Well River, We’re Not In Maine Anymore.

Travel From ME to GA, Days -2 to 0

Day -2
I picked up our rental car at the jetport in Portland and tossed my exquisitely packed pack in the hatch. I loaded up Riv in the backseat and loved on my partner not a goodbye but an I’ll see you soon at the Smokies, I hope. I hope we at least make it that far.

A dog resting on a humans arm Riv only snuggles at inopportune times.

I put on my partner and I’s favorite podcast and laughed my ass off for three hours. From that high came the low of ‘oh shit I miss you’, and the tears started flowing. Emotions are a very real part of life and I’m happy to feel the highs and lows of them all.

I was grateful to be given a rental with cruise control, I set that shit and let it ride until halfway through Virginia when I turned in for a hotel. Shout out to my partner’s friend, Rachel for the Friends and Family discount on the room. It just so happened the lovely gent at the counter commented on my pack saying that it looked a lot like his. I shared with him that Riv and I are headed down to GA to hike the AT to which he explained he’s section hiked. He also proceeded to tell me, “ME is hard AF.”
I politely responded, “We’re from there.” He chuckled and said, “I hate your state.” Fair, I thought to myself. Those granite boulders chew through souls.

Day -1
I woke up, packed up, checked out and headed on my way. I slept decent enough and I was ready to skirt around the Smokies on my way to our final stop before hitting the trail. With the ride being as beautiful as it has been, I can only imagine the sights for when I’m walking through it.

An image of a Waffle House eatery, blue cloudy sky background. Waffle House

As I arrived in Gainesville, I stopped at a Waffle House to fuel up on greasy breakfast food before I checked into my last hotel. The waitress was lovely, the food was just what I needed, and I was in and out in a jiffy. Since I can’t get the guy out of my head, I’d like to take a moment to mention Tony. An unhoused Veteran who has been living in his car for two years in that Waffle House parking lot. I gave him a couple things, which he was beyond grateful for and chatted him up for half an hour or so. I hope you’re as well as you can be, Tony.

I was surprised to be headed off to bed and not nervous or anxious but totally at peace with my decision. I was really missing my partner – and still am as I write this- but dozed off to sleep. River snoring loudly, taking up more than half the bed.

A dog sleeping on an unmade bed. Bed Hog

Hurry Up and Wait

Day 0
It was super nice knowing there was no need to set an alarm or feel like I needed to rush off to the trail head. The rental car drop off did not open until 0900, so that was the earliest I could get moving. After I turned over the keys, I looked down at my feet and said “shit, you two are my cheapest way home now, all my food for five months has been purchased and prepped.” I then grabbed an Uber to the Amicalola Falls Welcome Center. The driver was great and loves our Maine lobsters. I thanked him and tipped him well for accepting my 50-minute ride with no return fare.

I’m not too sure what I expected, but it totally wasn’t what we drove up to. When I walked in, both Rangers were busy with other hikers, so naturally I stood there frozen like a doofus with my pack on for a good 10 minutes. I was finally instructed to place my pack on the scale- 37.7 pounds! That includes six days of River’s food, River’s saddlebags, my food, and one liter of water. The Ranger asked if I was comfortable with it, to which I explained, “I’m used to carrying all of Riv’s gear.” He’s worth it in my eyes. After politely declining the shakedown, I watched the 15-minute Leave No Trace discussion, signed in, and grabbed our bag tag, number 266.

I am now headed home.

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