Trail Update #1: the week my hiking hubris takes a tumble
Back when I was employed (omg that feels so long ago already!), on Mondays we compiled and shared notes about the upcoming week, in preparation for our staff meetings on Tuesdays. Despite having a really really bad track record for actually writing and sharing my notes at work, I’m gonna keep that tradition – or at least strive for it – with weekly trail updates on Mondays. So here goes for #1:
I hate being cold more than anything. There’s little to be said about the weather the first few days other than it was just plain miserable. Beautiful to be hiking in the snow, yes. Refreshing to wake up being thankful to be alive, yes. But also miserable. Check out Rhys’s post for a hilariously funny account of just how miserable it was; you can skip to the section headed, “fucking Tuesday.”
Everything is Serendipity
Other than the cold, it’s now Day 7 and most things have worked out so so well that I’m pretty sure my tramily (tramily = trail + family) is straight up spoiled. A few examples:
1) Before leaving, everyone (myself included) seemed a bit worried about me being alone out here. Well, after Maya dropped me off in the Springer Mountain parking lot (important side note: Maya is my hero for doing that, putting me up an extra day in Altanta, driving me all over creation for last-minute items, and knolling my gear like a bad-ass) I walked the mile SOUTH you have to go to get to the actual trail start – and thus far that mile is the only mile I’ve walked alone. I now roll deep with Dan, who I met at the top of Springer, and Wes, who we met the first night at Hawk Mountain Shelter. AND we all live(d) within 30 miles from each other at home! Serendipity. (Stay tuned for their trail names!)
2) Dan and I met a Trail Angel in the Springer Mountain parking lot who has felt more like our guardian angel. We’ve seen him almost every day that we’ve been out here now, sometimes by serendipitous happenstance at a random road crossing, sometimes because he’s gone out of his way to shuttle us into town, and sometimes because we’ve texted him as we’re making it to milestones and he’s shown up to say hi! (Haha, not sure how he actually feels about the texting, but that’s what happens when you give me your number!) Hopefully we’ll continue to meet up with him into North Carolina, and from there we’ll keep him updated on our progress, since as he said, he’s been there from the beginning. Serendipity.
3) After surviving Tuesday night in the single digits, Dan and I (and everyone else with any sense – which didn’t include Wes) got off the trail to stay indoors on Wednesday night. We hitched down to Suches, Georgia with an AT Ambassador, and found ourselves at a motorcycle lodge where we were staying with a couple other The Trek Bloggers! Since then I’ve met two more in person out in the trail, and there are at least 5 others within a day or two ahead of or behind us. It’s so nice and fun to have this virtual community actually materialize in real life!
4) I can’t say enough good things about the amazing folks at Mountain Crossings. The high of making it to Neel’s Gap (where supposedly upwards of 30% of people drop off the trail completely) was beat only by meeting George and Logan (the owners) and the rest of the awesome staff. Getting there, hanging out, eating my first ever Chick-fil-A chicken biscuit for breakfast was the first time I really felt like a thru-hiker. Thanks, guys!
I Am Still Type-A And Too Competitive For My Own Good
This first week has simply been great. Everything has been new and fun, even the deathly cold. I’ve felt completely sure in this decision to leave life as I’ve known it behind. I haven’t had a moment of doubt or fear (other than every time I get out of my tent to pee in the middle of the night and the image of Samara from The Ring pops into my head. Give me bears, raccoons, rain, sleet, hail; but seriously, that creepy girl with her hair in front of her face crawling toward me in the middle of the dark woods haunts me. Any advice on that, folks?)
But it’s also not without its challenges. I’m currently laying in a hotel bed icing my knee and my ankle. We hiked 20 miles over weekend and every step of it was painful for me because of what I’m hoping is just knee stress. The pain is one thing, but the worry and anxiety over things like getting injured, not being able to keep up, having to spend time and money zeroing by myself, having to come off the trail, having to go home for good, and doing permanent damage to my body is really hard! As ridiculous and Type-A as this next line will sound, not keeping up with the progress that I projected for myself in the planning spreadsheet that I made feels like a failure. I had myself doing 15-mile days pretty much from the get-go, which is completely unrealistic, but it’s definitely knocked me down a peg to realize that I’m maybe not the hiking goddess I thought I was? Or, rather, I am definitely still a hiking goddess, I just can’t control everything. That is the hard part, and hopefully one of the biggest lessons I’ll learn while out here. So, for now, I don’t know if or when my knee will feel better; I don’t know if I’ll be able to cover the big miles that I want to and that we’re planning over the next couple days; I don’t know how much pain is too much pain; I don’t know if I can stick to my ‘plan’ or how to not feel like a failure if I go slower than expected or why the idea of going slow even feels like failing!
I do know that I’m so happy. For having nothing to do each day but walk, for the trail magic, for every hot shower I’ve taken in the last week, for warm clothes, for fresh air, for time to myself and peace in nature, for every person I’ve met who feels the same as I do about all of this. I’m just really really happy I get to be out here.
Last night we walked to our first pizza buffet, and – while this might sound weird to some – I’ve not felt more in my element in a long time than walking alongside a road in the sunshine in a strange town wearing a ridiculous outfit (leggings, puffy coat, fur-lined hat, red glittery Wonder Woman flip flops) without much care in the world. Dan wondered aloud if people knew we were hikers, then took one look at me and was like, “well, they know YOU are.”
Happy hiking and more to come…
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