Train Thoughts: NYC to Georgia Bound

I considered flying vs taking Amtrak down to Georgia to kick off my Appalachian Trail attempt, but 12 hours into the train ride, I’m still having a great time. I’d always wanted to try a long train ride and found the idea vaguely romantic (too many old movies while I grew up), but I did not have a good reason to try a long-haul trip before now. I ended up choosing the train because I wanted to enjoy all the changing landscape one gets from hiking without having to walk at all, to skip the airport hassle, and to have some calm time before my trek begins.

Lots and Lots of Thoughts

In the weeks leading to my hike, I was occupied catching up with family, coworkers, and friends, buying and swapping last-minute gear, and tackling an endless to-do list with an annoying range of items. There wasn’t much time for reflection ahead of my departure, but I was pleasantly surprised by this intermediate travel space, since I’m forced to occupy the hours and have plenty of time to let my mind wander (and call grandparents).

My brain seems to be protesting the planning work I’ve done to date and is now offering up lots of highly specific points for thought and/or anxiety-provoking hypotheticals, such as:

  • Did I turn off the stove? (This makes no sense as a concern as 1) I have roommates in the apartment, and 2) I didn’t cook the day I left.)
  • If I were in a life or death situation, and I were starving, and I saw a squirrel, would I be able to eat it? (Answer: Squirrels are adorable. I’d feel guilty and try to use as much of it as I could.) Then I started thinking about what use there’d be for a squirrel pelt and only managed to think of a tiny fur hat for a dog. Who’d probably eat it. Maybe no squirrel then.
  • If I get a blister under my nail, which I’d heard about but tried to forget is possible, am I supposed to pop it by sticking a needle under my nail?
  • If two people are hiking near each other but stop getting along, and one speeds up to get away but gets hurt, is it a) their fault for not knowing their limits, b) the other person’s fault for being annoying, or 3) their fault for being a wimp and not saying, “Hey, I like hiking alone, and I’m going to split off at the next stopping point” like an adult?
  • I have enough rope to hang up my food in a bear bag at night. If I’m hanging it 15 feet off the ground and a certain distance from the trunk, can I guessimate the angle the other end of the rope makes when tied around the trunk? Is there an ideal range? (Answer: Yes, assuming I can guess the height of the original tree branch, and thanks high school math teachers).
  • Which is worse, the tan line from wearing shorts with high socks, or the back of neck plus arms tank top combo? (Side question: Do guys who grow trail beards get face tan lines?)
  • Would I rather get smacked by a tourist’s selfie stick or hear a drone buzzing constantly? (Answer: Definitely the stick. And I’ll keep an eye out in the really popular state parks on weekends.)
  • I know the words/tunes for about half of ten great songs and occasionally sing the parts I know. If I meet someone who knows the other half, are we automatically soulmates?
  • If any of the ultralight bros give me grief about bringing my own tea, I’ll mention that they can shave their trail beards off if they’re so worried about ounces!
  • It’s also a bit odd that I am spending 17 hours on the train from New York to Georgia but will take four months to make it back to that area on foot

Other Last-Minute Feelings

Spring has absolutely started in Georgia, which is a welcome change from the winter slog in NYC. I’m almost as excited about the weather today as I am about hiking; plus it feels nice to get started on a pleasant day. The rain looks like it’ll start on my second day, so I will have a chance to test everything out and get into a routine before my first bad weather.

Updates should be coming every week or two!

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Comments 5

  • LeoYermo : Mar 31st

    Well written and such good thought topics.
    Road the train once from LA to Hampton VA and back. Three days each way a bit tiring, seems you had a much better, and shorter time.
    Can’t wait for your next installment. This one was mighty spiffy, I must say.

  • lee weinberg : Mar 31st

    So excited for you, Katharine! Glad you are having some down time on the ride down.



  • John Loonam : Apr 1st

    I am so impressed with your courage and fortitude. I have always been impressed with your writing. I look forward to following your journey!

  • CUnruh : Apr 2nd

    Go Katharine!! I hope everything goes perfectly!

  • Randy Beeson : Apr 3rd

    I’ve been wanting to try a leg of the trail myself but so much to know and learn I haven’t taken the plunge yet. Enjoy your trip! and youth.


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