It’s the AT, not a Walk in the Woods

If you were hoping for views, switchback mountain climbs, and nice outdoor camping nights, do not hike the AT. I’m amazed by the number of people who didn’t expect snow or freezing temps in Georgia, let alone most of the first few hundred miles. Have you not heard of Google? I planned, prepped, and trained for this thru-hike and still find the AT always leaving me to question my choices. I’m 500 miles in, almost 25 percent complete, and I don’t see it getting easier. Sure, the terrain will be easier, but what makes the AT so tough is more than just mountain climbing. Mother Nature determines how your hike goes. I got no views in Georgia, unless you consider snow- and ice-covered trails to be scenic. Blood Mountain, Albert Mountain, and all others were nothing but fog. My luck continued through all of the South. The only views I was granted were views that tourists could drive right up to the summit (Clingmans Dome, Max Patch, all the balds, etc.). And the Smokies – what a tourist-filled park. I pushed through that section as fast as possible. It’s probably more beautiful for section hikers, but as a thru-hiker, it was more people and tour buses than I wanted to deal with.

What has made the AT for me has been the community and people. Trail magic is a day-changing event. You meet people who genuinely love hikers and just want to give back. Many of them are previous thru-hikers, and have better conversations to share than food. Although both are appreciated. Dealing with that bad weather and rough days has been much easier with a trail family and other hikers. Knowing they dealt with the same shitty day makes for a sense of accomplishment in an otherwise defeating day. The days that weather forced me off trail and no cell service was available, I am thankful for a buddy or group doing the same. The one day we had 80 mph gusts up by Mt. Rogers and we had to guess on a trail to find a road to hopefully get a hitch. My trail buddy, Brick, whom I’ve been hiking with for about 350 miles now, was suffering the same uncertainty and elements with me. We questioned our decision to be on trail together and celebrated getting lucky and finding a ride to get a room. I am self-sufficient and able to do this trail solo, but that’s not what the AT is about. I’ve hiked a few hundred miles with different people now and have met over 100 new people. We are all out here for our own reasons but all have the same goal. We are going to Maine. It’s easy to see why so many people quit the thru-hike so early. You need to focus on the positive because you will be given more negative things than positive. The one thing to focus on is that the trail provides. The community surrounding the AT and supporting me is real. Thank you to those I’ve met, those who helped me for difficult miles and days, those who allowed me to vent, or just those strangers who support me on social media. Y’all are my power to Maine.

If you’re not already doing so, please follow me on Instagram where I post daily updates of my progress. If you find yourself near the AT, pick up a hiker or just toss them a soda. It goes a long way!

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