Starting my Thru-Hike

Day 0: Getting to Georgia

     I booked my flight to Georgia from Florida months in advance so I wouldn’t have problems. What I didn’t consider was how my arrival time would affect everything leading up to my sister’s house (where I was staying the night before). 

      For some context I was going on a cruise the week before my send-off. I know right… random. Anyway the ship arrived in Ft. Lauderdale on May 2 and my first day on trail was May 4, so I had to get to Orlando to make my flight the night before I started hiking. Since I knew all of this, I booked a late flight into Georgia to avoid any possibilities of missing it. 

     I landed in Atlanta at around 10:45 still not realizing how this time would affect all the events leading up to my limited amount of sleep. There were very few employees to help us rent a car and plenty of line to wait in. By the time we hopped on the road for the one hour drive to my sister’s house, it was past midnight.

     Being from larger cities, I was used to fast food restaurants being open late. This was not the case for the small town we were heading to. Everything was closed, even if maps said they were open for another hour. Luckily, Whataburger was open 24 hours and wasn’t too far away from the house. 

     Once we finished our road trip and scavenger hunt, we got to my sister’s house. It was 1:30 in the morning and I wanted to be at Amicalola Falls by 9 AM. Keep in mind I still needed to pack up everything that I had sent to her house; food and gear. By the time I finished that and took what would be my last shower for days it was 2:30. Needless to say, I passed out immediately.

Day 0.5:  The Approach Trail 

     I awoke from my “sleep” ready to take on the world… not really. I was dead tired and wanted nothing more than to throw my alarm (phone) across the room and sleep in all day. Lazily, I got up, put my big boy gummy bear shirt on, and packed up the car to head for Amicalola.

     We stopped on the way to get breakfast at Chick-Fil-A – thank god it wasn’t Sunday. When it comes to major events, I rarely have an appetite, but I knew this was my last food from the “Matrix” (the real world) so I scarfed something down and drank my lemonade. 

     As we were pulling up to the lot at Amicalola, the rain fell. A torrential down pour from the heavens. “A blessing” my mom said, “a curse” I thought. Thus is the nature of the AT: rain, pain, then Maine. 

     My family followed me into the visitor’s center as I sprinted through the “blessing” to check in for my hike. It took me a while after marveling at the newly constructed center, but I finished checking in and received my thru-hiker tag (#2653). My pack weighed in at 21 pounds! It took a lot of research (and money) to get it to that. 

     Once I was checked in and ready to go, I threw my poncho on, took a quick photo in front of the arch, and started on the side trail up the falls.

     It didn’t take long to reach the top of the falls where my family would leave me. Goodbyes are not easy for us, we like see you laters. Regardless, it was difficult for everyone. 

The Other 0.5: Springer to Hawk Shelter

     I got in my groove rather quickly and started making some progress towards Springer Mountain (Mile: 0). As I arrived, the rain stopped and I was greeted by a beautiful view. A view which is quite rare from the top of Springer. A good sign of what’s to come. 

     Welllll that weather didn’t last very long, because I was back in my poncho faster than you can say Appalachian Tr-poncho. See? 

     In my preparation for this hike, I exercised as much as I could and read books about thru-hiking and the psychology of it (thanks Badger). Even with all that preparation, the trail proved to be quite challenging.

     I didn’t expect to come into this with trail legs, that was a given. What I hadn’t accounted for was the reality of hiking over 2,000 miles through the course of 5 months hitting me mid day. That’s definitely not something you can really prepare for. 

     Hiking through that was much more challenging than hiking uphill for 9 miles straight. The AT really tests every part of your being and I learned that fast. That euphoric feeling of starting the trail was clouded by the doubt of not being mentally capable to hike it. That stuck with me for the remainder of my hike into Hawk Mountain Shelter. 

     There were a good amount of hikers at the shelter. All hiking their own hike. Some were thru-hikers, most were section hikers. I was able to make conversation with a few of them, but I still had the doubt in the back of my head – they really do creep up on you.

     The best advice I received was also the most cliched advice to receive: “one day at a time”.

     I’ve quickly learned since that it is actually the best advice and the best thing one can do out here. The trail will have its ups and downs physically, but most importantly it has its ups and downs mentally. You just have to take it one day at a time. 

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