Walk and “Smell the Roses” Along the Way

Before leaving for the trail, I was terrified that I was wasting my time.  What if I paid for all this gear and was absolutely miserable, stuck in the wilderness for six months? What if I traveled all this way, and just wished I was home the whole time?  What if I told everyone I was going to hike all the way to Maine, and had to swallow my pride in Virginia? It was scary. I was nervous. And for a good reason.

Feb. 16, 2019, I stepped onto the stairs of the Amicalola Falls Approach Trail with a 30-pound pack.  8.5 miles of absolute hellacious ascents beginning with 604 stairs. That night, when I pitched my tent, my legs were on fire despite the fact that it was cold enough I shivered in my sleeping bag all night.  I knew I’d wake up sore. I knew I had another eight miles to hike the next day, and the next day, and the next, and the next. I lay there thinking it was absolutely pointless and that I had wasted my time and money.

However, the next morning, though it was cold and rainy, I woke up with an odd sense of positivity and excitement.  I was not sore, which surprised me most, and the weather did not bother me at all. Maybe I could do this. Maybe I was meant to hike the trail.

The more I walked, saw, and explored, the more I wanted to keep going.  And every day got better than the one before. Not only did the terrain become immensely easier than the Approach Trail (which probably helped to boost my spirits), but it became more and more beautiful each step I took.  Even through the thunderstorms and hailstorms, each step carrying me away from society brought me closer to a clear mind.

Never before had I realized that I had learned to take the great for granted and learned to hate the good.  Thunderstorms have a negative connotation, but when you are stuck in one for three days, you begin to recognize the beauty of them. And when a storm subsides, you realize just how amazing a cloudless day is.

The AT is hard.  It is waking up to finding out you’ll be hiking through a hailstorm all day.  Its sleeping with your water so it doesn’t freeze. It’s walking through fog so thick you can’t see four feet in front of you.  It’s hearing a bear echo so close to you, but not knowing whether to hike up or go back down because you can’t see the freaking bear through the fog.  But I tell you now, it’s worth it. Every ache and pain, all the shivers and sweat, all the work, is worth it.

The AT is incredible.  It’s having the fog lift to reveal a view only you and that bear can see.  It’s finding a waterfall off trail a bit, unknown to the rest of the world.  It’s having chipmunks make you laugh until you are sore. It teaches you what is important.  You stop worrying about likes on Instagram and start worrying about that five-mile stretch without a water source.

It’s a beautiful world the Lord has placed us in, but all of us are moving too fast to acknowledge it.  That is why I am so glad I decided to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Because for six months, the only thing I have to do is walk and “smell the roses.”

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Comments 4

  • Lin Ford : Mar 2nd

    I am immensely proud of you both for taking this enormous adventure. I love the posts and narratives. You both have my utmost admiration and best wishes and prayers for a continued enjoyment for every step and safety for your entire journey. Lin

  • Donna Skubinna : Mar 3rd

    More important than the trail itself, document in a personal journal, something each day about your Mom being with you.

  • Sydney Taylor : Mar 12th

    LOVE THIS! Keep going, Erica!

  • Linda Pavlik : Apr 19th

    It was so very nice to meet you and your mother on the trail (Whiskey Hollow). You both are an inspiration! Best wishes for an amazing thru hike! I’m looking forward to following your journey through your articles 🙂


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