My Lessons Learned in the First 100 Miles of the AT
The most important lessons I’ve learned on the AT in my first 100 miles is that I was not as prepared for thru-hiking as I thought I was and I was not prepared for the Approach Trail at all.
Yes, Read About the AT, But Also Do
During my preparations for my hike, I read everything I could find on what to expect, what gear I needed, what gear I didn’t need, blogs, websites, vlogs, YouTube videos, and every article on The Trek website I could find. I made lists and made Excel spreadsheets and word documents. I downloaded both major AT guidebooks and actually read them. What I did not do enough of was prepare physically. Yes, I hiked under my trail weight and I did shakedown hikes. But it was not in even remotely the same type of terrain I would find in Georgia and so far in North Carolina. I should have trained more, and harder, and under more varying conditions.
The Approach Trail
The Approach Trail, not even part of the AT, tried to murder me. My hike started at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia and did, or tried to do, the 8.5 mile Approach Trail to Springer Mountain. I say tried to because I couldn’t finish it. I made it 7.5 miles in, to Black Gap Shelter, and was so exhausted I couldn’t do the last mile to Springer. It was a humbling day. All. Those. Stairs. Then uphill the rest of the day. I was not ready.
Time Begins to Blur
After that first day, time blurred into a haze of pain and agony. I couldn’t breathe going up the hills and my hips and legs would be literally shaking coming back down those same hills. The first days are simply go straight up a hill and then come straight back down. After already surviving the Approach Trail, these first few days were hell for me.
By the time I made it to Neel Gap I was physically wrecked. Everything hurt. After only five days on the trail I had to take a zero day. I stayed at the Best Western in Blairsville. There is a Domino’s across the street that delivers and a Huddle House within walking distance. I lay in bed for 24 straight hours. It was what I needed to keep going.
Georgia to North Carolina
There is very little change to the scenery in the first 100 miles. The trees are bare and look exactly the same from one mile to the next. It’s still a continuous loop of going uphill then down. I’m stopping less frequently, so I suppose that’s a good sign. I still have to stop a lot, just less frequently than I did in Georgia. My body is adjusting. Slowly. Painfully. But it is.
The trail is no joke. It’s hard and it’s painful and it’s a bit boring. It’s also beautiful and it will test and push you to your limits. I have met people who are having fun, mostly because they were prepared for the physicalness of the trail. I wasn’t, and finding fun has been somewhat elusive for me so far. I’ve learned valuable lessons in my first 100 miles. Lessons I thought I had already learned in life. More than anything else I did before starting the trail, though, I wish I had challenged myself more physically.
I hope that you’ll join me again as I continue to document my journey. Next up for me, I’ll be hiking through the Great Smoky Mountains!
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