Georgia Peach My A$$
Now that I have your attention. Let me just say, the Georgia mountains are no joke.
Wow did that first week teach me a lot. But before I get into that, let me back up to the most gruesome 8.8 miles, the AT Approach Trail at Amicalola Falls.
Lessons learned on my first day: 175 strenuous steps to the top of a waterfall are extremely hard, do not consume a protein shake before hiking said 175 strenuous steps, and according to the AT registration guy, hiking the AT is the Olympics of hiking.
Hm. Well shit. Here goes nothing, guess I’m about to be an Olympian. For real though, that initial mile to the top of Amicalola Falls is intense. But let me set the scene of my emotional state at the time. Just to be blunt, I’m a damn basket case. I’ve already cried once this morning, the registration guy about made me cry, and per normal I’ve started hiking later than I wanted and am now panicking that there won’t be room for my food in the bear box and that I’ll have to throw a bear bag the first night. Thank god for all my family helping calm my nerves and shout out to my stepdad who with no previous knowledge of the difficulty of the first mile agreed to hike it with me. He did great. I proceeded to run to the women’s restroom at the top of the falls and vomit in the trash can. Damn that protein shake but it’s ok, I’ve convinced myself that I cannot be the first thru-hiker to vomit in that last public restroom before setting out on a ~2000-mile trek.
Off I go, into the woods. Slowly, very slowly disappearing out of eyesight of my family. And then I just start grinning. And can’t stop grinning. I’m here, I’m doing this. The wind is blowing in my face and I swear it was such a surreal feeling. I’ve had to go through a lot to be here. But oddly enough, the universe works in mysterious and sometimes F’d up ways, and I guess I’m just gonna go with it.
Four miles later… I’m working on making a conscious effort to get out of my own head (one of my goals for this hike) and am really noticing my surroundings. It’s beautiful. I then realize I also have song lyrics stuck on repeat in my head. I swear the mind is a crazy thing. I haven’t heard this song in I don’t know how long but I’m singing, “Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie… saying this will be the day that I die.” Oh sigh.
I didn’t die I actually thrived. Well maybe not thrived but I did it. I made it to the top of Springer Mountain got my photo with the very first blaze, signed the registry, and then headed to the shelter. That is after falling on my ass in front of the sweetest Danish couple while trying to pick up my trekking poles while also wearing my backpack. (I have since then improved on this skill.) I will also add that I walked straight past the shelter on the trail. Added a whole extra mile by the time I realized what I had done and turned around, back up the mountain. I now know the blue blazes lead to shelters. I swear I cannot make this stuff up. Only me.
Overall the first day was fantastic! A lot of moments I will never forget. I was indeed the very last hiker to the shelter that night but I successfully set up camp, successfully made my dinner, and then slept my first night on the Appalachian Trail.
The First 50 miles…
Springer Mountain to Blue Mountain Shelter. Fifty miles and six days. It’s so hard for me to sum up even just six days on the trail. My second day on the trail was wonderful. The hike was easier than the first day and I started to meet some really cool people. The highlight of my second day was lunch. I took a small side trail to Long Creek Falls and enjoyed my peanut butter tortilla (10/10 recommend) with some new friends and beautiful scenery.
It is amazing the different types of people you meet out here. Just that day I met a 63-year-old woman who told me she had wanted to hike the AT since she was 16 and that the time had finally come. She said, and I quote, “I sold it all. I have a car and a cat and I’m as free as a bird.” I then met a 71-year-old man who was thru-hiking for his FIFTH time. I ask him what the secret was and he said, “I just love being out here.” It’s been so inspiring meeting people from all walks of life all out here walking together. There is no competition, we’re just walking and enjoying each other’s company.
brought tons of new experiences. I hiked my first 10-mile day, I learned the meaning of “the trail provides,” and I threw my first bear bag while on trail.
I feel like a child again in this environment. Everything is new, full of wonder, and so so beautiful. I’m getting to witness winter slowly turning into spring. And even with this only being the third day I already can’t help but think about how this is the happiest I’ve ever felt. The woods can bring such a feeling of contentment.
Day four was an odd day.
It started out normal. I had a 10-mile day planned and I was up at seven a.m. ready to go! (Actually, me being up at seven a.m., ready to go isn’t normal at all and should have been my first sign that it would be an odd day.) So here I am ready to go and then we all get a weather notification from the ATC. There’s a severe weather alert with 60mph winds. Well shit. This newb ain’t trying to be squished by a tree on day four. So my three new hiking buddies and I hike the 3.6 miles to Woody Gap where we see tons of other hikers getting off trail for the storm and we decide to do the same. My first nero. Which I know now is a day that is pretty close to hiking zero miles but you still hiked a little. ; )
Looking back I would have probably stayed on trail during the storm but at the time things were still extremely new. On the plus side, I got to explore the quaint little town of Dahlonega and take a shower.
Day five was full of highs.
I hiked in pitch dark in extremely heavy fog, I sat on top of the highest peak in Georgia; Blood Mtn, and I reached my first resupply in Neel’s Gap. And boy was that resupply good! Filled up on frozen pizza and cold beer and made some more hiking friends.
Day six was full of lows…
…and was the first time I cried while on the trail. It was so extremely cold and windy that I had a hard time sleeping. Just tossing and turning, crinkling away on my sleeping pad. When I decided to crawl out of the burrito that was my sleeping bag I noticed that everyone in my group was either packing up to leave or were already gone. Cue the stress and the tears. (If you’re following along on my journey, I promise this won’t be the last time I cry. Ya girl got big emotions.) But I was able to get through it.
A quick pep talk where I reminded myself that this was why I was out here, to do this alone. That this is MY journey. It’s crazy what the state of your mind can do to your physical performance. I read in some book that thoughts are the most effective weapon in the human arsenal and never have I been able to see that more clearly. Each day on the trail will not be fun I know that, but whatever each day brings I feel ready for it.
Day seven and the first milestone of 50 miles!
Everything about this past week has been amazing and oh so rewarding. The highs, the lows, I accept and welcome them all. Hiking these mountains can really give you perspective.
So maybe I should take back my title statement of “Georgia Peach My A$$” because you Georgia, you truly have been a peach and I look forward to the next 30ish more miles of walking through your mountains. In the words of my new friend RoadRunner, “Keep Er Movin.” North Carolina, here I come!
Also, side note: this post is in much more depth than future posts likely will be. I wanted to truly capture the first week on trail but am seeing how difficult it can be to find reliable Wi-Fi while in the backwoods. First world probs I know.
And if you have made it this far reading this post then bless you. Hopefully, I will have stronger Wi-Fi next time to upload photos or figure out a different solution as far as adding photos to my posts while on the trail. This has all been a huge learning curve. Bear with me.
(hey bear) ; )
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