Reflections on the First Two Weeks

Forgive me in advance for the poor formatting of this post and the ones to follow. Typing up a full blog post on an iPhone is less than ideal.

I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of a single word to describe the past 12 days. “Breathtaking” comes to mind as I reflect on the scenic vistas that the trail has laid out before me. “Backbreaking” also flutters in the background as I massage my sore feet and bruised knees. I want to say “life changing,” but something keeps me from using that one just quite yet. ”Soaked” is an obvious front-runner, but I’ve been blessed with a few sunny days, just like the one I’m enjoying right now.

“Painful” is the word that I’ve settled on, both physically and emotionally. Every step I take on trail is painful in its own way, and I’m still trying to convince myself that pain is part of the process.

I know this will sound cliche, maybe even more so once I write it down, but I feel like I came to the trail with an overloaded emotional base weight. I’m learning to let go of the tangibles and intangibles with every step that I take, and for that I’m thankful.

The last 110 miles have been an experience to die for, and every time I feel the swell of complacency rise up in me, I remind myself of how hard I fought to get to this exact moment. Every rain-soaked, mouse-infested, blowdown-blocked step I take on trail has been worth it in its own special way.

Today is my first real zero, though I did nero into Neel Gap and Hiawassee. I already feel like I’ve been in Franklin for a billion years and I feel like I’ve been on the trail even longer. My propensity to overplan has settled itself and I have become content with only a mild amount of preparation for the days that follow.

The biggest hurdle I have had to overcome has been my own anxiety among my fellow hikers. In a way I feel like I’m back in high school and every day is the first day of the fall semester. Just like in high school, I’ve found myself attached to a group simply because we were around each other constantly, like we shared a homeroom class. I still struggle to tell my story and to introduce myself at times, and sometimes I long for solitude, which can be surprisingly hard to find in the wilderness.

My favorite experiences have been night hiking. We went through a brief stint of time when we were waking up before the sun and starting early in order to beat the rain and get a spot in the shelter that night. Night hiking reminded me of deer hunting with my dad, or early-morning movements in the military. I enjoy my small bubble of light and solitude, and the gift of watching the world come alive around me. Watching the sun rise and eating a Snickers bar is easily more enjoyable than anything I’ve experienced in the past.

I have experienced an unbelievable amount of kindness on the trail. Fellow hikers have been constantly encouraging, day hikers have gone out of their way to help us, and trail angels and  hostel workers have bent over backward to make us feel at home on this distant planet. The warmth of strangers constantly surprises me and gives me reason to push on.

Georgia was a bear and North Carolina came out swinging just the same. I’m sure the rest of the trail has more punches that it will refuse to pull and I am excited, though still anxious, to see where they land.

I look forward to writing again and I hope that each new post will be filled with the same, if not more, awestruck wonder that I am feeling right now.

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Comments 4

  • Cathy Nichols : Mar 11th

    Well Spreadsheet – name fitting❗️Great start bc I don’t think it can get any worse than pouring down rain — but you survived it with a smile and new friends. So – the worse is behind you. I am convinced you will be among the 25% that completes the thru hike. I have raced trying to get to a shelter before others also, but not in the dark. ? Thru hikers used to have first dibs and section hikers had to have reservations, but no one ever asked to see mine??‍♀️ Besides men never challenge old ladies’ right to be there! (They should have?❗️)

    Best wishes, praying for those knees and ankles and you. Pondering solitude??‍♀️ you’ve challenged my thinking. But I’m thinking it may be over rated?❗️.

    Very very best wishes,
    Miss Cathy

  • Jukie : Mar 12th

    I love your writing style- humble, humorous. I look forward to reading more about your adventures.

  • Jeff (MP3 on the trail) : Mar 12th

    Hey John,

    I’m admiring and envying and enjoying your journey and reflections. Looking forward to more. Happy, healthy trails!


  • Tractor : Mar 12th

    Took me 20 years in sections. Do it! Look forward!


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