Another Trail First? Yes, Please!

Bring on the milestones, baby!

It has been 4 days, 50+ miles since my last update and many, many thru-hike firsts for me! The notable firsts are:

  • First town night
  • First shower
  • First load of laundry
  • First (and second hitch)
  • First town meal
  • First day of rain (followed by a few more)
  • First state border crossing
  • First 100 miles
  • First 20+ mile day

Cue the confetti!


I stopped smelling bad for all of 24 hours.

My tramily and I took our first 6 mile “nearo” day (aka a near zero day or day where we hike significantly less miles than a normal day) to go into Hiawassee, Georgia and stay at Around the Bend Hostel. Let me tell you, I’ve never moved faster than I did that morning, knowing that a warm shower and access to a washer/dryer was in reach.

It was here that I took, dare I say, the most satisfying shower of my life thus far.

I straight-up felt like the before and after of Mia Thermopolis in Princess Diaries stepping into and then out of the shower.

Was the water coming off of my woods-marinated body brown and disgusting? Yes. But did it feel amazing? Also, yes. It is incredible what modern day plumbing can do to make one feel like a civilized human again (for the time being anyways). Or at least to transform my hair back to its natural texture and my skin to its original tone.

Talking to strangers is fun.

I promised my mom I would not hitchhike alone. And so far, I’ve been successful in upholding this promise. Hitching is one aspect of thru-hiker life that I understand is pretty common, but that I was particularly wary of coming into this experience. You know, being all of 5 ft tall and looking much younger than I actually am. Not hitching alone felt like a pretty ok rule.

But I did hitch my first ride ever with two members of my tramily after we missed the shuttle to downtown by all of two minutes… these shuttles wait for no one! That’s how I ended up on the side of the road, in loaner clothes (a really great perk from the hostel while my clothes were washing) holding a “hiker to town” sign.

Both fortunately and unfortunately for my mom, the two 70- something ladies, Debbie and Sandy, hauling kayaks that pulled over for us in their pick-up truck were probably the most delightful people we could have crossed paths with. Fortunate, because the 15 minute ride downtown was thoroughly entertaining and these women could not have been nicer. Unfortunate, because now I feel a little bit more comfortable with grabbing a hitch if I need to. For all the weirdos that may be out there, there are also plenty of Debbies and Sandys.

I don’t particularly like Pina Coladas but it turns out I don’t mind getting caught in the rain.

The next day, I walked from Georgia into North Carolina. Which is honestly one of the most satisfying things to say! The first state border crossing is a huge accomplishment, especially given that many folks don’t make it out of Georgia.

North Carolina welcomed us with rain – a lot of it. In fact, it’s rained every day we’ve been in North Carolina so far. I was very nervous about rain days, knowing that I should expect rain about 1/3 of the time on the thru-hike. Heck, I even received some advice to ditch rain gear all together to save weight and embrace just being wet a lot of the time. I however am not that bold, and I packed my fears in the form of my Patagonia Torrent Shell raincoat.

I ended up sending my rain jacket home from Around the Bend hostel and swapping it with a Frogg Togg zip-up jacket I snagged from a hiker box. And that is what I braved the rain with. It turns out I actually don’t mind walking in the rain. In fact, there are many aspects that a prefer to a clear day.

  1. I find that I am temperature regulated much better in the rain. So far, it has been a cold rain which is the ideal temperature to cool me off while hiking without getting too cold.
  2. Everything is so much quieter when it is raining. The woods feel still and tranquil. The sound of the falling rain is steady and calming. I think a lot more clearly on days hiking in the rain.
  3. Finally, I think there is just something especially beautiful about the AT in the rain. The fog and rain creates a foreign yet serene landscape which I find particularly captivating.

100 miles in. Feels great!… until you realize that’s about 5% of the way…

It still feels pretty darn good though!

Amongst the rainy days and state-crossing, all this walking culminated to my total mileage on the AT surpassing 100 miles. I’ve never hiked 100 miles on any trail before this. I have been a weekender, going on 3 to 4 night backpacking trips covering 30ish miles. 100 miles is a huge step up!

I’ve really been enjoying staying on one trail for so long. I’m getting to know the AT in a more intimate way than any trail before as it winds it’s way up to Maine. Even in the small section I’ve seen so far, there’s so much variation – in terrain, weather, foliage. It’s like meeting a new personality of the trail each day.

20+ miles in a day? Don’t mind if I do.

And finally, probably my favorite of all the firsts is my first day hiking 20+ miles! Over 9ish hours, I hiked a 21 mile stretch from Muskrat Creek Shelter (Mile 81.2) to Long Branch Shelter (Mile 102.4).

A big driver for me coming out here in the first place was to challenge myself, build confidence, and to prove to myself that I’m tough and I can do hard things. It’s only been a week, and I’ve been amazed by what my body can do. It’s been exciting to push myself and super rewarding when I accomplish these intermediary goals, like pulling a 20!

I’m still being mindful of my limits, wary of injuring myself this early on, but right now I’m feeling empowered and strong and in awe of how far I’ve come.

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Comments 5

  • Mama Bear : Apr 13th

    I’m in awe of you. You can do anything you set your mind to. Keep on trekking! Love you bunches. ❤️

  • Marcy Marinelli : Apr 13th

    You’re a bad ass Dema! Love reading your posts so far and following on your adventure.

  • Carole Hoffman : Apr 13th

    How many pairs of sneakers do you think you will go through over the course of the hike?? Congrats on your first border crossing, and here’s to many more. I am curious, does anyone you have met on the trail keep a written (paper and pen) journal, or is that just unnecessary weight? I am 70, and pen and paper just suits me SO much better 🙂

  • Daddy-O : Apr 13th

    I love your writing style and I enjoy your sense of humor. I’m proud of you kiddo! ❤️❤️❤️

  • Fabi : Apr 16th

    You’re such a bad ass! I’ve never considered hiking in the rain, but after reading why you like it, I’ll give it a try 😀 I like walking in a light drizzle, so I’m on the right path…I think 😂


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