The Joy and Rhythms of the Trail Get into Your Blood

The other night, I dreamed of a space heater. Yes, a space heater. That was the one thing, in all the world, that I wanted more than anything. I was extremely disappointed to wake up and find it had been a figment of my imagination. It was hands down the coldest night of my life. I shivered and shivered and shivered, hugging myself ferociously and praying I’d fall asleep until morning. I didn’t. Because on top of the extreme cold, the wind unforgivingly roared through the trees. All. Night. Long. At one point, I slept with my arms over my head, convinced a branch was going to fall on my tent (it didn’t).

I made it through the long, frigid night to wake up to sunshine, blue sky for as far as the eye could see, and smiling, friendly people across the campsite, thrilled to face another day on the Appalachian Trail.

Only a few days into the trail, I already know the decision to come out here was absolutely the right one. I’m so happy.

I love getting up, knowing my only responsibility will be to hike xx miles through the woods with my friends. I love seeing familiar faces on the trail and knowing we’re all in this together. I love knowing each day I’ll meet someone new. I love watching my step and finding cute little spring flowers dotting my path. I love trail magic. There is just so much joy here.

I know the newness of the trail will fade – and it’s only human nature to perhaps love it (and the experience) a little less when that happens. There will be more cold nights and likely some monotonous days (or so I’ve heard). But even to this point, I’ve met so many people (volunteers, ridge runners, day hikers, trail angels, and even a funny, jolly thru-hiker named Mickey who’s doing it for a second-plus time) who know it intimately and seem to love it deeply. Mickey told me it gets into your blood – you can’t shake it once you’ve been here. All these people give me hope that perhaps this feeling can and will stick around, for me and all of us who are out here.

I hope so. Because I haven’t felt this way, about anything, in a very long time. And at least for now, I know I belong here.

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Comments 11

  • David valenzuela- AKA Nightlight : Mar 24th

    I just learned of the AT trail last November and I’ve been obsessing ever since. Im not a hiker but i love the outdoors. This would be the one challenge that I need to conquer to get rid of all my fears that I’ve had for 53 years. Afraid to fly, heights, the dark, you get the idea.

    • Audrey Payne : Mar 24th

      What’s the harm in giving it a try? Even getting out here is an accomplishment! And I’ve already met people here who’ve never hiked a day in their life. I say go for it!

  • Mary B : Mar 24th

    You’re a really good writer, thanks for blogging! And, living in the D.C. area, I totally get why you left. But could you write about the people you meet? My husband and I want to do it but am wondering if there are many old goats or there…we are in our 50s

    • Audrey Payne : Mar 24th

      Thank you so much, Mary! And yes! There are plenty of people out here of all ages. You would definitely not be alone being in your 50s. I’m only a few days in and have met people in their teens through 70s. Sure, there are probably more twenty-somethings than anything but other ages aren’t scarce; there is lots of diversity when it comes to age.

  • Sierra Whisky : Mar 26th

    Hello Audrey

    It’s great to read your blog you’re making me envious. I’ve had a fascination with the AT since reading A Walk in the Woods way back in 1998 but haven’t been brave enough to attempt any more than a couple of day hikes in New England but maybe one day…

    Keep up the blogging I can at least hike it vicariously through you!

    Also my wife and I recently re-homed a military working dog here in the UK and that too is a rewarding experience to know that the dog has served the nation and now has a loving home in retirement. She’s a US born black lab who was an IED search dog. I don’t know whether they re-home military working dogs in the US like they do here but I’d recommend it.

    Good luck and looking forward to the next installment.


    • Audrey Payne : Mar 28th

      Thanks so much, Simon! Glad to hear you’re enjoying the blog. Even if you never attempt a thru-hike, section hiking can surely be a great way to experience the trail! Thanks for the suggestion about the military dog – I love that idea and will surely look into it. 🙂

  • Dan : Mar 26th

    Some questions I have for future posts:

    What’s a typical day like?

    Is the trail always a “trail,” i.e. a dirt path? Or are you sometimes walking on roads, or through meadows, swimming through underwater caves, etc.

    What do you eat?

    Do you have a walking stick?

    • Audrey Payne : Mar 28th

      Thanks, Dan! I’m planning a future post on what a “typical” day is like so will try to answer your questions then! But generally, we’re always walking on a dirt path except to occasionally cross a stream or road. The diet is evolving even already, but staples are oatmeal, tortillas with cheese, granola and protein bars, instant mashed potatoes, pasta sides, trail mix, etc. And I do have a walking stick of sorts – hiking poles, which are my favorite (and possibly most important) piece of gear!

  • Dave : Mar 31st

    Hey Audry! So excited for you! Very much enjoying your blog. Such beautiful scenery. I hope your journey goes well!

    • Audrey Payne : Apr 1st

      Thanks for the warm wishes, Dave! Glad to hear you’re enjoying the blog! 🙂

  • Tammy & Eugene (Biscuit & Gravy) : Apr 2nd

    Love reading your blog. It’s so true about ppl of all ages hiking the AT. I am 48 and my husband is 50. We did our first AT hike in October. Fontana to Clingmans Dome. It was a doozy. We both swore we were never hiking the AT again. Now we already started packing our packs for our next section hike on the AT in May. It gets in your blood. That’s all we talk about. Good luck on your journey.


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