Romanticizing the AT
In the months leading up to my hike, I was beyond excited. I couldn’t wait for the freedom of the trail, the exhilaration of breath taking mountain views every day, the satisfaction of physical exertion, being able to eat whatever I wanted without counting calories, and the proud knowledge that I had everything I needed to survive on my back.
Of course, in the days leading up to my departure I started thinking harder about the brutal truth of the Appalachian Trail: the commitment to the trail, the monotony of the green tunnel, the inevitable clouds that will block spectacular summit views, the physical exhaustion and agonizing pain that comes with carrying 35 lbs over 10-15 miles of mountains everyday, the cravings for hot and fresh foods that can’t be satisfied due to weather and/or inaccessibility on the trail, and the inescapable fact that carrying only what I need to survive requires me to carry everything I need to survive.
The weekend before my departure, my confidence was failing as the cold, hard reality of my journey set in. What the frick was I thinking? Lucky for me (or unlucky perhaps) I had my lists ready to go. I knew what I was hiking for: independence, freedom, the opportunity to think and grow on my own, a healthy dose of perspective, the chance to accomplish a feat much greater than myself, and the time to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life- or at least a general idea about the next few months following the hike.
On Monday, March 30th, my dad and I loaded up his car and headed for Georgia and I was mildly excited but mostly just open to whatever was about to come to me. We spent the night with some amazing friends in Alabama, ate Thai food with other amazing friends (who are now engaged!!!), realized our poor cuisine choice the next morning, and started on the approach trail.
Tuesday was the first time I had ever worn my pack outside the house or been able to test my shoes on hills and rocks. I fell a few times that day, rolled my ankles and stubbed my toes, and wondered again what the heck I’d been thinking setting out on a 6 month excursion carrying over 1/4 of my body weight over treacherous terrain while trying to control an energetic German shepherd who had never been backpacking before and is apparently terrified of large backpacks. But then we got to Springer mountain a couple hours before sunset and I was reminded of how great this could be.
Now it’s day 5 on the AT, 6 days that I’ve been hiking. I’m currently shivering in my tent with Luna under my sleeping bag and we will stay this way until the temperature rises at least 10 degrees. After tackling Blood Mountain yesterday, my knees are in agony and Luna seems happy to sleep in, so we’ll hang out at Neels gap for a while before taking an easy day.
So far I’ve seen breathtaking views more often than fog covered summits, more sunshine than rain, and more pleasant terrain than treacherous. But everything is what you make of it. I’ve only met great people since getting on the trail, and though everyone seems to be in some varying amount of physical pain, they all seem happy. Despite the harsh realities of the trail and my patellar tendinitis flaring up, I’m happy too. I feel like I’ve found my place and could happily live in the woods forever. I love this adventure and this lifestyle. I love that I hung a bear bag, even though it was a pitiful job and any motivated bear could have easily gotten to it. As a bonus, I’m really good at peeing in the woods.
Romanticized or not, life on the AT is freakin awesome. Happy trails y’all!
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