GA-NC: Finding My Tramily

Winding Stair Gap, Mile 109.6

It’s only week two on trail, and we’re already joking around and swapping stories as if we’ve known each other for years. Other hikers ask, “Did y’all know each other before this?” They call us a line of ducklings as we pass them on the trail. We look like a school group out on a field trip. This is my tramily (trail family).

Emilia, Derek, Lee, Holly, & Carly

How It Started

For me, it all began my very first night on trail. I walked in the rain to Springer Mountain Shelter, freezing and alone. When I arrived, I was greeted by several other hikers that had already set up camp or claimed their spots in the shelter. We swapped names and hometowns over dinner. The next morning, I set out by myself, assuming I’d see a few of them somewhere down the trail. By mid-afternoon, I walked into the next campsite with my new friends Derek and Lee. We haven’t parted ways since.

Though we meet other thru-hikers nearly every day, there are a few that we have clicked with. Ben and Alice from LA camped with us for the first few nights. We hope to see them again on the trail! You can follow their adventures here: Ben On the Trail. Trunks was also one we met at camp early on. We shared our first fire with him at Woods Hole Shelter.


The Rest of Them

It was a rainy Tuesday that introduced us to the rest of our crew. Derek, Lee, and I were headed down Blood Mountain to spend the night at our first hostel: Mountain Crossings. Hostels are a great place to meet other hikers! As we charged batteries, inhaled freezer pizzas, and refilled coffees, we met Holly from Texas, Carly from South Carolina, and Bennett from Massachusetts. Our buddy Trunks from Maine was also there. Over the next few days, our new friends realized how much fun Derek, Lee, and I were having. The group slowly grew as we convinced them to walk with us. Trunks, who prefers to walk by himself, meets us at camp every night. We stop for frequent snack breaks and Derek catches our finest moments on film. You can watch his videos here: Derek Cullen Outdoors. You’ll soon find out that we laugh all day, every day.

Eating dinner together at camp

The Misfits

We’re a group of different people with unique lives. The age of our hikers ranges from 22 to 60. We’re from all over the United States and world. Between the seven of us, we have worked all kinds of jobs including military, law enforcement, teaching, solar paneling, copywriting, piloting, and more. Some of us are married, some have kids, some not. We come from various upbringings, beliefs, and lifestyles. In the last couple of weeks, I have received grace, kindness, and care from this group of people. I know them to be selfless, understanding, and loyal. We walk at different paces, but most of us snore (occasionally), and all of us love being outside. Our reasons for hiking may vary, but we’re all humans. We were made for connection, and we have found it in one another as we explore the great outdoors.

Tent city with a view

Though we may not walk every mile of this trail step in step, we will cherish the time we have together. As long as we can, we will walk each other home.

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Comments 3

  • Kelly Mccalla : Apr 9th

    Love your post Amelia! You’ve got my girl Carly along with you . Y’all take care and keep laughing !

    • Emilia Grunden : Apr 10th

      Thanks for reading, Kelly! We LOVE Carly!!

  • Carly McCalla : Apr 11th

    Why am I about to cry! So happy to have met you. As I told your mom in the wind and fog on top of Clingman’s Dome, “You have one special daughter.”

    Thanks for saying hey to me when I showed up looking like a wet dog under the arch at Mt Crossings!


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