At first light, I was dropped off in the backwoods of Georgia; all that I could hear was my own nervous laughter; all that I could feel was my body trembling with anticipation; all that I could see was 3500km of trail before me.
After months of preparation...I had finally arrived at the at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
Backpack on and trail runners tied tight, with my first step I committed myself to 5 months of dehydrated food, sleeping in a tent, and the adventure of a lifetime. I knew I was going to learn a lot while on the trail. What I didn't expect to learn was gratitude, patience, and trust.
Ankles were rolled and tears were shed while collapsed in the middle of the trail. A lesson was learned; I had to ask for help. Shin splints crippled me. Daily mileage dropped from 48km to 16km; wincing with every step. Two amazing individuals drove out of their way to pick me up and let me stay at their house. They fed me. They did my laundry. They gave me a bed to sleep in. My mind was blown.
A week prior I had never met these individuals, but yet they welcomed me into their home. Living in the woods I hadn't showered in two weeks or done laundry in four. Now, I found myself being able to flick a switch and there would be light. I could lift a leaver and COLD water would come gushing out. I could open a magical door and find fresh food. I wasn't hallucinating, it was all real. These people had opened their hearts and welcomed me. It was one of the many selfless acts I would experience along this trail.
People didn't care what your socioeconomic status was, what clothes you wore, or the fact that you had been wearing those same clothes everyday for the past month. They simply wanted you to succeed. Everyone lived in the elements together and faced the same soul crushing trail. If you were hungry and someone had extra food, they gave it to you. If you needed a place to sleep, people made room for you. It was the most supportive environment I had ever been apart of. It was a family.
Spending 5 months living in a tent was the greatest thing I could have ever have done. I don't regret a single day or a single dollar I missed earning from taking 7 months off work. Was I reminded of my core values? 100%. Would I do it again? YOU BET!
My advice to you? Get outside and see what there is to been seen. It might just surprise you.
- The Trail is roughly 3,500 km long, passing through 14 states.
- Thousands of volunteers maintain the trail.
- More than 250 three-sided shelters exist along the Trail.
- Virginia is home to the most miles of the Trail (about 550), while West Virginia is home to the least (about 4).
- The total elevation gain of hiking the entire A.T. is equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest 16 times.
- 2 in 10 who attempt a thru-hike successfully completes the journey
- Hikers usually adopt “trail names” while hiking the Trail. They are often descriptive or humorous. Examples are “Eternal Optimist,” “Thunder Chicken,” and “Crumb-snatcher".(Message me to find out my trail name)