Please Explain Why I Still Know the Words to “The Climb”

(Days 9 to 14)

Me, exhausted, sweaty, and happy to finally be at Cheoah Bald (Mile 145)

I swear, my brain retains the most useless information. Some people can remember obscure facts that help win trivia nights. Others are quick-thinking and can recall important medical facts to be the hero in an emergency. Me? I can vividly and thoroughly remember lyrics to the pop-hits of my childhood as I stumble up yet another mountain, cursing under my breath all the way. That’s gotta be good for something, right?

There’s always gonna be another mountain. I’m always gonna want to make it move.

So so so many mountains to move.

One of my favorite trail facts is that hiking the AT is the equivalent of summiting Mt. Everest 16 times. I had to look it up, but according to the internet, Mt. Everest is just under 30,000 ft tall, and it takes climbers about 20,000 ft of elevation gain to summit. To date, in the 14 days and 184 miles that I’ve been on the trail, I’ve climbed over 45,000 ft and descended just about as much. In other words… I have gone up and down A WHOLE HECK OF A LOT.

FarOut screenshot showing elevation over the 184 miles hiked so far.

Through it all, the early 2000’s jam “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus, specifically the chorus, has been the soundtrack of my second week on the trail… with absolutely no sign of escape from it any time soon.

I thought the hike would be a meditative experience, and while it has been to some degree, most of the time my mind is a revolving door of logistics (i.e. where is the next water source? how many miles to the next shelter? do I have any sour patch kids left? No? Dammit.) and useless bits of lyrics (for some reason, it’s NEVER the full song).

Me, at the top of Shuckstack Fire Tower because what’s another couple hundred feet of elevation gain at this point?!

I experienced my hardest day so far on Day 12, leaving the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) in Bryson City. That day, we hiked just under 14 miles, starting with a brutal (or in Mosey’s words “bitchen”) climb of 4,000 ft over 8 miles. I received my second resupply box at the NOC, so I was newly loaded down with a fresh round of snacks and meals. Oh, and to add a hot, sweaty cherry on top, it was over 90 degrees.

Thanks to the trail angels because the next morning, there was trail magic directly where we camped. It took a hot dog, a bag of cool ranch Doritos, two cinnamon rolls, a pack of oreos, a banana and a red Gatorade to make me feel human again. Just in time to do another 1,000 ft climb up Jacob’s Ladder. The trail builds you up to humble you, once again.

Always gonna be an uphill battle. Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose.

At least I’m not a sore loser.

Well, I am sore, but it’s got nothing to do with losing. In fact, there isn’t a thing that I’ve lost so far (besides maybe a pound or two), but plenty I’ve gained.

Dema’s List of Things Gained in the First 2 Weeks on Trail:

  • Four new friends – The biggest question of concern I heard from friends and family before I left for this quest was “You are going alone??”. I knew that it wouldn’t be for long, and I was right. I’ve already shouted out the tramily I’ve fallen into in previous updates, but it’s worth mentioning them again because its really been a key part of the enjoyment of this experience so far. I hike quite a bit slower than most of the group, which gives me solace and quiet hiking time during the day to soak everything in but companionship in the mornings and evenings to ground me.  There’s no better basis for friendship than trauma-bonding over three straight days of hiking in the rain followed by snow followed by sweltering heat.

  • Many, many trail-quaintances – A pleasant surprise of thru-hiker life is the warmth and familiarity of the community. I had heard that the thru-hiker community was tight-knit and welcoming, but I had no sense of what that actually meant until I was enveloped in it. What it means to me is that even if I don’t become friends with everyone I encounter, there is a comfort and encouragement that comes with seeing familiar faces over the weeks. While there are some fellow hikers that I have passed only once, there are quite a few more that are traveling at similar paces so I run into them often. There is a sense of belonging in recognizing and being recognized. I hope that sensation continues up the trail.
  • A gnarly blister – I have weirdly shaped feet. The guy at REI told me so. Small, wide, and super high arches – the trifecta. This means that no matter how tirelessly I search to find the perfect shoe, I’m no Cinderella or Goldilocks. Nothing fits just right. The direct consequence of this is a blister on the side of my right heel. Thank goodness for blister band-aids. For the queasy in the audience, I’ll spare any further details on this particular gain.
  • A deeper appreciation – for showers, for food, for my body, for my will, and for this life of mine.

Ain’t about how fast I get there. Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side.

The other side? It’s more mountains!

Two weeks gone bye in the blink of an eye. There sure are miles to go and obstacles to face ahead. But it’s not just about making it to Katahdin as fast as possible …


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Comments 6

  • Dee : Apr 19th

    You are funny. Your blogs are a joy to read. Your incredible positive attitude jumps right off the page. Thanks for the laughs (i.e., what’s on the other side…more mountains).

    • Rou : Apr 20th

      Gotta love some good PUDS! (Pointless ups and downs). I always call elevation gain “uppies” and thinking of it that way makes it more fun

  • Tami : Apr 20th

    Loving your blog, Dema–it’s fascinating to read about your journey ( Internal and external). As we said in the ’70’s-ish, ” Keep on Treking!”

  • Mama Bear : Apr 20th

    Dema your writing is wonderful. It feels like you’re taking us along on your adventure. I look forward to reading each and every one of them. Keep on trekking. Stay safe. ❤️

  • Mary : Apr 20th

    I’m finding your posts so entertaining! Thinking of you all the time and am in awe!

  • Fabi : Apr 23rd

    I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again…you’re a badass! I always look forward to reading your posts. And thanks for the unintentional ear worm…😂 Now I’ll have to hear the whole song so it’ll leave my head. That’s how you get rid of ear worms BTW 😁


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