Living the Dream on Trail, but Why?
What a first week for a first-time thru-hiker. Already forgetting what the date or day of the week is; what a feeling! So, I said I’d try to make these posts short and sweet. Here’s what’s been going on.
The trail decided to make things challenging from the start. The Approach Trail wasn’t so bad. I got the stairs (604 steps) out of the way pretty quick and they ended up being a good warm-up. Before I even finished the Approach Trail, a thunderstorm rolls in. It brought with it the kind of weather that rain gear can’t compete with. Everyone I met was soaked for hours. On top of that, the temperature started to drop. Late afternoon on the first day I made it 8.8 miles to Springer Mountain; the official start.
Truth be told, I had an emotional moment up there because it was the start of a pretty epic journey; a real life-changing journey. I’m sure everyone whose heart is in this will look down at the Southern Terminus of the AT and feel something on top of Springer Mountain. Many challenges are ahead of me and my fellow thru-hikers, but the rewards will no doubt be great.
After taking a few minutes to appreciate where I was at, I push on to Stover Creek Shelter. Finishing the day up at 11.6 miles. The rain let up for the rest of evening; just long enough to get settled and take care of the camp chores. Not long after I have dinner and put my food in the bear box, the weather turns on us. Freezing rain turns to ice and snow. My spare clothes were frozen solid for the next couple days.
Woke up on day two to a winter wonderland. Leapfrogged several people I saw from the first day on the way to Gooch Mountain Shelter. Finishing the day at 12.9 miles. That’s how life goes on the trail; you see people off and on over days because each person’s pace varies throughout their hike.
Next day I pushed a big day from Gooch Mountain Shelter over Blood Mountain, then to Neel Gap. I was lucky to get a spot in the hostel at Mountain Crossings (sorry again for tripping the breaker from microwaving too many calzones back-to-back). Finished the day with 15.6 miles. Daytime temperatures on the mountain weren’t above freezing in order to thaw anything, plus the sun was being very shy. That night, the temperature was the lowest for the week and I needed to dry out my spare clothes. Also, my quilt had some condensation on it from the past couple nights; I pulled it out of the stuff sack on the second night with frost still on it. Staying at the hostel was also a good opportunity to socialize with some of the hikers I saw since the start.
Day four and five were 11.5 and 15.4 miles, respectively. Day four I came across my first trail magic on the way to Low Gap Shelter. Locals came out to a trail gap (typically a road crossing) and had food for us. The thing I was most hyped about was the hot chicken soup that tasted so good. Later on I started having some knee pain (fairly common issue), but also an issue with my Achilles tendon. So a rest day was needed. One thing you should know is your limits; you’ll get stronger, but not by pushing through it and risking injury. Day five ended at Tray Mountain Shelter.
Day six was a tough push to Dicks Creek Gap to attempt to hitch into town for food and rest. The ankles and my knee were not happy, but I made good time regardless. The rain came back and soaked me for most of the day. I have not been eating like I should; hiker hunger will set in soon enough and I’ll feel like I can eat enough, but this first week hasn’t given me much of an appetite.
In just a few days I went from fair weather to thunderstorms to winter wonderlands and hiking through frosted forests. The wind would blow and send shards of ice from the trees through the forests. I’d have to turn away from the wind so the ice wouldn’t hit my face.
Finished day six with only 11 miles and a ride into Hiawassee, GA, with one of my fellow thru-hikers for a rest day. That AYCE (all you can eat) restaurant was well worth the $9 price tag. It was also like a hub for thru-hikers; they started rolling in throughout the evening as Too Late (fellow hiker I hitched into town with) and I sat in our booth and digested too much food. I saw a few hikers I haven’t seen since the hostel at Mountain Crossings. Everyone is family out here; on the same path, but for different purposes.
Here are a couple reasons why I’m taking the time to hike the trail. If these reasons resonate with you then give yourself permission to get out there. Saying “one day I’ll do it” won’t do anything for you. Especially if that day never comes for you.
Challenge. Physically, it’ll be the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. As odd as it sounds, I’m excited to see what my body can accomplish.
Break from society. I’m working, in a way, but for myself. Forget real work for a while. This is an opportunity to take more control over my life and start in a new direction.
Regret for not taking a chance. This is a way to meet great people and get in touch with America in a way many don’t.
Personal growth. Entering the unknown and being open to whatever comes from it. It’s a chance to get out of my comfort zone to facilitate internal growth.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.