The Trail to Damascus

Hello all! As most of you know, I have not posted a blog update in a while.  I decided to keep from updating so that I could put my full attention on my hike and why I was doing it, that’s why I went out after all. This one may be lengthy, but I would like everyone to know about my hike.  As I hiked my day into Damascus, Virginia with Turk, Poppins, and Battery, I decided that my journey would end there. I had accomplished my goals and had no interest at the time in walking further, but instead working on other goals.

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Thru—>LASH

After about 350 miles of my hike, I decided that I would stop hiking around 500 miles or so, or just after Damascus Virginia to pursue the furthering of my education and career opportunities.  When I first started my hike, I had just graduated from college and had no interest in even applying to graduate school. After walking all day/everyday this changed. Before I started my hike, my original plan was to hike from Springer Mtn. Georgia to Damascus, Virginia. I wanted to connect all of the places I had visited as a child and basically hike my entire home stretch.  Over time, I let people get in the way of pursuing my dream and let them convince me to hike the entire trail to Katahdin, Maine.  As I hiked and hiked, every day it became less about what other people wanted and what I wanted, it was my hike after all.

When I started off on my hike, I wanted to accomplish 3 things…

1. Connect my home stretch of mountains by walking from GA to VA

I did it! I was able to successfully to hike 500 miles of the terrain I was most excited about. From the North Georgia Mountains to Nantahala to the Smokies to Max Patch to the Roan Highlands to Damascus, I experienced the landscape in a way that I never thought I ever would. I saw sunrises, sunsets, snow storms, rain storms, bears, etc. You name it, there’s a good chance I saw it!

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2. Push myself physically and mentally

I think this is one of my largest successes of my journey. Physically, I was able to walk about 18-23 miles every single day, which is a VERY long way when you are walking. The day before reaching Damascus, I completed a 30 miles day (something that I wanted to accomplish) from Laurel Fork Shelter to Double Springs Shelter. It rained hard all morning and I thought I would never make it. However, I kept walking and I made it there in 11 hours!

As I have told other people during my hike, the hardest component for me was not the physical test, but the mental test. Hiking solo everyday will make you “think” harder than you ever have, it will make you think about every decision you have ever made, and at times it is easy for your mind to play tricks on you.  While I was alone a majority of everyday, being able to talk to other hikers at night gave me the boost to start the next day.

I also wanted to use this time to grow my Christian faith, something that I had kept on the back burner of my life for the past several years.  As I walked, I spent more and more time each day praying and reading my bible, actually studying it and applying it. I learned more during this time about my faith and myself than I ever thought was possible.

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3.Figure out what I want to do with my life

As written earlier, when I started my hike I had absolutely no idea what my next move was when I finished hiking. After 100 miles, I started to get a picture. After 200 miles, I was thinking about details. By 500 miles, I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish in the months and years to come.  I knew that I wanted to further my education through graduate school in some sort of environmental field and find a job that I enjoy doing, both of which are currently in the process of happening.  Walking in the woods all day will give you some direction.  I know I want to work outside, be outside, and help others appreciate all of the beauty that surrounds us in the mountains.

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My Top Memories of my Hike:

  • Embarking from Springer Mtn.-I have never been as nervous, anxious, excited as I was in that moment.
  • Reaching the GA/NC line-Me and GasMask reached it at 4:30 am before hauling through a storm to get to Franklin
  • NOC-My girlfriend hopped on the trail with me for a few days and it was so nice being able to talk, hangout, and enjoy her company and meet some awesome other hikers!
  • Smokies Snow Storm-Hearing the Rangers say the Wind chill was going down to -15 and hauling through a total whiteout trying to reach 441, realizing it was closed, walking 7 miles down the road and getting picked up by a Ranger
  • Snowbird Mtn.- I camped in high winds by myself on top of the bald because I could not walk any further after coming 25 miles out of the Smokies
  • Max Patch-One of my favorite spots, before and after my hike, awesome trail magic from strangers and two good friends (Spencer and Landon). What a night!
  • Overmountain Shelter-Had a hiker party, told ghost stories, and watched a beautiful sunrise
  • 30 mile day-I overcame a huge mental barrier this day and was able to show myself that it was possible for me to do 30 miles in one day (40 is next haha)
  • Coming into Damascus, VA

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Fellow Hiker Trash

During my hike, I was fortunate enough to meet a number of amazing individuals, who all had different backgrounds, life stories, and expectations.. Thank ya’ll for the kind words, stories, and times I’ll never forget!

Seeker, Purge, Gas Mask, Turk, Acorn, Colorado, Kat, Lilo & Stitch, John, Patches, Bearspray, Poppins, and Battery-You got this!

As said in “Into the Wild”, “Happiness is only real when shared”. They were on to something when they wrote it, because in every single one of my best experiences on the trail, there was someone else around.

To all those out there, HYOH!

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For the Future

I am planning on over time going back and finishing up a lot of sections that I still want to see. I plan to hike some, trail run some, and aquablaze some (Shenandoahs). For now, I am completing applications and planning out my next adventure, which if the permit goes through, should be climbing Mt. Whitney in California in August!

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If you want to see the most beautiful places, meet amazing people, push yourself, grow as a person, and embark on one of the most amazing trips of your life, Hike the AT!

God Bless,

Wild Man

 

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