Fifteen Minutes To Defer—How I Got Here
“How’d you end up here?”
A question I’ve been asked almost every day since February 14th, when I started the approach trail to the AT from the Amicalola Falls Visitor Center in Georgia.
Next Stop, Gainesville
Physically, I took a twenty-three hour train ride from Boston, MA to Gainesville, GA with one transfer in NY. The train ride was surreal. My journey to the bigger journey had started, and I spent the first ten hours of it watching all five Twilight movies! My largest takeaway from the train ride was not any profound motives for my through hike, but that if I am ever on a train ride for ten plus hours again, I’ll get a sleeper car. That night was rough! I couldn’t count on one hand how many backpacks or luggage containers that made their way into my space or bumped into me throughout the night.
I met a few other through hikers on the train and from Gainesville, we shared a ride to the visitor center via a wonderful former through hiker who I met on a Class of 2023 Facebook group. After a quick lesson on LNT (Leave No Trace) ethics and some Georgia map discussions at the Visitor’s Center, we had our hang tags and were on our way.
Now that we know how, more on the who and why
My name is Moon Pants, or more officially, Laura. I’m from Maine and I’m through hiking this year to form a better connection between my mind and body. Growing up, I did a lot of hiking in the White Mountains and I’ve always felt my best when I’m outdoors. This hike was the perfect chance for me to get out of my current routine and create new habits. As much as I miss the common drive to Sunday River for skiing on my free days, I can’t beat being able to wake up outdoors and hike every day—rain or shine—to work towards a common goal as those around me.
“Fifteen minutes to drop out”
It was easy to decide I was gonna do the hike. Spending five to six months in the woods sounded like a blast to me. When it came up in casual conversation over the summer I agreed immediately. I’d go back to school for the fall semester and gap for Spring. It took less than fifteen minutes total to defer from school. That was the easiest part. The hard part was coming up with an acceptable reason as to why I was so drawn to the idea of completely changing scenery and adopting a new trail life.
Ultimately, as corny as it may sound, I’m here for myself. I’m working on clear communication between my mind and body to be happier and healthier, and the trail is helping me with that. The saying that “the trail provides” becomes a little truer for me every day, even on hard days. Stiffness and soreness show me new ways to take care of myself by stretching or moving differently. Hard days often turn into learning opportunities, and all the while I’m surrounded by people here that want each other to succeed.
As I’m writing this, I’d say this rapid change method has absolutely been working. Uprooting myself and going to Georgia was the best thing I believe I’ve done for myself—ever. I’m about three weeks in now. I’ve officially made it through the Smokies and I’m feeling ready for a rest, but savoring every bit of the trail. If you’re reading this now, I’ve probably found that rest point, since I was able to post.
Why I chose to write
I thought it would be a good idea to write during this through hike (my first) to keep record of it and to better reflect on my experiences. It’ll help me stay on track for my personal goals and give me the chance to share my experiences with others. I plan to share all that I can about my time on the trail—I hope that anyone who reads along enjoys my process, avoids similar mistakes, visits my favorite reuben-serving restaurants (they’ll be shared), and has some sort of positive take away from my words. I’m totally open to chat in the comments if there are questions, and do my best to post updates on my hike via Instagram at least once a week if you’d like to follow along.
Happy trails! Thanks for reading 🙂
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