Georgia Rules to Hike By
Rule One: Know Your Gear
It’s been said over and over to test your gear and know how it works. This can’t be stated enough. I’ve encountered hikers out here who haven’t ever set up their tent or lit a stove, and in one instance a prospective thru-hiker almost set an approach trail shelter on fire; luckily, the canister eventually ran out. See Jake’s video here. Needless to say, I met that hiker and he’s now going stoveless. It’s not just about knowing how to use your gear, but knowing how to make the most of it, especially your clothes layering system. My first day was cold and rainy; it took over two days for some of my clothes to dry, and in below freezing temps that can be dangerous.
Rule Two: Know Your Body
Georgia is hard. The terrain here is no joke; it’s still all mountains even if it isn’t the Whites. There are shelters and official/unofficial campgrounds set up every few miles; take advantage of them and take it slow. You’ll make it to North Carolina before you know it. While some of the climbs are “easy” switchbacks, some are definitely straight up (looking at you, Kelly Knob), but those descents can be treacherous as well. Take it slow, stretch throughout the day, and know how to use your trekking poles to your advantage (see rule one); there’s no rush to get out of Georgia. I’ve seen several people pushing big miles within the first few days, only to get stuck taking consecutive zeros, and now struggling to do eight-mile days over a week in. It’s definitely not a race.
Rule Three: Eat
We all know that, logically, if we use a lot of energy, we must consume a lot of fuel. However, those first few days you’re not hungry. You’re tired, you’re meeting new people, you’re getting in the groove of hiking and breaking/setting up camp, and you’re jazzed about actually being on this trail that you’ve been talking about hiking for months or years, but you’re not hungry. Even so, eat! Even just little bits here and there throughout the day. Eat when you collect water, stop to take a picture after a climb, or whatever. Just remember, the more you eat, the lighter your pack gets.
Rule Four: You Don’t Need That Much food
We’ve all heard about hiker hunger, but that takes awhile to kick in. I guarantee you’ll pack too much food. We all have, me especially. Even now, after a few resupplies, each and every one of us shuffled back into the shuttle to the hostel and groaned about how much extra food we bought, even the guys who’ve been hiking for over 20 years. So don’t stress. Just take your time at the grocery store, and when you inevitably buy too much, there’s plenty of hiker boxes that could use your extra Clif Bars or Pop-Tarts.
Rule Five: Enjoy Yourself
Last, but not least, just enjoy yourself. Take advantage of the time you have to do what you love. There aren’t many opportunities to cut out large chunks of time away to do a long hike. So enjoy the scenery, the hikers, the day hikers (who smell so nice), the trail angels, the abundance of Snickers, the lovely folks who pull off to the side of the road to chat with you about hiking and give you a ride and a Coke (thanks, Greeter). This is all a part of the trail to be explored and loved.
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