Week 2: Keep on Keeping On

I started my week with Blood Mountain.

Stories say that young Cherokee men as a right of passage would travel to the area where they’d complete a ceremony then climb Blood Mountain where they’d receive a vision of who they were meant to become. In a way, I think I’m on a similar journey. At the age of 34, I’ve reached a point of uncertainty with my career, doldrums in relationships, and general malaise, so coming here to the mountains has been an excellent chance to break out of my box and ask some personal questions.

Most of those questions this week have consisted of, “James, what in the world were you thinking?”


View from the top of Blood Mountain

When I finished the day, Mountain Crossings was waiting for me. A good night sleep in a bunk, a shower, and in the morning a breakfast of cheese and summer sausage. I stopped for a shakedown before starting out. This was the second shakedown I’ve received. The first was at Woody Gap from Sir Packs A Lot, but I thought it would be valuable to get a second perspective. I couldn’t help but laugh when the gent in front of me explained to the staff member that he needed deodorant because without it he wouldn’t get laid.



My pack explosion in preparation for my shakedown

I started my journey as a 5’6″ tall, 330 pound, severely overweight worker in the IT field. I’ve missed my Netflix and delivery pizza more than I expected. However, I’ve traded them in for some beautiful views, some personal challenges, and excellent quiet time.

My prayers have been a consistent focus this week. I’d chosen a Bible reading plan before leaving, called the “Professor Horner’s Bible Reading Program” which consists of ten chapters a day from a variety of part of the Bible. I’ve been thankful for this thus far as a way of focusing myself both in the morning and the evening. My prayers, on the other hand, have been far less planned. I had intended to follow the “Divine Hours” by Phyllis Tickle as a prayer regiment. That hasn’t happened. Instead my prayers have been more along the lines of:

“Shit, it’s an uphill again. Oh dear God, how am I going to climb this? What was I thinking? God help me climb this mountain. Father help me keep going. I am so tired. So sore. Oh thank you. I’m finally up here. Oh no, now it’s a downhill again. Here we go.”


"How did I get up here again?"

I spent a night at Whitley Gap Shelter, which was a fascinating journey all it’s own. The shelter is rarely used since it’s well over a mile from the Trail itself, and requires crossing Wildcat Mountaintop besides. This means that the walk to the shelter as well as the evening there was a night of solitude. Again, plenty of conversations with both myself and God, as well as random daydreaming. (I thought up my own dream cast for a Justice League movie during a hike the other day that I felt would properly set it apart from the standard Hollywood fare while still telling a story that didn’t feel like it needed to apologize for the source material. I expect a call from Warner Brothers any time now.)


An empty shelter at sundown is actually pretty eerie

I spent another night at Blue Mountain shelter this week just as the rain came in. It was a fascinating evening that illustrated some of the things that I’m loving about shelter life. Some local guys were up hiking for the weekend along with several of us thru hikers, including a gentleman known as “The Spaniard” who was in his sixties and had already hiked the Pyrenees, the El Camino, and the PCT. Conversation lasted well into the night (knowing that nine o’clock is late for hikers). The clouds had been slowly rolling in for a while, but after dark they hit. There’s an odd feeling when facing rain as you’re in the midst of the clouds themselves. Everything I had was covered with a fine mist and I felt water condensing on my skin when I woke up in the middle of the night to walk out for a bathroom break.


Conversation at Blue Mountain shelter. The Spaniard is to the far right

I ended my week at Top of Georgia Hostel, just down the road from Dick’s Creek Gap. I have to say, the staff here has been incredibly friendly. I firmly believe that a Congressional medal should be issued to the wonderful woman who does laundry for the hikers passing through, and the morning pastries are delivered from the gods.


NoMan enjoying his mail drop his wife sent him

While in town, I weighed myself at the drug store and discovered I’d lost 23 pounds in the last two weeks. I’ve crossed over 6 mountains so far by my count. I’ve slept beneath the stars. I’ve drank water from fresh mountain streams. I’ve walked with trees and breathed fresh air. To paraphrase Captain Reynolds, I have done what for me is the impossible, and that has made me mighty. Whether I finish the Trail or not, no one can take that from me.

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Comments 16

  • TBR : Mar 29th

    Wow … 23 pounds! You must feel that with every step. Enjoy your hike. We are all enjoying your digital journal.

  • Caleb : Mar 29th

    23 pounds is basically a fully loaded pack with food and water! Now that’s what I call a shakedown!

  • Kestrelchick : Mar 29th

    your posts have been SO very inspiring to me – thank you so much for sharing them. I am an overweight 47 year old mom who will be doing a thru-hike with my teenage son next year. I need to lose 70 pounds to get me into my healthy BMI range and so I set a goal of losing 50 before we set off on our hike ( I left off the remaining 20 pounds because I thought that would come off on the trail) – I have lost 22 so far….I see all these young, super fit, massively athletic people posting blogs – which is awesome – but your posts are really inspiring and are getting me excited about our adventure. Keep on trucking!!

  • Bob Rogers : Mar 29th

    That AC unit in your backpack has to go. Finding an extension cord long enough has to be a couple of hundred pounds by itself. Good luck and keep going.

  • Jennifer : Mar 29th

    I’m guessing I’ll never actually get that Congressional Medal. Regardless, it was a pleasure to get to meet you here at Top Of GA. Keep on keeping on!

  • MaryBe : Mar 29th

    Very Inspiring post! Looking forward to the next

  • Irvin Valle (coach) : Mar 30th

    Just wanted to let you know you have 1 more fan here cheering you on. I look forward to your story. Keep up the good work.

  • Nicole : Mar 30th

    Props for quoting Mal! Glad you’re enjoying the trail.

  • Felicia : Mar 30th

    These are so great to read. Please continue sharing.

  • msippiqueen : Mar 30th

    Way. To. Go. You’re gonna be a beast! Heck, you already are amazing.

    Big things will unfold for you on this journey, guaranteed.

  • More Whimsy : Mar 30th

    Greatly enjoying your journey. You’ve got quite a few, including me, along for the ride.

  • Joan Kibbey : Mar 31st

    I just read your second week blog because your mom posted it on Facebook. I’m not sure how I get added to your list or keep getting your blogs, but I’d like to. I’m sure this will be a life-changing time for you. Vaya con Dios 🙂

  • Susie Forkner : Apr 5th

    Wow. Way to go. Love reading about your journey. My husband is hiking the Appalachian Trail right now also. Say hi if you see him trail name texas hippie. Can’t miss him long hair and braids on his chin. Enjoy your hike. Don’t forget hike your own hike. I truly admire what you are doing.

  • JK-TREKKER : Apr 5th

    Wish you many trail angels. You can do this and the man that emerges from the wilderness, each time you emerge, is not the same man you left at the trail head.

  • Mia : Apr 6th

    When you hit the hard spots, don’t give up. Never give up!! This post you should look back on when you’re having any DOUBT OF QUITTING!!! Keep on keeping on man!! Inspiring!! You are the only person in you. You choose to quit, you choose to keep on. You did this trail for a reason, so when the tough gets going, give it the middle finger, (especially your feet) and trek on!!

  • Beth : Apr 12th

    Love reading your inspirational story! Keep on putting one foot in front of the other and know you have a bunch of people pulling for you!


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