everything else is mental.

  16. Exciting! Found you via Appalachian Trials blog. Excited to follow your progress. You’re an entertaining writer and one day I hope to hike the AT or PCT (maybe both!?). Best of luck!

  17. Hi Jordana! I just saw your post on Zach’s site and I wanted to say congrats on what you’re doing and best of luck!

    I’ve been obsessed with the AT for the better part of a year now and I plan to thru-hike in 2014. As a fellow Pisces, I totally understand why you chose the start date you did. My goal is to start at Springer Mountain on 3/5/14…which would be my 31st birthday (looks like we’re only a week apart) :).

    I’m so so so looking forward to following your blog as you continue to prepare and then actually hike your hike! I get ridiculously giddy over blogs like yours. I guess part of me feels like I can relate better to a thru-hiker who is the same age and gender as me. Who knows…the point is…I’m really excited for you.

    Now to get back to reading…

    • Whooa! We’re both in DC. We both just finished grad school. We both love traveling. We’re the same age. You’re an archaeologist; I love Indiana Jones.

      The only question I have is: Why are you waiting a year?

      (And thanks for saying hello and all the kind words!)

      • Whoa, you’re in DC too? Craziness! Where are you doing your training hikes? I followed a blog last season of a woman who lived in DC and did a lot of her training in Rock Creek Park.

        The main reason I’m waiting til 2014 is money. I need the time to save up enough to go w/o income for 6 months! Oh yeah…and gear….gear is expensive.

      • I’m doing my training hikes mostly within about an hour/hour and a half drive from D.C. If you look to the right sidebar of my blog, you’ll see Blog Posts by Topic. Under that header, seventh down is Training Hikes; if you click it, you’ll see all the places I’ve hiked thus far. I’m hiking three to four weekends a month, so – if you’re interested – keep a lookout for more Training Hike posts to come.

        Ah yes, money. If you had said you were waiting to get in shape or for the “right time” or something like that, I would have attempted to coax you into taking the plunge. Well, I wish you luck in saving enough money soon!

  18. My brother did that and he enjoyed it very much. Make sure you carry proper protection. He did it alone, and it can be dangerous. He had a very close encounter with wildlife. I can’t remember if it was a rattlesnake or a bear. Either way, stay safe and enjoy the experience.

  19. Like you, I am also a planner. As a matter of fact, I may BE you 15 years in the future. Oh wait, I haven’t hiked yet so that’s not possible. But my date is also a little EPL. March 9, 2017 for my 50th birthday. I will be following and cheering you all the way (not literally of course, that would be a bit creepy). Can’t wait to hear all about it!

    • I’m honored for the comparison…but I’d definitely never be a nurse (don’t have it in me to be in healthcare…can’t handle the gore). Thanks for following along (and for saying hello!).

  20. I have a reservation 11 March at hiker hostel and will be starting the next day as well 🙂 Just reading through 2013 blogs and getting excited!! Hiking solo, couldn’t be more ready!

  21. Pingback: Ambassdor’s of The Trail – Jordana Weiss at Gregory Goes There

  22. Very exciting! I’m also a planner, in the same way you are (though I haven’t done things nearly as cool as you).

  23. Very humorous and gaining a new perspective can mean many things for me it is about nature and the spirituality that surrounds it. Good luck and yes I will be following. Thanks so much for sharing your journey.

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