Katrina Medernach

What date are you planning to begin your thru-hike?

April 15

Are you planning to hike northbound, southbound, or complete a flip flop?

Northbound

What is your motivation for wanting to complete the hike?

How many times have we heard relatives and friends say, “I’ve always wanted to…”? When asked why they don’t do it now, a list of reasons come up. “I don’t have the money.” “I don’t have the time.” “I’ll get around to it one day.” But for so many people, I think that “one day” never comes. Well, I don’t want to wait for “one day.” I want to be one of the few who dare to it now.

After graduating from Southern Illinois University on December 15, I find myself reflecting on my past accomplishments. I find that my motivation for completing many of these tasks was not for myself, but for other people. Whether it be going to college, graduating with honors or working a certain job, I have bent over backwards to do so many things for other people. I want to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail for myself.

How do you expect this hike will change your life?

The first time I went backpacking happened to be on the AT. We hiked the Roan Highlands for a class I was taking. It was only a three-day long trip, but that trip is my favorite memory. I made lasting friendships with my classmates, survived hiking through the leftovers of tropical storm Nate, and I fell for the love of my life, Tim.

When I came back, I felt like a new person. I became more appreciative for the small things in my life and felt self-confidence that wasn't there before. If the AT worked that much trail magic on me over the course of just three days, I can only imagine what would happen after five months.

Describe your backpacking experience. How long have you been doing it? What's the longest trip you've done?

As I mentioned before, I experienced backpacking for the first time by hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail. We traveled 21 miles. And while 21 miles is less than 1% of the total miles of the AT, when our class finished, I felt a deep need that my feet should keep going. Sure, the van our class would take back to school was right there, but why shouldn’t I just keep going? Why stop there? I felt the need to keep going south until I came upon Springer Mountain. I guess you could say the AT and I have some unfinished business to take care of now.

Since that trip, the only other major trip I participated in was a 12-mile long overnight backpacking trip. I co-led a group of Youth Conservation Corps through Giant City State Park. And while that is the extent of my backpacking experience, I also spent over 300 hours volunteering for the Shawnee National Forest performing necessary trail maintenance. In that position, I was required to hike for extended periods of time and be prepared for the day always.

What else should we know about you?

I know this trip isn’t going to be a walk in the park. I’ve done my research and I know a lot of people start and never finish. I know that not finishing happens for a myriad of reasons. I know a lot of the time I am going to be tired, hungry and somewhere in between too hot and too cold. But it’s what my friends have lovingly referred to as type B fun. It’s the type of fun you look back on and you laugh at it. And while I thoroughly expect to enjoy plenty of type A fun, I want to be challenged. It’s by being challenged that I’ve found a new appreciation for the simplest of things like cheese and crackers, sitting down, and most especially showers.

While I work to train and get ready to walk everyday for 5 months, I am also planning a trip to hike the 160-mile River-to-River Trail across southern Illinois in January. I also have a plan in the works to hike the Ozark Highland Trail across northern Arkansas in the spring.

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