A Whole Other World
After the first steps though the archway at Amicalola Falls you enter a parallel universe. One that takes you to a place like no other seen before.
This new universe is constructed of never-ending waterfalls and mountaintop views as far the eye can see.
Quickly the language spoken changes to terms that only make sense to a thru-hiker. Hiking only a couple of days inside jokes and coded phrases are created to describe everyday things. A few more days past and words aren’t even used to describe the uphill assaults all must conquer to move on. Blank faces full of exhaustion say it all.
A week of hiking as high the birds fly and rolling down mountains like the rocks that built them time turns into miles hiked and currency traded is in the form of calories. Snickers bars are worth their weight in gold.
By the second week bizarre becomes the new normal. Situations that would be unimaginable in our regular lives become normal. Such as walking up to another thru-hiker, a complete stranger in the regular world, to ask them if they would like to split the cost of a hotel room before even exchanging names. And when names are used they describe funny circumstances only those on the trail understand.
On a zero in town, thru-hikers resemble aliens from another planet. Or look like cult members wearing scrubs walking to and from the laundromat to the Top of Georgia.
Through the weirdness of trail life you find a connection to those also seeking the high peaks of Katahdin. Driven toward the same goal hikers motivate each other to keep going. Everyone who passes has a smile and trades kind words of encouragement. Past hikers or friends of the trail wait for hikers to pass and support with food or a pat on the back.
Every day we remind each other we are all in this together. And we are all here for many of the same reasons. To enjoy life and to accomplish something we don’t know is possible or not.
Just like taking each step one at a time a hiker must take each day at a time. One day you’re crossing your first state line, the next you’re passing 100 miles, then 250. Once your trail legs are built up crossing an entire state by foot is no problem.
At every mountaintop, one can see the treacherous path covered and the amazing places soon to pass. It’s not roads your eyes follow but ridgelines that reach the sky. Rivers formed by the springs you cross over. Checking the weather is as easy as looking up and around. No need for news updates or apps on your phone.
In this world every day is more rewarding than the last. Each step you grow stronger. Soon enough the trail changes you and one can learn more about themselves than they ever knew. Only after a couple of weeks it’s hard to imagine going back to the former world wherever you hiked from.
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