Amicolola. The Night Before the Hike.
The Night Before
I’ve got the jitters. Again.
I get them the night before every big adventure, and every time, they surprise me. I thought I was ready this time.
Arriving at Amicolola
When we pulled into Amicolola Falls State Park this morning, I was ecstatic. The cold, steady rain and dull, grey skies didn’t dampen my spirits in the slightest. I practically bounced into the thru hiker registration center to pick up my tag, interrupting a leave-no-trace orientation session.
The speaker looked up and asked me, “Are you planning to thru-hike?”
“Well sure, why not, as long as I’m here,” I responded cheerfully.
The guy looked a little startled, and asked, “Well, do you have any gear?”
“Nah, I figure I’ll just pick up whatever I need along the way.”
The guy at the registration table figured out that I was kidding right away, but the speaker wasn’t so sure, so I quickly told him that my gear was out in the van, I’d pre-registered for tomorrow, and that I’d just come in for my tag. He looked relieved. Do people really just show up on a whim for AT thru hikes?
I’m Not Alone
The two hikers sitting in on the lecture sat there still as stones, staring straight ahead during this exchange. No greeting, no smiles, no look of annoyance, and no emotion at all. When the orientation was over, they got up silently and left without a word. A hiker who arrived during the lecture, sat down, signed in, and made no eye contact with anyone else. A few people with backpacks stood under a pavilion outside but didn’t return my wave. It must have been the jitters.
Or the weather.
A Good Day to Be Home
Today was the kind of day that almost guaranteed wet clothes, a soggy sleeping bag, freezing temperatures overnight, and a long night of questioning why you picked hiking as a hobby. I’d have been a little grim and unfriendly too if I were heading out this morning.
Instead, our plan was to find our campsite, hike the stairs, visit the lodge, and get set for tomorrow. I’d briefly considered doing the Approach Trail after lunch until I looked at the forecast. Ugh.
We opted to hunker down in the van with the dogs as footwarmers while we savored being warm and dry.
A Little Light Dinner Conversation
Kate made a wonderful stew for dinner. As we ate, she asked how I was feeling about the hike.
To be honest, I don’t know how I feel at this moment. Seeing the three-story trail map at the lodge drove home the enormity of this adventure. I’m not nervous. I am prepared. But I am unsettled.
My head is full of stories of people who quit before Neel’s Gap, of hike-ending injuries, of boredom with the trail, of emergencies back home, of clients shocked to discover this week that I’ll be gone for six months (they were told, trust me), and of the logistics of hiking, shuttling, camping, re-supplying, etc. … 75-80% of thru-hiker wannabees won’t make it to Katahdin.
What if I fail? So many things can go wrong. And some probably will.
But that’s the jitters for you.
Rx for the Jitters
The only cure for the jitters is to lace up my Altras and start walking north. Which happens tomorrow morning.
See you on the trail.
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