Conquering The Approach Trail

It still feels like a dream, but Miguel and I finally made it! From the drive to Amicalola Falls, to staying over at the lodge, to our “final” breakfast, it all felt so surreal for it to be officially starting. Once we arrived at the Amicalola Falls Lodge (10/10 would recommend), we drove around to get a feel for where the falls and Approach Trail were so we were prepared. The next morning, we packed up, ate entirely too much food, and headed for the trail.

The Approach Trail Kicked My Butt

To be honest, what physical preparation I attempted was nothing compared to this. I’ve seen all the photos of the signs showing “175 Stairs: Difficulty Strenuous” but I said ehh can’t be too bad. I was wrong. I guess I didn’t realize that after the 175 steps comes a separate set of 425 steps. Which then leads off to the remaining 8 miles of inclines and declines. It was TOUGH.

That being said, please don’t misunderstand my intentions of telling you this. The last thing I want is to deter someone from the Approach Trail. I simply want you to be more prepared than I was.

Couldn’t Ask For a Better Day

We had been monitoring the weather reports all week leading up to our departure. The forecast showed a rainy start and we had come to terms with it. Once we were fully prepared to start out in the rain, the forecasts changed at the last minute and it looked as though our day would be rain-free. Not only was it rain-free, it was the most beautiful day. We just kept saying over and over how lucky we were and how nothing could mess this amazing day up. Or so we thought…

When It Rains, It pours

Since I’ve already highlighted our near perfect weather conditions, it is safe to say that my cliche heading is referring to something else. We got to camp feeling giddy and high on life. After walking 9 difficult miles, all we could think about was our mashed potato mountain we were about to devour. We set up our tents then went to filter water. At this point, we realize that Miguel’s Sawyer Squeeze is nowhere to be found. Not the end of the world since I also had a filtration system. Now it is FINALLY time to cook dinner. The stove doesn’t work. It is still unclear if it was the stove or the gas that was malfunctioning, but at this point, most of our breakfasts and dinners we packed are out the window.

We were bummed at this point but still kept a positive attitude. Just the fact that we got to leave on such an amazing day really set the tone. We weren’t going to let a few little mishaps get us down. We just ate a tuna packet and crackers and decided to call it a night. Our first night on trail was in the low 40’s to high 30’s. I was so ready to just snuggle up and sleep. Would you even believe that my sleeping pad miraculously had a hole in it? Well, believe it. At this point I felt as though the trail was just taunting us.

A Silver Lining

Even with the incomparable hike, enough went wrong at the end of the day to leave me frustrated. Even still, I slept it off (barely) and woke up to a new day and a new attitude. We had met a sweet woman named Tina on our first night. That next morning Miguel asked her how her night had gone and she let us know her water filtration system broke. Long story short, we’ve been filtering water for Tina who has in exchange been kind enough to let us boil water with her stove to cook a hot meal at night. She was even kind enough to offer up a ride into town a few days later to resupply and replace our stove. This mutually beneficial relationship helped us to keep a smile and keep trekking.

Now, Just One Step at a Time

With a bumpy first day, we have gotten a small taste of “embracing the suck”. Those little bumps or any other, however, will not be enough to break our spirit. All we need to do is just put one foot in front of the other and appreciate every moment, good or bad. The fact that we even have the opportunity to be doing the Appalachian Trail is something to be grateful in itself. And rain or shine, cold food or hot, I will have a smile on my face all the way to Mount Katahdin.

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Comments 33

  • Avatar
    pearwood : Feb 12th

    Wonderful, Nadia. Yay for you and Miguel and Tina. Nobody makes it on their own, on the trail or anywhere else. Thus speaks seventy years.
    I am looking forward to following your progress.
    Blessings,
    Steve / pearwood

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Nadia Fenay : Feb 13th

      Thanks for the kind words and support!

      Reply
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    Pete Buak : Feb 13th

    Love your attitude! Good luck on your hike. Sounds like you are a go for the whole way.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Nadia Fenay : Feb 13th

      Thanks so much!

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Nadia Fenay : Feb 13th

      That’s great advice. Thanks! ☺️

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Russ1663 : Feb 13th

    Way to go Nadia, shook of the issues as they appeared. Good luck to you, Miguel and Tina.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Nadia Fenay : Feb 13th

      Thanks, that’s so kind!

      Reply
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    Nevins Carson Smith III : Feb 13th

    Always cut firewood uphill from camp. Get a pair of leather gloves to use climbing Katadian.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Nadia Fenay : Feb 13th

      That’s great advice. Thanks! ☺️

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Kristian Aiken : Feb 13th

    Building a resort off of the Appalachian Trail. Hope to have some of it open by fall. It’ll be located in Tennessee near Watauga Lake. Please give some feedback. Building a future for my family. Kristianaiken.net kristianaiken.com kristianaiken.biz . Thank you

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Scott Graham : Feb 13th

      Enjoy your trip! You will hurt every day, and you will see new wonders every day. It’s the trde off, but it’s all in the trip not so much the destination. Take a deep breath of the free air for me too!

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Bubba : Feb 13th

      Make sure you contact the guidebook people and put in an ad! Good luck on your new venture!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Darlene Patterson : Feb 13th

    Hi, Nadia. Every year I pick a hiker to follow along the trail. You are my pick for 2021. I love your spirit and will be cheering you onward to Maine. Go girl!!! You can do it!! D.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Nadia Fenay : Feb 13th

      Hi Darlene! That means so much to me! I appreciate your support and kind words ☺️

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Julie : Feb 13th

    I’m looking forward to following your adventures! I love reading about the good and the bad. You’ve already overcome some mishaps and you’re still smiling! You’ve got this! Can’t wait for your next post.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Bubba : Feb 13th

    Remember, everybody is a thru-hiker in Georgia. About half leave the trail at Neel’s Gap. It’s a great place to resupply by the way. 3 or 4 days in on the A.T. Let them weigh your pack for you. Chances are excellent that your packs are way, way, way too heavy.

    Best of luck. You sound very determined, so that is always a good sign. Geepers it is too cold to be on the AT this early! Get microspikes! I fell off the PCT because of the snow, so voice of experience here.

    Bubba

    Reply
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    Matt : Feb 14th

    Good luck to you! I love the fact that you are on the trail so early! When you finish you will still have some summer to enjoy!!!!

    Reply
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    Lauren Box : Feb 14th

    I just stumbled on your article while scrolling my news feed and I loved it! I like your writing style (your “voice”) and I love your attitude! Since I am far from a trail, and very much missing hiking, I plan to read along as you post about your adventure and make me feel like I am right there with you. I wish you much success and luck!
    PS- I also wish you much success as you study sustainability, which I think is really cool!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Nadia Fenay : Feb 18th

      Thanks Lauren, you’re so kind ☺️

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Barry Judd : Feb 14th

    KICK ASS!!!! i love that story! nadia & miguel keep on ROCKIN!!! that inspired me to get off my lazy butt and start walking, or hiking lol. Thank yall, my friends. I love yall

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Barry Judd : Feb 14th

      Lol oops, i cant forget tina. TINA!!! u also ROCK!!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Rog : Feb 14th

    Wish you the best. Thought the AT was closed for 2021.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Miguelito : Feb 14th

    I love both of your positive attitudes and envy you for your early start. Be careful and prepared for the last winter snow storms. Groundhog says you’ve got some more cold nights ahead. Better have insulated sleeping pads or foam pads to slip under your inflatables. Keep on rocking!!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Brenda James : Feb 14th

    you have inspired hubs, 62, perfect hiking health to do this

    Reply
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    Alec : Feb 14th

    I’m looking forward to following your hike Nadia. I’ve hiked sections in TN, NC, PA and NH, but have always dreamed of a thru hike. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Rita D : Feb 14th

    Sounds like a great attitude to an interesting start! I used to live in Dahlonega,GA and your picture at Amicalola Falls caught my eye. I now live in Asheville,NC so if you need anything in my area let me know. I will come find you!! Stay warm!!

    Reply
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    Karen : Feb 14th

    Nadia, I am so excited to follow you and read about your adventure! I’m a new hiker, still doing very short hikes, so I’ll be living vicariously through you! And with you all the way! You got this!!!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Tricia : Feb 14th

    I’m so excited to see your posts. Hang in there with through the cold weather. You’ll make it to the beautiful days. Don’t give up.

    As a fellow explorer, I’m psyched for you and your adventure. Keep posting when you can.

    From your earlier posts, 100% men’s hiking pants are the way to go. Women’s pants are too tight to hike in and have teeny tiny pockets.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Eddie Lamulle : Feb 15th

    Good work keep it up You will go a long way in your life

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Erica : Feb 18th

    I came across your post after listening to a podcast about a thru hike of the PCT.
    I wish you and Miguel all the best – let me know when you near Maryland I’ll bring some of my students to cheer you on !

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Cajun Turtle : Feb 19th

    Remember the last mile is the one that counts but it’s the first mile and dozens in between that you’ll remember. I’ve done the approach trail three times, the first two were tough. The last one I did after hiking SOBO to New Jersey and then flip flopping to Georgia. Nothing to it. You can do this and with the hunger and pain will come some of the most awesome views and experiences. Feeling homesick for the trail lol. Good luck and Happy Trails!!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Rachel : Feb 19th

    That’s awesome Nadia. You Rock!!

    Reply

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