In 3 days I'll be lacing up my hiking boots for my first overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail. I've day hiked a couple sections of the AT close to my home in Northeast Georgia but those were no more than 8 miles each. This feels different. This will be five days on the Appalachian Trail. Five days with no shower, no communication with the world, and lots of miles to trek.
I'm really excited as I've been spending most of my time in this quarantine listening to audio books like "Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart" by Carrot Quinn and "Wild" but Cheryl Strayed. Although these books are written by hikers who have hiked the PCT, I am intrigued of the magic that the long winding trail of the AT holds.
I know friends who have thru hiked the Appalachian Trail and I follow many people on Instagram who are currently planning thru hikes for 2021 or 2022. I don't know if I'll ever be able to thru hike the AT so my plan is to section hike the entire Appalachian Trail until I either finish or go all in and spend 7+ months trekking from Georgia to Maine.
There's something about putting all your belongings in a backpack and walking into the wilderness. I have found myself there. I can be free. Free of worry and responsibilities. I can reflect and take in the beauty of nature along with all the wildlife I see around me. I feel all of these things on day hikes in my north Georgia mountains so I can only imagine what I am going to feel not having to come back to reality for longer than 8 hours. I won't be totally alone though. I am going with my mom and my brother, who also love to backpack.
I have spent the last two weeks planning routes, gathering my gear (I had most of it already but it's still fun acquiring new gear!) and booking our shuttle. I've planned all of my meals and gone through my packing list three or four times. I guess I am just anxious that I am packing too much or not packing enough!
I don't know how many opportunities I am going to get each year to section hike a portion of the AT and I am hearing little rumbles about my industry maybe (or maybe not) coming back sometime soon so the sooner I get on that trail the better. I have always wanted to go to the Grayson Highlands in Virginia to see the ponies so that seemed like a good place to start.
The plan is to get dropped off at Massie Gap and go southbound a few miles before taking a shortcut up north and loop back around to Massie Gap before SOBO - ing (southbound) 30 miles to Damascus. This will not only be my longest section hike, but the most miles I've ever done in one setting. I did an overnight on the North Country Trail back in May and covered 16.5 miles in 24 hours so I don't think this will be too bad. The goal is 40 miles total. 10 miles a day. Easy.
Last night I carefully went through my check list and finally packed my bag! I even walked around my house with it on my back while I ate my Great Value pizza to make sure it felt okay. My airbnb guests probably thought I was a fool.
I sprayed down my pack and shoes with permethrin while waiting for the dehydrator to finish up my chicken. I finished packing my food bag, carefully placed it in my hiking pack and closed it up! Sinching all the straps to make sure everything was right in it's place. I mean, I was ready to hit the trail like yesterday...until I realized that I had forgotten to fill up my water bladder. So here we go again, unpacking my pack and then repacking it one last time.
Tomorrow I have to get my house all ready for the pet sitter who is a good friend of mine and willing to watch my animals as well as play host to my airbnb guests while I am away and out of cell reception. Along with other chores that come with owning a house. Cutting the grass, feeding the chickens and yada yada yada.
Three days. The countdown is on. I am ready and excited and a little bit nervous. Can I actually do this? If I can't will ever be able to attempt a thru hike? Well, In three days I guess we find out!