Week -1; Goodbyes and Good Vibes

No one ever told me how surreal life would get BEFORE I even started my hike.

The past week or so hasn’t really felt normal.

Like an intense dream that somehow I still haven’t woken up from. It really started at my “going away” happy hour at work. Being surrounded by my coworkers at our local Irish pub as we talked about my upcoming adventure, it didn’t feel real to any of us. Working in construction, almost everyone has an appreciation for the outdoors in some form. We work on jobsites in the dead of winter or in the humidity of a swampy Carolina summer. And in our spare time, we still head outside. One skier, two fisherman, and multiple hikers, backpackers and kayakers. We clearly can’t get enough of being outside. So when they heard I wanted to hit the trail, I got their full support. I had told my company I would be leaving for the trail almost a year in advance. Back then I was worried they might fire me on the spot, but they confirmed just how great of a company they are. My leaving wasn’t a surprise for any of us, but eventually it came to be. Every one of my coworkers confirmed the surrealness of my departure, and then we celebrated with beers and pretzel bites. I am looking forward to another round once I get back.

This weird dreamlike situation continued with a visit to my sister and her family for the weekend.

My sister Jen and brother-in-law Alex were there the day I committed to the trail a year earlier. We were spending a weekend at Pilot Mountain for a short climbing trip, hanging around the cabin talking about our goals and adventures for the year. Jen was signed up for a series of sprint triathlons and Alex had plans for his first alpine climbs in the Cascades. That’s when I told them I would be hiking the AT in 2024. So the surrealness always hit when someone said, “I can’t believe it’s here already.” It felt so recent since I announced my commitment to the trail, but over a year had passed. But the real reason for my trip was to see my nieces before I left. Kung Fu Panda 4 and a trip to the playground was an unbeatable way to say goodbye to them. And let’s not forget the lasagna and carrot cake my sister made as a goodbye meal. I know I’m gonna miss that on the trail.

No work since Monday has been great but also weird. It’s the start of a vacation for an undetermined length of time. But that vacation will be wet, cold, hot, stinky, stressful and painful. Just the way I like it!
My parents are at my apartment now, we just got done with a short three-mile hike in the pouring rain, which again just added to the strange dreamlike week that I’m having. They will be staying here, watching my cat and looking for retirement homes as I hike from Georgia to Maine.

How is any of this real?

Tomorrow I head to Georgia with my best friend, and the day after that I’ll be walking myself up Springer Mountain to begin this adventure on my own. I’m trying to wrap my head around that idea without freaking myself out. I’m excited and nervous, which I know is all normal. Maybe it feels like a dream, because it has been a dream of mine for so long. Just a theory. All I know is that it’s all good. And that I can’t wait to get started.

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