Lost and Found- My First 100 Miles on the Appalachian Trail

100 miles.

Just a blip on the map of the entire Appalachian Trail, but the trail teaches you lessons rather quickly! I’ve literally and figuratively lost and found so many treasures already. Today I’ve got Georgia on my mind, and all that I’ve lost and found in these first nine days.  

LOST

  • Excess baggage. The first week I was very angry at my backpack—the way it dug into my bony hips and shoulders.  Having to take it off and put it back on again over and over for times when I needed to stop for water, or when the weather changed and more or fewer clothes were required. Trying to wrangle it so that I could leave it on while peeing behind a tree, and then get my pants back up before someone came around the corner. So much frustration! I realized that two things needed to happen rather quickly. One, I had to get rid of everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary and to carry lighter food. Two, I had to come to an acceptance that this is the way things were going to be. I distinctly remember on Day 8 of my hike saying to myself, “You are a goddamn pack mule. Like one of those that carry visitors up and down the Grand Canyon. You are so strong that someday you’re going to own a donkey and name her Luna after your own damn trail name.” And I released my anger at her heaviness.  
  • Mirrors. I’ve been working at a gym for the past six years, surrounded by mirrors every day. I wear full makeup to teach my spin classes. There are no mirrors out here in the woods. My beauty routine consists of waking up, brushing my teeth and hair, throwing on a cap or buff, and applying sunscreen and chapstick. When I do get to shower in a town, I don’t spend the time to blow out and straighten my hair. I’ve cut my nails short to minimize the amount of dirt that gets under them, and I wear the same mismatched clothing every day. It seems out here that the first thing we see in a person is not their body, but their soul.  
  • Cell Coverage. I spend a lot less time on my phone. I went for two days with 25% charge as my solar charger was not working, so I turned off my phone and went with it. It’s nice to have, but I don’t NEED it. Freedom from the lure of the screen is liberating.  
  • Wine. I’ve had little opportunity to drink alcohol, and I have to admit that it feels good to wake up feeling refreshed instead of groggy. I think it is helping with my digestive issues as well. I needed to get away from my two-glasses-of-wine-an- evening habit, and out here I don’t even miss it.  

FOUND

  •  New friends. When you walk for eight hours a day, you meet all kinds of people, young and old, bringing their many stories and life experiences. It’s been so great to actually have real conversations. I’ve met people from all over the world, but also made a new friend who lives 10 minutes away from me! People are open and honest. We look each other in the eye and share dehydrated meals around the fire. There is a very special bond that you form with other hikers. They know what you are going through because they just scrambled up the same mountain you did.  
  •  Kindness. Trail magic is real. Just when you think you have nothing left, down you come to a gap where trail angels are handing out various food options. People give if they have it, and take it when they need it. I often find myself singing from the Grateful Dead’s Box of Rain as it so relates to the kindness I’ve experienced on the trail:

“And it’s just a box of rain

I don’t know who put it there

Believe it if you need it

Or leave it if you dare

And it’s just a box of rain 

Or a ribbon for your hair 

Such a long long time to be gone 

And a short time to be there.”

 

 

Gratitude. I’m starting to really appreciate the experiences I am having on this journey, AND I am also really starting to understand how lucky I am to have what I do back home. I’ve been able to watch majestic sunsets, drink cold water straight from a mountain stream, and even spend time in town with my brother who I rarely get to see to recover in his peaceful home. I am grateful for sunny days that allow my gear to dry after a rainy evening, and for the circadian rhythm I’ve been able to live by. I do miss my family though, and my dogs … .and being able to sit down to go to the bathroom. Home is a special place too, not something I need to escape from.  

“Maybe you’ll find direction / around some corner where it’s been waiting to meet you.”

Each mile brings new experiences, new challenges, and new direction.  I truly believe nature will show me what to pick up, and what to leave behind—just like that box of rain.

 

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Comments 19

  • Avatar
    Bill Yeadon : Apr 18th

    Box of Rain is my favorite Dead song. Enjoy the adventure.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Kimble
      Jennifer Kimble : Apr 18th

      Love! Thanks for reading Bill 🙂

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Lisa Jones : Apr 18th

    So excited to follow you on this journey, Jen! You are an inspiration!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Janie Vaughan : Apr 19th

      Enjoy your hike. Be super careful
      I know you’re excited
      blessings in Jesus.

      Reply
    • Jennifer Kimble
      Jennifer Kimble : Apr 30th

      Thank you Lisa 🙂

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Servando Palomeque : Apr 18th

    Oh Jennifer!!! You are amazing and an inspiration. I am following you in your journey and wishing you have a great experience. I hope that at least virtually I will follow you as I followed you a few years back in my first 100 miles race ahead. You kept me going and going when I wanted to give up. Have a great hike today!!

    Reply
    • Jennifer Kimble
      Jennifer Kimble : Apr 30th

      So good to hear from you Servando! Thanks for the inspiration to keep going!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Ryan Skains : Apr 18th

    Thanks for sharing your story Jen. Love hearing you say that there really is magic in the trails. Its a simple statement but weighs heavy with anyone that has spent significant time on one. Looking forward to the next installment. Good luck on your adventure.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Kimble
      Jennifer Kimble : Apr 30th

      Thank you Ryan! Really good to hear from you!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    thetentman : Apr 18th

    Nice piece. How fitting, to be on the ‘bus’ while walking to Maine. Good luck.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Kimble
      Jennifer Kimble : Apr 30th

      Absolutely. Thank you!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Marcus G. : Apr 18th

    I’m sitting here trying to think who should play your part when the movie finally comes out…..

    Reply
    • Jennifer Kimble
      Jennifer Kimble : Apr 30th

      I’ve been told out here that I look like Hillary Swank…..

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Carmen B. : Apr 18th

    Amazing! Hope you can feel the Texas vibes we’ve been sending you.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      janefromtennessee : Apr 19th

      Enjoy. Be extra careful though.

      Reply
    • Jennifer Kimble
      Jennifer Kimble : Apr 30th

      Thank you Carmen! Miss you guys…..

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Paul Kina : Apr 27th

    It was good meeting you at Unicoi Gap on the 11th. That’s a great photo of Onesimus… I met him in 2016 – he was giving out ice cream sandwiches and sodas in CT where the trail follows the Housatonic River. A true trail angel. Good hiking to you. I look forward to your posts. ‘Rainman’

    Reply
    • Jennifer Kimble
      Jennifer Kimble : Apr 30th

      Rainman! You were also there to save my day! I have to tell you that I loved having fresh fruit. I think fresh fruits and vegetables are what I miss the most. THANK YOU for being a trail angel!

      Reply
      • Avatar
        john hamer jr. : May 1st

        U are a true inspiration ive been reading your post and i look forward. To reading them.Maybe 1 day ill be able to do the AT. God speed…

        Reply

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