Thirty Days. Ten Lessons.
Thirty days and I’ve made it to Damascus, VA. It seems that I’ve been hiking for a whole life. I’ve seen and learned so many things in the last thirty days that I’m sure it has already changed my life forever.
But I’ve selected only ten things that I want you to know. Ten things that I have learned in my first 30 days, 470 miles at the AT:
- The Approach Trail is necessary – forget the discussion “do it / don’t do it”. Just do it. The Approach Trail should be considered part of the AT. Just add those 8.8 miles to the final number and assume that as part of the AT. The Approach Trail is like the whole AT condensed in less than 10 miles: it’s beautiful, has nice views and it’s tough. Do it to have an idea of what you will find at the AT.
- Georgia is NOT easy – People say that Georgia is easy… it’s not. Nothing will prepare you for what you will get. When I started I thought that I was physically and mentally prepared for that challenge. I changed my mind before I got to the first shelter.
- North Carolina is harder – Just 20 miles after crossing the GA-NC border, you’ll face a beast called Mount Albert. Welcome to North Carolina. That’s how things will be from now on. You are not prepared, you said? You HAVE to be.
- The Southern hospitality – what is that? Every single person that I met in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee is incredibly nice! Even when they are rude, they are gentle. I fell in love with you, people. You are awesome.
- The Smokies are not more difficult than the rest of the Trail – that’s a thing that I’ve noticed: what makes the AT so hard is the sequence of ups and downs for 5 months, not a single section of it. The Smokies are not easy, but it’s not more difficult than any part of the AT.
- You will get wet. Be prepared – I knew about the weather. I was expecting rain. But not 20 days of rain in a month! For 20 days, for at least a minute or so, I got rain. Nights of rain? Plenty. More than necessary. Planning to do the AT? Get ready for the rain. Check your gear. Test your gear. Learn how to set up your tent under heavy rain. Brace yourself.
- Trail Magic is really magical – there’s only one thing better than finding a Trail Magic after a hard day: finding a Trail Magic with a cold beer in it. Serious: it can transform a shitty day into a perfect day. That’s what really makes hikers happy.
- Angels exist – People that I’d never met before – and I will probably never see again – gave some of their precious time to help me on the Trail. One guy drove 12 hours from Miami to NC to hike with me! I don’t believe in angels, but they do exist!
- Hiker hunger is real – in a past article I wrote that I had a protein bar in the morning and that was enough until dinner. Now I have a hot coffee, two protein bars, 2 Snickers, some GORP, some cookies and still can’t stop thinking about food. Any kind of food: fresh fruits and vegetables, pizzas, burgers, candies, anything. Did I mention that I’m love with instant mashed potatoes?
- Good gear makes a difference – During my preparation for the AT I went for a 700 mile hike in Brazil. I lost three nails, had blisters every week and got back pain every single night. I was carrying no more than 15 pounds. Now I’m carrying almost 30 pounds and my body is just fine. No feet or back pain and I still have all my nails. That said, I have to thank all the companies that support the Badger Sponsorship. I’m 100% happy with the gear that I got. You know who they are but it’s never too much to mention them again: Big Agnes, Therm-a-rest, REI, Gossamer Gear, Wigwam, Altra, Granite Gear, Probar, Clif, Bedrock, Sawyer, Good to go, and this website here. Thank you all. I also have to thank my Brazilian supporters: Sea to Summit, Azteq Jetcook and Spot. Obrigado!
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