Q&A: Meghan Reckmeyer talks hiking Appalachian Trail after graduation


Source: Meghan Reckmeyer

Meghan Reckmeyer in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Reckmeyer has been hiking the Appalachian Trail since graduating from NU in March.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Summer Managing Editor

While many students start working immediately after graduation, take time off to look for jobs or vacation with friends and family, Meghan Reckmeyer is hiking the Appalachian Trail. Reckmeyer (SESP ’19) graduated in March and began hiking shortly after. After coming back to Evanston for Senior Week, she returned to the trail earlier this month.

Reckmeyer started the hike at the trail’s southern end in Georgia, and she intends to finish in Maine in late August or early September. The Daily caught up with Reckmeyer to hear about her experience on the trail.

This interview has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.

The Daily: When did you first start to consider hiking the Appalachian Trail?
Reckmeyer: I decided that summer (after my sophomore year) I was going to do it, but that was kind of me just saying, ‘OK, I’m going to do this.’ The next year was mostly me just doing a bunch of research about the trail. Nothing really stopped me. My commitment to it was last fall when I bought gear and subleted out my apartment.

The Daily: What was it like preparing to hike?
Reckmeyer: There are people who don’t do a ton of research, and then there are people who do way too much research, and I was in the middle. I was mostly reading blogs of other thru-hikers and the one book I read was called “Appalachian Trials.” It was about how to best mentally prepare yourself for the hike. One of the things they talked about in the book was there’s this adrenaline rush at the beginning that keeps you going for the first month, and then after that, you get used to the trail, the shine wears off.

The Daily: Are you hiking by yourself or with a group?
Reckmeyer: At this point, I’m hiking with a group. I started by myself, essentially. When I told my parents I was going to do it, my parents were absolutely against it. My junior and senior year were basically me consistently fighting with my parents about this. I had my parents tell me that they wouldn’t continue helping me with my Northwestern tuition if I did it alone. I posted on this group asking if someone would start with me, and found this group of women. The group I started with, it was five women, including me. One of them dropped out before the trail started, and two more dropped out within the first week. The other woman is still on the trail, but our hiking speeds are very different, and she’s a few hundred miles behind me. I lost them almost immediately, so I started hiking by myself, but I met people who I started hiking with the third or fourth day, and I have five people who are hiking with me now who I met within the first week of the trail.

The Daily: What’s your daily life like on the trail?
Reckmeyer: There are shelters along the trail. They’re not really consistent, but they’re anywhere between every 3 and every 10 miles. I usually get to the shelter (at night) because that’s an easy place to meet the group at the end of the day. It’s nice because there’s a table there, so you get to cook at the table. There’s kind of an ease-in period for the first three weeks, but since then, if we’re not stopping in towns we’re doing between 18 and 24 miles every day.

The Daily: How would you evaluate the experience so far?
Reckmeyer: I would say I’m the happiest I’ve been. It’s been the best thing I’ve done with my life. I haven’t had any regrets. You meet people out there who seem like they’d rather be sitting on their sofa, (but) I’ve never wanted to come off trail. Leading up to graduation, I was in one of the most stressed-out places in my life. I was trying to finish up everything at Northwestern, move out of my apartment, I took the GRE a week before I left for trail. All of winter quarter, I was preparing for this test, I was taking classes, and I was really stressed before going on trail, and going on trail felt like taking a full breath of air for the first time in a while, and that feeling hasn’t gone away.

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