Week 1: Stumbles

The following post was originally published on TheTrek.co and is republished here with permission

Twenty minutes into my thru hike, I planted my foot in a hole in the ground, tripped, fell tail over tea kettle, and planted myself face first into the ground with my pack on top of me. I couldn’t get up with the pack weighing me down, so I had to flop back and forth like a flipped tortoise to get myself right side up before I could stand.

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Let’s face it, that ugly mug deserved a face plant

My hike was not off to an auspicious start.

Actually, things started badly before that. I had traveled from my home life in Kentucky to start the Trail. The week before I left, rather than being able to focus on saying goodbye to friends or be nervous regarding what I was about to do, I was going insane trying to get my life packed up. Finding homes for what few belongings I’d had left. The previous year I’d gone through a “cleansing”ridding myself of much of my excess possessions, partially due to a failed experiment of joining a quasi monastic order based out of Cincinnati. Even with that, I still had a dozen or so boxes of books and an ikea futon that needed to go. I had a friend from work who was kind enough to take all of my books, and several friends who took boxes of the random other belongings, but that futon was a nightmare. Scheduled three different people to purchase the futon, each one didn’t show, each time I lowered the price and looked again. Finally, the day I left, I had a friend from church who was able to take the thing off my hands.

I was ready to go.

After a twelve hour overnight Greyhound ride, I arrived in Atlanta ready to sleep. As it was, my parents who lived in Florida drove up to pick me up from the station to take me to the park. I hadn’t seen them since Christmas, so it was a good chance to visit before I disappeared for a few months.

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The best way to mentally prepare for spending several months in the woods is to sit in Atlanta traffic on a crowded Greyhound bus for an hour or so

I have to say, I am incredibly thankful that the people in my life have been nothing but supportive when learning about my hike. My parents have been positive and asked good questions, my boss and coworkers were excited and cheered me on, people from church have been encouraging, and overall I’ve not had any of the negative experience that I know some of my fellow hikers have faced. For that I’ve been extremely grateful. A week into my hike, those encouraging words have been barbs to push me on as I’ve had a few dark days of contemplating quitting, knowing all the people I’d let down.

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Sunset at the Stover Creek Shelter

Once my parents picked me up, we headed for the park. I’d received prior advice from my fellow AppTrials Blogger Sheena (check out her posts here: https://www.thetrek.co/author/sheena-speaks/ ) to avoid the approach trail. Instead, we tried going up a forest service road to get to the direct trail head a mile from the top of Springer. Unfortunately, while the guide said the road was “graded for all vehicles” it obviously didn’t consider my mother’s convertible in the equation. There was no way we could get up that road. So I disembarked to hike the road myself, leading to that inauspicious beginning we’ve already discussed

After I was finished my cosplay as the embarrassed tortoise from Terry Pratchett Small Gods, I began my hike anew. After about three miles, a passing car offered me a ride the rest of the way. I was surprised to discover that the driver was none other than Josh of the Thru Project (See his column explaining the project with AppTrials here:https://thetrek.co/the-thru-project/) along with his friend Lael. They were headed to Springer for some section hiking and offered some fantastic advice on pacing and nutrition, which I was incredibly lucky to get!

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This is me taking a snack break by a waterfall. Using a selfie stick. Because I’m a spoiled American

The rest of my first day passed without much more fanfare. My pace has been particularly slow, averaging about 5 miles a day for my first week. I’ve seen some beautiful things and met plenty of friendly people. I do want to take a moment to freely state that the passage over Sassafras and Justus Mountains is the worst experience I’ve had in ages though. This 7 mile stretch came after a night’s stay at Hawk Mountain Shelter, and goes from there to Justus Creek with no water. It was a mild 70 degree day I passed through, but I nonetheless ran out of water halfway through. My pack sat heavy, and my back screamed in pain. When it was done though, and I made the turn to see the creek, I have never been so thankful for water in my life. I guzzled 4 liters of water in about half an hour. This likely led to the upset stomach I had later that night, along with the fact that the next morning kept me living in the privy for a few hours. After doing some emergency laundry with my Scrubba Bag (an item I am incredibly grateful for and hope to give you more detail on later) I made the remaining hike to Gooch Gap, where I took a shuttle ride into Wolfpen Country Store and Hostel where I’ve spent the weekend.

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This is Pete, he was out hiking the Appalachian Trail to celebrate his 80th birthday!

I’m looking forward to checking back in with you all next week week, when I hope to report on passing Blood Mountain, and hiking through to Top of Georgia Hostel.

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