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.

Photo of Moon Pants at the approach trail start

Starting the trail

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.

View from Springer Mountain Day one

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.

Visual of the Moon Pants that brought me to my name

“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.

View from the Smokies

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

Day two in the Smokies

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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Comments 9

  • Chris : Mar 13th

    I’ve been in a few sleepers, and each time I never got a good nights sleep. It’s certainly worth a try if you’ve never done it, but keep your expectations low. A sleeper with a bathroom is great, plus food & beverages are included. Cool to hear that others take the train down, because you usually just hear about people flying into Atlanta. Good luck on your walk back home.

    • Laura : Mar 13th

      I’ll definitely try it next time. I took the train because I was worried about getting my hiking backpack through the airport fully packed or having to be separated from it. Wouldn’t want to risk losing that one.

      Thanks for reading, Chris!

  • jhonYermo : Mar 13th

    Thanks for this article. You are walking for lots of the same reasons I value, so it really hit home. AND you enjoy Ruben samitches. 🙂
    I took my big train trip from Los Angeles to Norfolk VA via Chicago, round trip. Whew! Sleeping was tough but I just couldn’t handle the price of a sleeper. But I am glad I did it.
    Don’t know about you but the thing that got me most on my trip? So few people outside, unless they were in cars or walking toward there car. Shocking for me.
    Anyways, following you vicariously from Los Angles on your grand adventure and AT Pilgrimage. Buen Camino, happy travels, and good fortune on your quest of discovery.
    I salute you!

    • Laura : Mar 13th

      I’m eating a Reuben right now! Best sandwich out there. I’m glad you’re following along, thanks for the read 🙂

  • Liam : Mar 13th

    I’m from Boston and was planning to hike next year. I was debating about a sleeper car, I think you convinced me! You’ve got a good why, I hope you make it back to K.

    • Laura : Mar 13th

      Hope you enjoy the sleeper car! It’s a very long ride, haha. Good luck on trail next season!!

  • Logan Laliberte : Mar 13th

    Glad to see you blogging, can’t wait to hear the deli blazing reuben reviews throughout New York. There’s a good place in Unionville to get one and that was maybe the only one I had on trail. You got this!! Can’t wait to hear more.

  • Robert Sartini : Mar 13th

    I took that same train 23 years ago to Gainsville. I’ve finished the AT three times since that trip. Worth every step.

    Bamboo Bob GA-Me 2002 2005 2013.

  • Tarheel : Mar 18th

    My daughter Megan was sitting around a campfire at a shelter in Georgia in 2013 and a fellow thru-hiker accidentally set her pants on fire with her wearing them.
    Hence, her nom d’ trail became “Danger Pants”. Wear yours, literally and figuratively, with pride.
    TarHeel ( nee’ Blisters which eventually resolved after 1400 miles ) GA>ME ’79


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