Journey to Georgia : Beginning my Thru-Hike of the AT
Every March an exodus begins as people from all walks of life and different points on the globe converge in Georgia to begin a journey of two thousand miles attempting to hike the Appalachian Trail.
As I boarded the train in Newark, New Jersey with my boyfriend, Chris, heading down to Georgia, butterflies of fear and anticipation danced in my stomach. There was no turning back. I watched the world rushing by outside of the train car window. I thought about the life I was leaving behind. Then I thought about the life I was gaining, the importance of moving on, experiencing new places, learning what I could about life and myself in the woods and in the people I would meet along the way.
At the train station in Gainseville, a man was waiting to board. He had been on the trail for two days and decided it was too much for him. I knew I’d see fellow hikers leave the trail, I just hadn’t anticipated it happening before even making it to the trailhead. We exchanged kind words but I felt shaken, unsure of what I was getting myself into.
Hungry and tired from the twenty hour ride, Chris and I headed over to Big Bear Cafe, where we got our first taste of southern kindness. The owner, Chad, came out to greet us and offered us words of encouragement, telling us funny stories of his own hiking adventures. It was the perfect antidote for the poison of fear that had tried to work its way into my confidence. I felt re-inspired and ready to take on the challenges that awaited.
The shuttle from Hiker Hostel picked us up and that is where we met Jim, a sweet young fellow from St. Louis. He had just gotten off the Greyhound and was cautiously enthusiastic. We all were. We expressed our excitement but also our concern that only a quarter of prospective thru-hikers make it all the way. When we got to the hostel we met Benny, wearing his classic black felt fedora (which he would don the entire trail) from Hamburg. Right away we got along very well. It was great to finally talk to people that fully understood this huge dream. And there we all were on our way to pursuing it. We decided to stick together for the first few days, ambling the beginning with one another. Our hiker family was beginning to grow, I was finding my tribe.
The next morning we woke up at dawn to the pouring rain. We loaded into a van. This was it. We were being dropped off in the woods with only the clothes on our backs and packs loaded down with all the worldly belongings we thought we would need. The ride to Amicalola Falls was intensely bumpy; perhaps a metaphor for what was to come. All the hikers sat in contemplative silence. We were told it was good luck to begin our hike in the rain. I held onto those kind words and I chose to believe them as I made my way up the falls, still eight miles from the first white blaze.
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