165.6 Miles – Fontana Dam, NC
I’m going to shift a bit from my usual format (day-by-day recounts) to reflect.
To date, I have hiked 165.6 miles of the Appalachian Trail in just about 2.5 weeks. That is only about 7% of the full trail.
I’ve developed a routine, a trail family (tramily), and a good sense for how hard this is going to be.
There are so many things that I miss about the comforts of home, but I’m having the time of my life out here.
I’m smelly, dirty, and generally exhausted by the end of each day, but I’m so so so happy.
The turmoil out here is where the magic really happens.
In the last week, I’ve definitely had some hardships. Two, in particular, are noteworthy.
Four days ago, a few of us woke up at 4:30am to hike 5 miles to catch an epic sunrise at Wesser Fire Tower. We were 1 mile away and my foot slipped on a tree root, sending my foot in one direction and my knee in the other.
I was in so much pain.
I managed to stand up and walk that last mile up to the tower, and it was worth it. The sunrise was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever witness with my own eyes.
I then managed to walk another 8(ish) miles down to the NOC, where I was able to elevate, ice, and rest my ankle.
Two days ago, we hiked up Jacob’s Ladder, which is a 600 ft ascent in just 0.6 miles. The sun was beating down and it was the steepest ascent I had seen on the trail to date.
I also realized at the base of the climb that I had no more water left.
We all trekked up, sweating and breathing heavy, stopping every 15-20 ft to take a breather.
But we did it. We didn’t quit and I didn’t die of thirst. We even hiked five miles more.
If I’ve learned anything so far, it’s that I’m much stronger than I ever thought I was. I walked 8 miles on a twisted ankle. I climbed mountains I thought I wouldn’t be able to while battling dehydration and exhaustion.
This trail has been as tough as I expected, and then some.
What I didn’t expect, however, was the strength I have to get through it.
“It’s not what happens, it’s how you deal with it.”
–Overload (fellow thru-hiker and tramily member)
I am lucky to be able to do this, and I haven’t once considered getting off-trail (still plenty of time for that, though!).
Tomorrow, I head into the Smokies and right into a storm that is expected to bring 3-5 inches of snow.
I’ll be better for it, I’m sure.
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