Mile 37.1: The Shakedown

The morning that I started my hike felt uncanny. For months I’d been planning and anticipating this journey, and then one day it became a simple matter of waking up, driving an hour-and-a-half south through drizzling rain, and arriving at the gap where the Appalachian Trail crosses a Forest Service road. It was too much to think about the scope of the journey I was setting out on. I couldn’t wrap my mind around seven months; so I kept talking myself down to focusing on the first three days, or even just this day: nine miles to Hawk Mountain Shelter.

On the drive down I told Sunshine that I had a queasy feeling in my gut, like I was about to go on stage in the lead role of my middle school musical. That feeling quickly disappeared once we set foot on the Trail and began taking steps towards Springer. Within a few hours of hiking I felt myself settle in, and by the evening it felt like any other backpacking trip I’d been on. I felt myself relaxing into the peace and beauty of the bare Georgia woods. That first night we met a couple of people who would become my first friends on the AT, Steven and Erin (and Erin’s dog Chevy). We settled in for a good night’s sleep as the Army Rangers began their nighttime drills in the woods around us, a lullaby of distant machine-gunfire.

This is the story of my first week on the trail: the people I met along the way and some of the common lessons that thru-hikers learn as they start out on this great challenge. Thanks for sharing the journey; please leave your thoughts in the comments below.