Second Week Becomes First Week
“Accept where I am and go from there.”
Before I started this trek, I thought I already knew myself deeply. I knew that I wanted to do things that make me feel connected and also that help me be a more contributing member to a society that seems to have lost its way. But there was a part of me I hadn’t considered: my ego.
How it started
I left Pennsylvania via Amtrak. I took a Septa train down to 30th Street Station and hopped on the 4 pm train to Georgia. It was to pull into Gainesville at 7 am.
The train switched from electric to diesel in Washington DC and the diesel engine wasn’t there. We sat there for six hours until the engine finally showed up. Everyone was upset. I was, too. I called Amtrak and told them what happened… they offered me a coupon for my next train ride.
In Gainesville, I met up with my shuttle driver Brett who is awesome. I highly recommend his shuttle services. He took us (there was another hiker) to Walgreens where we could get a couple of items. I forgot my wall charger at home and grabbed another one plus some other items.
He took us to Amicalola where I was SUPPOSED to check in, but I didn’t. Brett took my picture at the arch then asked me, “Do you want a ride to the Springer parking lot?” I said no. He asked me, “Are you sure?”
That is one of the most important questions in life. Are you sure?
It’s a question that requires pondering. It’s a question that requires a second thought because sometimes the ego gets in the way of rational thinking. I said I was sure and headed for the Approach Trail.
Besides the fact that by mile two I regretted my decision, the future would hold other developments that made me question my sanity.
I will tell you that I stumbled upon The Hike Inn, which saved my life at the 4.5-mile mark. I will also tell you I wound up hiking the Approach Trail one & a half times.
I made camp outside a shelter on day three and suffered through a cold, windy night. My 40-degree bag and liner were no match for Mother Nature, but I endured and woke up the next morning.
The next day I packed up my stuff, ate a frozen Rice Krispie treat, bid farewell to Wild Card who was tarp tenting in the next tent site, and headed for the trail.
How It’s Going
I’d like to tell you I trekked on and on, thinking of all the greatness in front of me. But I trekked to the stone and the plaque, cursed for the lackluster, got to the Springer parking lot (finally), and found some trail magic. I had a Huggie and another Rice Krispie Treat from a forest service guy. Thank you! I walked across the lot and back onto the trail. I probably got about four miles in when a sense of dread came over me. I then said ‘I can’t do this today.’
I sobbed as I turned around and headed back to the parking lot. I prayed that the Universe -God – would help me. He would.
When I got down to the lot I saw Brett’s truck rumble through – he was dropping off other hikers.
I practically rolled down the hill toward him praying that he wouldn’t leave.
I made it down and stood there staring at him like a lost puppy. He saw me and asked how it was going.
“Get me out of here,” I said keeping my tears at the brim of my lids.
“Alright,” he said in a southern drawl. “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t care,” I replied in my rough, northern accent.
He took me to a hostel in Suches where I stayed for three days to wait out freezing rain and howling winds. Now I’m at a hotel in Dahlonega and questioning my life choices. A big part of me wants to shuttle up to Mountain Crossings and put an asterisk next to the 25 miles of the trail I haven’t done. Maybe I’ll flip flop back and forth, I don’t know. I don’t have a bear canister and there isn’t a bear box at every campsite. GutHooks comments are slightly terrifying with remarks about bear bags being not good enough and if you get caught without a bear canister on Blood Mountain, you’ll be fined.
So, I’m skipping ahead and coming back. Judge me if you want, I don’t care. I’m trying to have fun and have a few stress few days. Yes, I know this journey is not for the faint of heart. But I also know it’s my journey after all and I’m going to do it the way that makes me feel at peace.
My Trail Name
I got my trail name FRESH START in the backyard at Above the Clouds hostel. Me, Persistence, and Potato did a gear dump and I sent five pounds of gear home. I said ‘I feel like I need a fresh start,’ and Persistence said ‘that’s your trail name.’ I like it so much I wrote it on my wrist.
So, Fresh Start is starting fresh at Mountain Crossings. And if I’m judged for that, so be it. Part of my problem has always been basing my choices on what other people will think of me. Well, no more.
Have a great day and live your life in a way that makes you happy.
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One step at a time, Darlene, and it’s ok to stop whenever you want to and it’s ok to rest however long you want to…it’s all ok to collect Fresh Starts!
40 degree sleeping bag, no liner? I thought I was gonna die at Birds Nest #3 with a 35 that I slept in with a liner the rest of the hike. You’re getting started and it will get more challenging. Use your time off to research what’s ahead. The northern states are going to be challenging with a 40 degrees. Be safe, Happy Trails!
This is your adventure, do as you please. I’m listening and hopefully learning from all. In one article you’ve taught me 1. have a very warm sleeping bag, 2. Regroup when needed 3. Don’t give up. Unless you’re trying to break a speed record, enjoy the adventure, take your time getting comfortable in the new environment. It’s refreshing reading the writings of someone who is having to adjust to the trail. You’ve got this!
Hike on sister 🚶🏻♀️🏃🏻♀️🏕. Everyday and every step is your hike so enjoy it for yourself and those of us who wish we were there too. Just keep moving forward Darlene.
You persevered through a tough start. Find yourself as you move north, you will find places on yourself you weren’t aware of. Best of luck, Angel’s guidance. I’m just section hiking this year in Va, we might cross trails. God speed Sister
You are so right!!! This is your journey. Do it the way that makes you feel good about yourself and your choices because they are indeed your choices.
Thanks for sharing your journey with us Darlene, I respect and appreciate your vulnerability, I know that’s never easy especially when it’s your personal journey. It’s okay to not be okay and to take a step back and reset and reprioritize things. Do what’s best for you and remember it’s your hike and experience, no one else’s. As Pearwood notably said earlier, Grandma Gatewood stopped after her first try and then went on to complete the AT multiple times so you CAN do this. If or whenever you choose to is purely up to you, just do what feels right and fuels you. There’s no shame in taking a break and regardless of the outcome, you’re trying and that’s all you can ask of yourself. And I admire you a lot for that. So many people go through life just talking or fantasizing about their dreams and ambitions, but you’re actually living yours and that’s a massive accomplishment in itself. You got this! Sending lots of support and strength from Maryland! And if you do pass through Maryland, there will be some trail magic awaiting you by Annapolis Rocks! 🙂