Dear Trail Gods, Can I Please Have My Trail Legs Now??

Me, out of breath and grateful to finally be at the top of Blood Mountain

But seriously, pretty please?

I’m doing it! I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail. These boots (Altras) were made for walking, and that’s just what I’ll do (am doing). Day after day after day. I’m practically a professional walker now!

Sunset from Ramrock Mt.

I have all of the warm fuzzy feelings that accompany stepping out from behind the computer screen of my regular day job into a world of walking through the woods and frankly not knowing what day of the week it is. It is deeply gratifying, and I’m thoroughly grateful to be here.

Me, at an outlook loving life and feeling like a bad ass.

But have I thought about quitting since I started? HECK YA, DUDE. Multiple times. I am but a mere mortal afterall.

Now do I want to quit? Definitely, definitely, definitely not. Did I say definitely? Definitely. But the mind wanders. And on a climb of thousands of feet of elevation, I’d be lying if I said I never thought to myself,  “What the hell am I doing here? Do you know how easy it would be to go home?”

Don’t get me wrong, the AT is a physical challenge for sure. There is a reason 25% of would-be thru-hikers drop out by Neel’s Gap. The ups and downs of the trail are LITERAL ups and downs. Like you’re descending into the valley of a gap just to crest another mountain a mile or so later.

Abandoned hiking boots at Neel’s Gap

But damn is the mental game equally as challenging. The list of reasons that I’m taking on this beast of an adventure is just as crucial a piece of gear as the tent that shelters me or the sleeping quilt that’s been keeping me warm every night in this unusually cold week.

To the creators of switchbacks – my sincerest thank you.

All that being said, I’m pretty sure my right knee is staging a coup. I’m 4 days into this journey, and my body is pretty pissed that my brain and heart signed us up for this. 45 miles on the trail (54 total counting the 9 miles Approach Trail), and my legs are really starting to wonder what gives!

I hear that it takes about two to three weeks to get your “trail legs” (and for my family and friends back home who don’t know what I’m talking about, that means the point at which my legs stop fighting back and resign to the fact that this is what we do now). I’m pretty excited for that moment to arrive. Although, I have surprised myself with what I’ve been able to do so far.

I know this sign is for the Approach Trail, but when the approach to the hard trail is strenuous… yikes.

The first few days, my right calf right under the back of my knee was super tight and sore. Thanks to my dear friend Gladys’s firm recommendation, I’m carrying a cork ball that was a life saver for rolling that muscle out. That combined with a regular stretching routine that I’ve worked into my schedule (also firmly recommended by Gladys… she’s a smart lady), I seemed to have appeased my leg for now. My knees themselves are both still quite tender, but by taking the steep inclines and declines slowly and with support from my trekking poles, we’re getting by ok.

I think we still got another 2152 miles in us!

I got a Fudge Round and a Capri Sun from Mountain Squid… and other trail magic.

It’s not all whines and laments though,  I promise! I just felt it was important to lead with the real stuff because this experience is exactly that. A REAL experience – it’s not all sunsets and breathtaking vistas and belly laughs with new friends. But you know what, blisters, climbs, and achey knees aside, sometimes a stranger offers you a Little Debbie snack you haven’t had since middle school, and everything is ok in the world for that sweet, simple moment.

There are also many many little moments of profound beauty like this one

The trail provides, as they say.

That’s exactly what happened my very first day on trail when I reached the Springer Mt. parking lot, and again at Hogpen Gap. There is no feeling quite like starting a descent to a gap just to see a tent and knowing that there’s a whole spread of goodies waiting for you at the bottom. I didn’t know much about trail magic, just that it existed. But it’s more involved and more satisfying than I could have imagined.

Bobby’s trail magic spread at Hogpen’s Gap, charging station included!

Folks like Mountain Squid and Bobby spend their weekends dolling out treats and full on meals to passing grungy hikers. Literal angels, let alone trail angels. It seems like the joy is in meeting those of us passing through and getting to be a small part of our journeys. I’m just very grateful that people like this exist in the world.

In Summary (i.e. The Things I’ve Learned So Far):

Bright and shiny (and clean) on Day 1

  • Forming a tramily (trail-family) exponentially increases the joy in this experience and eases the tough moments. Shout out to Forklift, Chef, Mosey and Liam (trail name TBD like me)
  • I was carrying WAY too much food to begin with and grossly misjudged my need for a resupply at Neel’s Gap. (Shout out to my family for dropping it off on your way back north and to Forklift for resupplying from my resupply so nothing went to waste). I now understand that 12 lbs of food… too much food!
  • Fresh fruit is most satisfying when eaten in the sunshine after many, many miles of hiking
  • There is an awful lot left to learn.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 4

  • Poolak Forutanpour : Apr 9th

    WOW! How amazing, Dema! I’m rooting for you! I hope you have smooth trekking moving forward! 🙂

  • DEB : Apr 9th

    Enjoy your posts. One foot in front of the other & you’ll be at Baxter be for you know it! Good luck & stay safe out there.

  • Carole : Apr 11th

    Hi! You don’t know me, and I have never met your mom in person, but we are friends on FB via a teachers group. I love reading your blog posts because you are the third person I have ever known to hike the full AT. I just know you will achieve this goal, and I am here rooting for you every day. You will make wonderful and not so wonderful memories, meet lovely and not so lovely people along the way, but at the end you will have changed in many ways that will steer you in the right direction for whatever comes next. You’ve got this, girl. Enjoy something new each day.❤️ Sending love from Potomac, Maryland.

  • Fabi : Apr 15th

    I just love your writing style, dude! I’m so glad to hear you’re meeting awesome people in your journey 😊 I had no idea that such a thing as trail magic existed. Those folks are truly trail angels! Sammy and I are rooting for you 🤗


What Do You Think?