The AT is a great way for Americans to spend some time seeing nature, growing closer as a couple/group or stronger as an individual, enjoying the great national parks, and meeting a challenge that few people even attempt. While completing the AT in one go is a noble goal, many people prefer to do one segment or a bunch of chunks staggered over time until it’s completed.
We got an email from Elizabeth stating that she was taking a gap year, wanted to spend it on the trail, didn’t know where to start. Here’s her description of how we were able to support her on her journey.
When I finished grad school and didn’t have any immediate plans, I knew I wanted to do something challenging in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. I had been in school most of my life, I had been intellectually challenged for years, and I was ready to challenge my body as much as my mind. As soon as I decided to spend 6-9 months on a trail, I knew the AT was the one. I don’t know why, but it just felt right.
UE Mountaineers had helped a friend of my on the John Muir trail and heartily referred them. She was not wrong! From the initial conversation, they were completely open and transparent about challenges, costs, expectations, and the kind of support they could provide.
My Expedition Leader Kerri helped me make all my pre-departure arrangements – even the little things you wouldn’t think of like, telling friends and family and letting them know how to stay in touch with or support me during my trek. Beyond that, they helped with the practical logistics like packing, timing, travel arrangements, and setting realistic expectations.
They also helped support me during my trip. They pre-arranged care packages to meet me at predetermined stops along the way. So every week or so, I’d stop in a little town where a package would be waiting for me from Kerri with snacks, gear, and the occasional little unexpected surprise. I always knew there would be kind bars, jerky, socks, and sun screen. But I was often surprised to find a book or seasonal treats. It was nice to know that someone who knew exactly what I was going through was anticipating my needs from afar.
She also had a check-in option that I took advantage of. She and I had a check-in process where every time I’d pick up a package, I’d send back a letter that she could scan and share with a group of people I had provided before I left. They could mail letters back to her which would come back to me in the next care package. And I turned on my phone for 20 minutes a day that she and I had arranged so that if there were any emergencies, she could let me know.
This way, I was able to complete the trek, keep my family posted, but feel somewhat that I was off the grid.
It was such a great mental reset, a very cool way to transition from grad school life to adult work life, and it taught me just how much I’m capable of! It changed my life, UE Mountaineers helped make that happen, and Kerri and I are still in touch to this day!
I started work at The Hadley Law Firm two weeks after I got home and there was something very reassuring about starting a scary job after having just completed a VERY SCARY life event. It put things in perspective and made me a more confident woman.