Bama-to-Baxter Week 1
Wow! What a week!
Hello, Everyone! Before I get started I want to thank everyone for the well wishes- extra thanks to those who have been keeping tabs on me. It has been quite the few weeks. I’ll throw this one out today and get the next one out there soon.
Leading up to the trip my mind was overtaken by “what the hell am I getting myself into.” This time was filled with sleepless nights. Emotions oscillated from fear to excitement to bewilderment to crisis-filled-what-ifs (all within a few minutes of each other). It was exhausting. But, with a combination of good preparation and strong support from loved ones, I got out the door.
The First Steps
As Chris and I drove to the Southern Terminus of the Pinhoti, Chris tried to ease my mind. He asked me questions that could have been about Freshman history class for all I know- my mind was an only minutely controlled nuclear meltdown. We got to the trailhead. Last-minute hugs and final words of encouragement were given. Chris pulled away.
It was me and a dream coming to fruition.
PHOTO: Sorry! No photo, that moment was for me 🙂
Tears, Tears, and More Tears
I spent the next mile up Flagg Mountain pouring out tears. Again the feelings were mixed and chaotic, but they all brought tears. The next week brought many tears, too. It should be noted, all of these tears, even the ones brought on by sad memories, had the same underlying note of a humble pride- after all, I am doing this.
A First Night of Peace and Wisdom
Coming back to that first night: I approached the Ranger’s Cabin on Flagg Mountain, the last peak, above 1000ft, of the Appalachian Mountains, with the same hesitant and chaotic mind. I sat down and got myself a snack. About this time Kim, from the POC, pulled up to drop off Nimblewill Nomad (yup, the now oldest thru-hiker of the AT). Nimblewill is the caretaker atop Flagg Mountain. He put me up for the night in the backroom of the Ranger’s Cabin. As we sat in front of the fire there wasn’t much said. We didn’t talk about the distance, the pains of hiking, gear, or any of the million questions that one could ask. I looked up at the wall and saw a time-lapse photo of Flagg Mountain’s lookout tower, fixed on the North Star. All was answered by his demeanor and his one phrase that will stick with me through this hike: “I’ve never been more at peace in my entire life.”
It really is going to be all okay. There are people who care.
As I walked away north, Nimblewill gave me a firm handshake and a caring few words. I really thought starting on the Pinhoti Trail I’d be at it by myself. That was quickly shown to be incorrect. Be it Nimblewill, the Caperton’s in Wetumpka, the fella who gave me a hitch over the road walk, Nathan and Kim at the POC, Nancy at Next Step Hiker Hostel, Dreamer, a part thru-hiker and creator of the YouTube channel TnT on the Trail, and of course the Rents and Chris; I am not walking this thing alone.
Do you want this? Are you sure?
It ain’t all sunny days and flat terrain. Two days in a row I raced up and down mountains to beat a storm. I covered more miles than I intended but it was the only safe course of action. It rained so hard one night, and the prevailing winds shifted direction at midnight, that all my gear got soaked. I got up the next day, shivering a little, and sought to get out of the backcountry. As I packed up camp the thought came to mind… What about that stream crossing?
I started to spiral. Stopped. Grabbed myself, as has been the way, and nonchalantly said, “Well, we’ll cross that lack of a bridge when we get there.” Dude, when I say I lost it, I went full-on Bubbles The Clown. I laughed so hard that if anyone would have been around in a sound state of mind they would have run the other way.
I shouldered my pack, full of wet gear, and made for the trailhead. Only to be blocked by said stream. It looked and sounded like something better suited for the Ocoee, not an Alabama stream. I started to spiral. What will I do? Can I find a way around? Will I be able to get a fire started? I collected myself. Took a deep breath. Yes, I’ll figure this out. It took the next three hours collecting, hauling, processing, and praying at the altar of the fire ring, but I got a fire started. A roaring one. I hung a gear line and managed to get a dry and warm night’s rest in a wet, 20˚F forest.
The next day I got out of the woods. Still had to do a pretty full-on stream crossing the next day, but it got done. I write from the cozy couch of Next Step Hostel. I made it through this week with a smile still on my face and a positive look to the future. I stayed positive, patient, and optimistic. I allowed my mind to find neutrality- peace. I am not going to try to change the weather. I am not going to get upset at every little mishap. I am not even going to try to make it to Katahdin! I am going to focus where my foot is, let it rain, smile with those kind enough to extend a hand, and walk north.
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