Off to a ROCKY Start


I arrived in Atlanta and enjoyed my two-hour shuttle ride to Amicolola Falls Lodge. The lodge was everything I hoped it would be: beautiful sweeping views with a peaceful, almost spiritual calm surrounding it. But as the sun began to set, that calm disappeared as well.

That night I couldn’t sleep. I felt like Rocky in the original movie the night before his title fight with Apollo Creed. I was restless as I lay on my bed. I had trained hard and prepared myself as best I could, but like him, I realized you can’t beat the AT. You can never beat the trail, but if you can take all its best punches and continue to get back up, you can go the distance.

What Plan?

Indiana Jones said it best when he decided to go after the truck carrying the Ark of the Covenant. Salah asks him, “What’s the plan?” Indiana replies, “I dunno. I’m making this up as I go.” That’s exactly how I feel.

I’m not planning any resupplies. I’m not mapping out any stops or hostels. Right now, I’m headed to Neels Gap, and that’s all that’s on my mind. Mike Tyson said, “Every fighter has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” He’s right, and that’s exactly why I’m not planning my trip.

I know the AT is going to punch me in the mouth, repeatedly with rain and pain. I just know any plan that I make will blow off into the wind.

I can say that because my wife’s not going with me. If she was, I’d definitely have to have a plan!


At breakfast in the lodge, I was hoping to have pancakes as seen in the movie A Walk in the Woods, but it was not on the menu.  I asked the waitress if she had seen the movie and referenced the pancake scene, but she had no idea what I was talking about. Was that a sign?

My morning got worse from there. I took the footpath down to the visitor center where I would register for my AT hike. It was great seeing the iconic falls and descending the famous stairs.

Then suddenly, the stairs stopped. They were under construction and I was staring at a big red STOP sign. Are you kidding me? I scanned the area for an alternate route. Nothing! I trudged back up the stairs and just started following a path that headed away from the visitor center. This was not good! My shuttle driver was probably waiting for me already. I hadn’t even started my hike on the AT and I was already lost in the woods trying to find the visitor’s center. Can you believe that? Seriously! Not exactly a confidence builder… just saying.

After some time, I stumbled upon a sign that directed me to the visitor center, which I reached after half an hour. By this time, I had sweat all over me, but eventually was able to register and finally pick up my yellow AT Tag. Not the type of adventure I was looking for, but getting the tag was cool and so worth it.

Jordan (his trail name is Luscious) drove me up to Springer Mountain. He wished me luck and pointed me toward the famous Appalachian Trail plaque. I slid on my 30-pound pack, and as I watched him drive away, I had one thought. Dear God, what have I done? I have zero backpacking experience.

What the heck have I gotten myself into hiking the AT.    Like Neo in the movie Matrix, I had swallowed the red pill and I was about to see how deep the rabbit hole goes. There was no turning back now.







Affiliate Disclosure

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.

Comments 3

  • David Santi : May 3rd

    Hi Kevin.

    I just ran across your blog posts on the Trek, Good luck with your journey. I see in your bio you are a retired special ed teacher from Marin. I live in Marin and will be retiring at the end of this year with a planned start of a through hike of the AT in March 2025. I definitely would like to get together when you get back to discuss your adventurers.


    • Kevin Rapp : May 7th

      Will do. Where in Marin do you live? We used to live in Novato and loved hiking the Lucas Valley Open spaces.

      • Cindy : May 9th

        Hi Kevin, So glad to find your blog! You are going to crush this trail!


What Do You Think?