It’s Day 5, and within hours I’ve gone from hiking to crying on the curb of a random parking lot in Georgia to binge-watching The Office in a $268 hotel room eating an entire bag of Starburst jelly beans. So how did I get here? Let’s take a few steps back…

Officially Solo

Dave dropped me off at the trail early this morning so it was my first day out on the AT on my own. My shoulders and arms were blistered from sunburn, my right shin started hurting, I found out 4 miles into my hike that Dave had accidentally taken the water filter home, and a nasty thunderstorm was supposedly rolling in.

Luckily I had backup water purifying tablets to hold me over until I got a new filter (was patting myself on the back for bringing these), so was trying to stay positive despite being a bit overwhelmed. A few miles later I came into a gap with some cars parked and saw a fellow thru-hiker. We talked for a minute and she told me she had just booked a room in town and was going to spend the night and then take a zero (a day where you hike 0 miles, essentially a day off) and spend the night tomorrow as well. I was feeling overwhelmed and her plan to go into town sounded like a great idea. Just one minute later, an older couple offered to take us into town for free. Everything seemed to be working out great (spoiler alert: it did NOT work out great).

Upon getting into town, I learned that the most affordable hotel was going to cost me $120 for one night. This is far more than I had planned on paying for any lodging on the AT, especially during the first week. I wasn’t sure what else to do so I booked the room. My new friend and I went to lunch while we were waiting for our rooms to be ready. I was feeling really guilty about coming into town so early considering I had just stayed in a different town with Dave the night before and had only walked 7 miles that morning. I tried to brush it off though telling myself I needed to pay attention to the shin pain and cut myself some slack during these early days. I have 6 months to finish this hike – it is the ultimate marathon, not a sprint.

Cockroaches and Cryfests

After running into another group of hikers staying at the same place, we went to our rooms at 3 p.m. when they were supposed to be ready. None of them were even close to ready and there were cockroaches and mold in various rooms. We all asked for our money back and were back to square one in terms of finding a place to stay. I was feeling pretty overwhelmed at this point and considered taking a shuttle back to the trail, hiking to the nearest shelter, and waiting out the storm there, but was worried the shelter might either be completely empty or completely full.

I wasn’t keen on sleeping alone my first night solo, and I didn’t want to sleep in my tent during the storm. Not to mention all of the shuttles I called were busy. My new friend booked a room at a different motel that ended up being almost as bad as the first one, though slightly better enough to put up with. As soon as I convinced myself to book the same place, I was told they had just sold their last room for the night.

On the verge of tears for the 2nd or 3rd time today, I looked up any available hotel in the area, no longer concerned about the price. I booked it, checked in, and had a mini-breakdown as soon as I was able to get my pack off.

I knew going into this that the trail was going to throw me plenty of curveballs, but I wasn’t expecting so many so early in the game. I can see why some people don’t make it out of Georgia, but all of these obstacles are making me even more determined to finish. I have been dreaming of this experience for so long and I know I am supposed to be out here. Part of what drew me to the AT was the incredible challenge I knew I would face. What else you got for me Georgia?!

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Comments 12

  • Tabby : Apr 9th

    So sorry your day 5 was such a rough one, but your attitude and determination is so inspirational!

    The whirlwind of emotions must be anxiety inducing, but you are such a strong soul that I know you’ll handle anything thrown your way.

    You’re going to have so many amazing stories to tell and you’re going to feel so proud when you finish your trek!

    I’m rooting for you!!!

  • Jennifer V : Apr 9th

    I’m so sorry to hear about your experience, but am enjoying living vicariously through you from my cubicle. Sending good vibes your way!

  • Julie : Apr 10th

    You got this! I’m cheering for you!

  • DAddy Longlegs : Apr 10th

    Embrace The Suck.
    Happy Trails,

  • Cindy : Apr 10th

    Love this post! Your attitude by the end is inspiring. You can handle anything Georgia brings you! Hoping for a great day 6.

  • Kristi McFadden : Apr 10th

    What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! You of all people know that and I know you can do this! The Big Guy Upstairs is by your side hiking with you! Love you and praying for easier challenges ahead!

  • Warren : Apr 10th

    Yet another cautionary tale about a lack of proper preparation for a thru-hike – such as, there probably will be no leaves on the trees until late April/early May.
    The 75% failure rate continues year after year because of a lack of proper preparation – mostly on the mental/emotional front.
    However, at least 75% who attend the Appalachian Trail Institute (where they do get a proper preparation) complete their hikes.

    • Laurie : Apr 10th

      I wouldn’t consider myself unprepared…I have spent hundreds of hours researching and preparing for this hike…sunscreen is the only thing I did not bring and I picked it up as soon as I could. And I’m not even close to dropping out…this just happened to be one of those days things didn’t go as planned, but I figure that will happen plenty of times along the way.

  • GPa : Apr 10th

    My sympathies though 1)sounds like what you had been warned of in your thorough preparation 2) probably what all newbies run into 3) sounds like the beginning of a great article or book 4)you can do it, are doing it 5) once done, no one can ever take it away and you can point to it as evidence of the unquestionable resolve you can muster. We are all rooting for you encouraged by your notes.

  • Jackie G. : Apr 10th

    Excited for you, Laurie. Just a couple of small bumps in the road early on, but you’ve got this! Looking forward to following along with you on your trek. Sending positive vibes your way from St. Croix.

  • Tracy : Apr 10th

    You’ve got this Laurie. You are strong. You are brave. You are a fighter. This trip is going to be amazing for you. Yesterday was just a blip. Blips happen.


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