Last year Gail Muller, from Falmouth, who had suffered years of chronic pain, wanted to inspire others in her situation that anything is possible, by tackling the southbound route of the Appalachian Trail – all 2,180 miles of it.

She chronicled her journey for the Packet and now she's back with a new challenge to take on.

Long-distance hiking can teach you a lot about yourself. How could it be any other way? You are thrown into a whole new way of living; needing to figure out the basics of food, shelter and water in brand new places, every single day.

I’ve always been drawn to this free-wheeling lifestyle and the daily change and excitement it brings.

This is all well and good when the sun is shining and the horizon is clear, but can get very old when it’s socked in with thick fog, the rain has soaked you to the bone and it’s getting dark with no hope of a dry towel or warm bed for days to come. At this point, free-wheeling can, quite frankly, get lost.

I knew I’d never be far from home when hiking the South West Coast Path (although out of county can feel like a foreign country at times no?), but I was still apprehensive about where I’d stay and how I’d attempt to be self sufficient.

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I decided to remember three of the most important lessons the Appalachian Trail taught me, and use them to get me going as I sorted, organised and packed for this next adventure from Minehead down and around the south of the UK.

Read more: GAIL'S TRAIL: Back with a new challenge

The first lesson is that any goal is possible if you (literally) take it step by step. If I had looked at the whole 2,200 miles across the US when I started that trek, I’d have psyched myself out right away, felt like my every daily mileage achievement was insignificant and that I’d never get there.

However, if I just looked at the day ahead and set goals to lunchtime or the end of the day, then I’d always make it and feel good. Sometimes it was just to get up one ascent at a time when I could barely breathe with exhaustion. Add those smaller goals together and it makes quite an incredible achievement. I keep trying to remember that in my real life when I’m looking at mountainous challenges.

The second lesson I took away was that in many situations, your mindset is what dictates how far you’ll get. As my brilliant Uncle Ian told me when I was very small; those who think they can and those who think they can’t are usually both correct. This is true.

My foot was broken, and even if the doctors didn’t catch it at the time I still knew from the grinding and popping of bones as I walked that something was very wrong, yet on I went.

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I told myself nothing was going to get in the way of my getting to Georgia; not panic attacks, broken bones or homesickness. My mindset propelled me along like an internal superpower. I need to remember to harness it when I feel exhausted and overwhelmed going up and down the south west coast.

The third lesson, and this is very apt at the moment for me, is that we need less than we think we do. This applies to what I carry in my pack as well as to what I hoard, covet and seek out my real life. I don’t need a new jacket really, or a new pair of boots.

Over the course of six months in the woods I forgot about material things and realised that they had only been important to me because of clever marketing and advertising. They weren’t bringing the joy to my life that I was being told they would. I have tried hard to remember that as I’ve returned home but the urge to ‘have’ definitely creeps back up.

When packing for this Coastal Path trip, I wanted my pack to be lighter than it was on the AT. I admire those people with their featherlight packs jumping from rock to rock. The adage in backpacking is that you pack your fears, and when you unload people’s heavy packs and see what’s inside you can see what they’re afraid of. Mine would show you that I can’t bear to be away from reading material, that I like to be prepared for any medical emergency (even though I’m never far from a town on the SWCP!) and that I like a change of clothes for all weather types. Hmmm!

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This time I actively tried to ditch some of the above and have definitely improved, but as I get more used to being out there again I know I’ll be able to shed another load of baggage, in more way than one.

So, next week I’ll be telling you all about my first stint on the coast path proper. I’m aiming to average about 18-20 miles a day but I’ll have to see how my less fit body will cope in the beginning! I do know that the SWCP will be a challenge for me in terms of accommodation, trail angels and water though. In the USA the popular trail systems are heavily hiked and there is an, albeit basic, infrastructure for hikers.

Hotels where you can pay to just take a quick shower and do laundry, B&B’s that have hiker boxes and snacks to buy for your next few days as well as singles of items such as plasters or safety pins. There are also regular natural water sources on trail you can filter to drink. On the SWCP you’re more reliant on towns and taps!

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Covid is another factor to consider. I know that campsites and many hostels will be closed and that trail angels (more a US phenomenon) will be more reluctant to help out - understandably. This means that I might need to take to camping wild near the path - a practice which isn’t strictly allowed.

Who knows how it will all turn out, but I am excited to take my enthusiasm, leave no trace principles and strong legs out there to find out. See you next week for more!

You can find me at, on Instagram @appalachiangail and Facebook @appalachiangail