Finishing strong and proud!

I did it!!!!!! I can’t believe I did the whole thing! I completed my Appalachian Trail thru-hike on Tuesday when I summited Springer Mountain just in time for lunch at the top. When I saw a group of women hikers picnicking as I approached the top, I knew I had made it and was choking back tears. Then I stepped onto the slabs of boulder, saw the plaque, and became completely overwhelmed and overcome with all the emotions that accompanied this achievement. I stood there, bent over my poles, gasping with ragged sobs for a few minutes. Those hikers thought I was injured or something else was wrong. Then my friend, Amazing Grace, came up behind me, patted my shoulder, and explained to the others why I was crying.


Finding Grace

Grace and I met in Roan Mountain, TN. She was completing her Appalachian Trail after a few years of LASHing. This year, she completed over 1/2 of the miles of the trail! We saw each other a few other times at hostels in October. My birthday was coming up, and we planned to hike and celebrate together. The day before my birthday, I texted her to see where she was along the trail. She was less than a mile away! I waited at the next shelter for her and we hiked together from then on.

Grace hikes more quickly than I do, but she takes longer breaks and likes to do fewer miles most days. We found that we could compromise on pace, breaks, and distances. Sometimes, we were close enough to have conversations, even if we didn’t talk. Other times, we just waited for each other at good places for breaks or at the end of the day. She is the perfect hiking partner for me! We decided to really savor the last days on the trail. We slackpacked three of the final five days using two of the southern-most hostels as bases. Although we carried minimal gear, we still hiked the same overall pace as before. That’s what happens when you dawdle, sit at vistas for a while, and hike without any rushing. It was fabulous!

We were so happy to reach GA!

A tramily for the end

The thing about flip-flopping is we never really get a tramily. At least not for long. We start all over the trail at different times of the year, so we don’t meet up easily. Sometimes, we latch on to other NOBO or SOBO tramilies for a while. Otherwise, we mostly hike solo.

A group of us flip-floppers patched together a tramily of sorts. A few days before Amazing Grace caught up to me, a flip-flopper I had met at the start of the Whites caught up to me. Tick flipped from the NY/CT line. He found Lightweight, a Belgian LASHer on a 3 month visa, somewhere in the south and was hiking with her. The four of us hiked together for several days before they pulled ahead to finish a few days before us to meet their rides. We saw them each again when we were slackpacking.

Tick and I at Fontana Dam.

Amazing Grace, Lightweight, and I at the top of Wesser Bald.

A few days after Tick and Lightweight pulled ahead of us, we met a young man, Trail Mix, when we all wild camped along the trail. (He had flipped at Harpers Ferry, WV like me, but about two months behind me.) We met up again at the next shelter, and he stopped for a mini-resupply at the hostel we were staying at for a few nights. We convinced him to join us to slackpack a few days. We got dinner together in Hiawassee a few nights, and then cooked a tramily-style dinner at the hostel on our last night together. He got to meet Lightweight on one of the slackpack days, too. It really was an awesome way to finish our epic journeys!

Amazing Grace, Tick, Trail Mix, and I at dinner in Hiawassee, GA.

Amazing Grace and Trail Mix demonstrating the vibe of the end of our hikes.

Next steps

Now that I’m finished my hike, people are starting to ask “What next?” That’s a two-part question. I have been thinking about life after the trail for the last few months. How can I avoid post-hike depression, maintain my fitness, and reenter normal life? They also mean which trails or hikes are on my agenda.

Life after the trail

I missed my family while I was hiking. I will be loving on them and spending a lot of time with them. I plan to maintain my fitness by walking, running, and hiking a combined distance of at least 100 miles each month. In the past, I have found that is a good base for maintaining my weight and fitness. I’ve already started the first two parts of the plan because I’m visiting my older son and his family, and walking several miles each day. When I get home next week, I will continue them, and reconnect with my tutoring students.

Other hikes on my radar

I love hiking. I’ve been doing it all my life. I’d love to hike and run on each continent. I know I’d love to hike the JMT, El Camino, Hadrian’s Wall, one Scotland’s long trails, the Dolomite Mountains, and Kilimanjaro. I’ve heard of a few others that seem interesting in other parts of the world, too. Unfortunately, I don’t have an unlimited income, so I need to spread these other big hikes over many years.

If you could hike anywhere in the world, where would you go?

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Comments 9

  • Ruth Anne Collins : Oct 29th

    Happy for you!!!! That’s a fabulous and awesome accomplishment!

  • Rick : Oct 29th

    Congratulations Kristine. That is so awesome. I’m so happy for you. Being around your same age, it’s nice knowing someone doesn’t have to be the age of a professional athlete to accomplish such a feat. Having only done day hikes, I’ve found I fair much better than my 17 and 24 year olds as far as stamina and post hike soreness goes. Thanks again. What an inspiration

  • David Odell : Oct 29th

    Congratulations on finishing your AT hike. A great accomplishment. Enjoyed your excellent journal. New Zealand and Nepal are great places to hike.
    David Odell AT71 PCT72 CDT77

  • GoGo : Oct 29th

    Major congratulations!! I’ve really enjoyed following your blog this year. France & New Zealand are great places for hiking.

  • Bluewhale : Oct 30th

    Congratulations on a wonderful thru hike. I loved keeping up with you and smelling the flowers along the way!

  • thetentman : Oct 30th

    Congrats on the hike.

  • Daylight : Oct 31st

    Congratulations, Ji Ji! I’m glad to see your face unexpectedly. I couldn’t finish my thru-hiking because of my knee pain. But I’m content with my hiking. We enjoyed it. Thank you talking with me. Hope to see you again.

  • Matt : Nov 4th

    Congratulations GG it was great meeting you back in Vermontish


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