Spooky Season on the AT: My Top 10 Thru-Hiking Fears

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It’s spooky szn! What better time to think about which Appalachian Trail haunts scare me the most? Because I’ll admit, I can be a bit of a wuss sometimes. I always thought thru-hikers were the toughest of the tough, that nothing could scare them. How else could you manage such an endeavor? But that can’t always be true. The reality is, you have to be scared in order to be courageous. Being brave isn’t being fearless, it’s choosing to work through something despite the fear. Bearing that in mind, here is a list of my biggest trepidations regarding my AT thru-hike. Reader, beware: truly frightening content ahead.

1. TICKS AND LYME DISEASE.

These bloodsuckers are related to spiders and are a truly frightening feature of the backcountry.

arachnids–that’s right, arachnids–are? They look like specs of dirt! They’ll blend right in! And I have to pluck them off of me myself? Like, I have to look at them super closely or else I might pop their bodies off their heads and their heads could just, like, stay attached to me. And the terror doesn’t stop there. Next I have to worry that I might come down with flu-like symptoms, which could progress to memory loss and a host of other terrifying things. NOPE. No thanks. Give me alllll the permethrin and DEET please.

2. Losing my mind over mosquitoes, black flies, and spider webs.

You may notice a theme here, but I’m nervous about the creepy crawlies. You may wonder, Why, Becca, would you live in the woods for months if you’re so scared of bugs? And I would say that’s a fair question. In reality, I can deal with insects in the wild. It’s their home, after all, and I’m just visiting. Nonetheless, black flies buzzing around my head and chewing chunks of my skin has been known to reduce me to tears in the not-so-distant past. Mosquitoes don’t scare me, but I don’t love them remotely as much as they seem to love me. I’ve always said I’d probablydie by some mosquito-borne illness, so I sometimes think that might happen while I’m on the AT. Spider webs also don’t scare me per se, but continuously strolling through them will put me on edge. More terrifying to me are the big ass wolf spiders I’ve heard hang around shelters, crawling on people’s faces as they try to sleep. If you want to put yourself on edge, google “spiders on the Appalachian Trail” and click “images.” I’m so sorry.

3. Creeps.

Creepy crawlies aren’t the only bugs on the trail. I’ve heard stories of locals in certain spots along the AT that don’t particularly like thru-hikers, and I’ve heard stories of women feeling immensely uncomfortable around some men on the trail. Not that this is much different than what we often experience EVERY DAY outside the trail, but still. It seems spookier in the woods. Away from civilization and cell service. Alllll alone.

4. Struck by lightning.

I have a minor in Geography and I’m a bit of a weather nerd. I have a solid, albeit fairly basic, understanding of weather systems, which most of the time serves to keep me more at ease than others. I understand weather safety, I understand the low likelihood of being struck by lightning in general. HOWEVER, many circumstances both within and out of my control on the AT certainly increase my chances of being struck. This isn’t something I live in constant fear about, but it’s, ya know, on my mind.

5. Blood.

My own blood. You know, “that time of the month.” Aunt Flo. Surfing the crimson wave. MY PERIOD, OK. I’m just a little uncomfortable and inexperienced in dealing with this in the backcountry. I’m not scared. Just anxious, I suppose.

6. Rat poop.

I already know it’s all up in those shelters. I don’t want it on me. I don’t want nasty rat diseases. Stay away!

7. My poop.

Oh, come on. I know I’m not the only person a little anxious about pooping in a small hole I dug in the woods. What if a tick latches on to me during this process? THEN LYME DISEASE! Ugh. 

 

8. Not noticing a rattlesnake or copperhead, and then it jumps out at you out of nowhere, and then you scream and cry and maybe even pee your pants a little.

This is self-explanatory.

Can you spot the copperhead?

9. Missing my husband.

Sorry, but I gotta get cheesy here. I married my dream man in September and it’s with his encouragement and loving support that I’m finally venturing off to accomplish my thru-hiking goal. We spent two months apart last spring while he moved to California for his new job and I finished out teaching through the end of the school year, and that was hard enough. I cried more than I’d like to admit. There’s no way this won’t be harder. Change is scary.

 

Featuring: my husband, my bear tattoo, and my love for being among the trees.

10. Not wanting this adventure to end.

Look, despite my list of things I’m nervous about, this is going to be an epic journey offering incredible insight, opportunities, and scenic views. I know I’m going to love so much of this journey. I’m confident the moments of awe and pride will outweigh the times of fear and anxiety. If not, well, I can’t say I didn’t warn myself.

 

 

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