AT Start-Day 1: Jelly Jam Thighs!

Prepping for flight

As I urgently walk down the aisles of ShopRite searching for Gluten Free tortilla wraps, bopping to “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” by Carl Carlton, I realize that I’m hours away from embarking on a life changing journey. My task at hand seems so trivial yet so important. Finally locating the wraps, which I plan to use for trail lunches with PB and honey, I head back to my van. I drive off, pull into the my co-parent’s driveway and note that the last thing I need to do is tape up my luggage. Yes, I said “tape” because I’m embracing the hiker trash lifestyle early on. If you’re not familiar with the term “hiker trash”, according to, it is:

“A lighthearted, self-deprecating term used by some long-distance hikers to describe themselves, often due to their disheveled appearance and simple lifestyle on the trail.”

The reason I use a laundry bag is because it is large enough to fit my backpack and its contents. I plan to ditch it at the hotel.

I finish wrapping the last piece of tape, sealing it as tightly as a carton of eggs from Whole Foods, and I’m ushered into the truck by my son. He reminds me that we’re running late to the airport. I hop in the truck with my dog on my lap and my son’s hands wrapped gently around my shoulders from the back seat. We press on to Terminal A for United Airlines.

Traffic is light and the ride is easy. My tummy grumbles with excitement but the mood is somber as impending goodbyes await. I grab my luggage from the back of the pickup, say a heartfelt goodbye to my son and pup, and head inside to check in.

At the airport 

No sooner than the moment I’m ready to check my bag do I realize I’ve left my power bank in the bottom of my luggage…which has been wrapped like a mummy with packing tape. I recall reading that power banks are not to be put in a checked bag.

I hurriedly approach the baggage rep at the counter and explain my predicament. I’m met with a dismissive attitude, as can be expected by us Jersey folk, and told there is no available tape, nor does she know (or seem to care) what a battery bank is. Doesn’t this woman know I’m about to embark on one of the most important, life changing events of my life?!!? (second in line to the birth of my children, of course). I reason that it’s not worth sharing this critical information with her as I doubt she’ll bat an eyelash over it.

I leave the desk to find an available spot to open my bag and resign myself to pretend I’m removing the battery bank. I know I’d be taking a chance with having my bag confiscated or worse, detonating a small explosion in the cargo area. I ponder, is that what happens with battery banks in checked bags? I accept my fate and kneel down on the airport floor over my luggage, trying not to expose my bajingo as the dress I’m wearing is cut too high on the sides. I’m wearing a black tie-dyed frock i found at the goodwill because I plan to ditch this outfit at the hotel when I don my hiking gear.

As I’m just about to end my Oscar winning performance of “Girl Pretends to Remove Power Bank from Luggage so She Doesn’t Miss Her Flight to One of the Most Important Events of Her Life”, the woman from behind the counter re-appears with none other than…a roll of packing tape!

I remove the battery bank, re-tape my luggage and unsuccessfully try to disconnect the roll of the tape with my hands. My only choice is to lug the big bag over to mean counter lady, holding it in both arms like a 6 year old whose throwing a tantrum at Walmart because his parents denied him a pack of Hubba Bubba.

The small handles on the dollar store bag are too weak to support the weight and half the roll of tape is dangling off the bag. I bravely ask mean counter lady for scissors or something to cut it off and I’m once again met with dismission (my urban dictionary word for responses from Jersey folk). There are no scissors available and she has no compassion for my plight. I try ripping it off with my teeth as I realize how ridiculous that idea looks and sounds. I excitedly realize I have a pen in my pocket so I use it to poke a hole in the tape and I’m able to sever it and return the roll to its owner.

Ready for flight

Fast forward to me sitting on the plane ready for takeoff. My middle finger on my right hand begins to involuntarily twitch and I’m certain it must be the start of a medical emergency. Should I alert the flight attendant and insist they stop the plane and let me off? Let my try some meditation and breathing exercises first. That doesn’t work and I self consciously watch it twitch….twitch….twitch.

Then I try another strategy. Surrender to the twitch, don’t try to stop it and see what happens. It immediately stops and I settle in for the flight. I figure out that when I jammed my hand into my luggage, I caused some minor inflammation to my finger causing it to twitch. Either that or my nerves are getting the best of me…

I land, hop in a shuttle and have an uneventful and lovely evening in the hotel. I order sushi – spring roll, spicy tuna roll, specialty roll and a rainbow roll. I walk down to the lobby and get a King Cone for dessert. I’m excited to get to the bottom of the cone which houses a surprise hunk of chocolate

Then i order second dinner..a 10 inch pizza and fries. I’m watching a movie on HBO with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston as I drift off to sleep, happy with a full belly.

I wake 9 hours later! I’m ready for the day and eager to start my hike. Breakfast, meditation and a shower. I pack everything neatly into my pack removing every stray hair from my comb so I’m not bringing extra weight. Let’s go!!!

I call an Uber and the first driver immediately declines the ride just after he accepts it. The app begins to find a replacement driver. I watch it search for an available driver…will I make it to Amicalola falls today?! It finds a driver! Thanks Jannie!

I get dropped at the Amicalola Vsitor Center, do the quick orientation, get my yellow hiker tag and off I go. I’m picked up by Bruce, the shuttle driver, in a gray Hummer. We make our way down the bumpy forest road toward the Springer Mountain start. We arrive and I step foot on the AT to begin my journey. But wait…I don’t feel scared. I’m not overwhelmed by emotion. There are no tears. I just start walking. I feel a gentle knowing that this is where I’m meant to be.

On trail

I meet a lovely ridge runner and we walk together a bit toward the top of the mountain. She shares with me that she’s expecting a baby girl in August and I’m filled with elation for this stranger I’ve just met 5 minutes earlier. That’s part of the magic of the trail. Connection, compassion toward others and having the space to be present and authentically engage with one’s self and others.

We part ways and I continue to hike to the top of Springer alone. I touch the starting plaque, get a pic, sign the hiker log with gloved hands, as I’m trying to avoid norovirus, which is rampant on the trail. I sit down to eat my biscuits that I packed out from breakfast with cream cheese and jelly. There’s a light rain and a thick fog. I finish my meal and pack up to begin my hike to Stover shelter.

Jelly jam thighs

I’m slowed down by an uncomfortable friction between my thighs. Is this chaffing? But I’ve only walked a mile! Nope, it’s jelly that landed in my lap and is sticking to my legs. I quickly use a baby wipe and continue onward.

As I walk, I feel good. I think about how easeful everything feels. My pack is not too heavy. My strides are smooth. And then within seconds, I wonder why I’ve chosen to do this. I miss home. I miss my family. There’s silence on the trail for the next 2 miles.

I see the shelter up ahead and feel a little nervous about meeting the voices I hear. What if they’re not friendly. Or worse….what if they’re boring!! I scope out a spot for my tent and put it up. I sit down to eat cold soaked Knorrs Mushroom Risotto which is surprisingly delicious. I’ve added a cold pat of butter and a dash of Parmesan cheese.

The conversation is light hearted, fun and engaging. I instantly feel camaraderie amongst this group I have known for only a few minutes. My questioning of whether I should be here starts to fade.

A storm is coming so those of us not sleeping in the shelter retreat to our tents. I quickly realize why I should have taken on the extra weight of bringing a tent footprint…the floor of the tent is quickly saturated. I can’t sleep. I have to pee but it’s raining outside. The wind whips. My tummy is grumbling because I guess I didn’t eat enough for dinner. The rain taps on all sides of the tent. I question again if I should be here.

As I try to find slumber so I can be rested for tomorrow, I replay my favorite joke told by a new trail mate…

Why are New Yorkers afraid of the light at the end of the tunnel… Because it’s NJ

I chuckle and hope that sleep finds me soon. It may be a long night. But I’ve made it. I am here on the trail. The journey I’ve prepared for is finally happening. There will be many more jokes ahead. I will find solace, contentment and peace. There will be times filled with doubt, fear and frustration. There will be more jam thighs. And I’m here for it all.


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Comments 12

  • Bluewhale : Apr 12th

    Congratulations on starting your walk through the woods!

    • Stretch : Apr 18th

      Thank you!

  • Ttacy : Apr 12th

    Wish I was there with u.Id enjoy the long adventure and relatively safe.Have a natural connection to nature so glide with it in harmony,you will do just fine.Who knows,I may be able to get on the trail as I’ve always hoped to do.

    • Stretch : Apr 18th

      Thanks! Hope you’re able to get out there!

  • “Blaze” GA-ME 1994 (Tim Shaffer) : Apr 12th

    I love your attitude, sounds like you have it figured out: snakes, bears, and life “on the trail”. You know the rules: one-day-at-a-time, and hike-your-own-hike! Best wishes from an old AT vet!

    • Stretch : Apr 18th

      Thanks for the well wishes!

  • Terry Foskey : Apr 13th

    Loved your day one post !! I hiked the trail in 2017 and it became the third greatest thing to ever happen in my life ,( after the birth of my daughter and marrying the love of my life ). Once you get your “trail legs” you’ll be fine physically, you’ll start putting in the miles.
    I truly can’t wait to read future post !! Happy hiking !

    • Stretch : Apr 18th

      Thank you!! Looking forward to trail legs!

  • Lisa : Apr 19th

    Fantastic story and start to your adventure. I’m excited for you. I can’t wait to get out there myself one day.

  • Mercury : Apr 20th

    Have fun and get into a rhythm…..wish I was there….

  • Tman : Apr 21st

    You have such an engaging writing style which drew me in immediately. You have a great attitude and a thirst to be out there. Go get it done and keep smiling.

  • Jerry : Apr 22nd

    I live 10 miles from Winding stairs gap…I travel the road on my way to work. I lived here when Orient brought blind Bill….when the going gets tough, and it will, remember Bill couldn’t see the rocks and roots there to trip you…and grandma Gatewood with keds tennis shoes and helpful folks along the way….you can do it.


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