Thru hiking the Appalachian Trail was the adventure of a lifetime. It was by far the hardest, most uncomfortable, eye-opening, mentally and physically tough, dirty, smelly, sweaty, life-changing, awesome thing I’ve ever done.
For 4 and 1/2 months I did nothing but walk day after day. I started in my home state of Georgia, went through the freezing cold and snow in North Carolina and Tennessee. Avoided the “Virginia Blues” in Virginia. Passed through West Virginia and Maryland in under a day. Walked through endless sunny fields in Pennsylvania. Dodged ticks in New Jersey and cursed at New York. I walked through entire states I’d never even been to before like Connecticut and Massachusetts. Experienced “ver-mud” in Vermont. Conquered the dreaded “Whites” in New Hampshire. And finally slogged through swamps and bogs and unending swarms of Mosquitos in Maine.
For 4 and 1/2 months, I slept under the stars. I found myself sleeping on the ground, in shelters, on picnic tables, on dining room floors and kitchen floors, on cots, hammocks, in hostels and terrible hotel rooms, on screened in porches, and everything else in between.
Over 4 and 1/2 months I saw bears, wild turkeys, deer, loons, snakes, frogs, lizards, rabbits, birds, a moose, and countless other things I couldn’t even try to name.
For 4 and 1/2 months, I met and talked with new people every day. From day hikers, section hikers, and “weekenders”, to people in towns and countless other thru hikers. We bonded and shared over common experiences and feelings. I walked with people for days, weeks, and even months. We shared meals and personal stories from “the real world” and bonded over trail life. We did all this sometimes without knowing each other’s real names.
For 4 and 1/2 months, I went days or even a week or more without a shower, a real meal, or a bed. I carried everything I needed to survive on my back and unpacked and packed it up again every day.
For 4 and 1/2 months, I stepped out of my comfort zone. I shared shelters, bathrooms, and meals with new people every day. I did laundry in nothing but a towel, I hitch-hiked in and out of towns, I experienced “trail magic”, ranging from a soda left on the side of the trail to being picked up and driven home by someone to let me shower in their house. I ate more food and calories than I thought humanly possible and still lost weight. I walked till my feet hurt and my legs absolutely ached, and then I walked some more. And then the next day, I got up and did it all over again. I banged elbows, knees, thighs, shins, and my head on everything I could. I sweated, bled, and cursed on a daily basis.
Over 4 and 1/2 months, I walked through snow, sleet, ice, and rain. I experienced frozen food as well as frozen boots. I put my sleeping bag temperature rating through the most rigorous of testing. I walked through mud, grass, sand, and over more rocks and roots than I ever care to see again. I walked across bridges, over-passes, dirt roads, paved roads, through towns, up steps and iron ladders built right into rock, across boardwalks, up and down more mountains than I can remember, and anywhere else the trail happened to lead. I walked through endless fields in 90 degree heat with no trees in sight. I climbed pure rock mountains, sometimes in the wind or rain or even both. I walked through swamps, bogs, knee-high and even chest-high water. I forded countless streams and even took a “ferry” when fording wasn’t an option. I climbed 6,000 foot mountains, and walked along ridge lines with views on either side of nothing but endless mountains.
For 4 and 1/2 months, I walked the Appalachian Trail and blindly followed white blazes. I became absolutely dependent on them, constantly needing to see them so that I knew I was going the right way.
For 4 and 1/2 months, I lived free. I found joy and happiness in the simplest of things. I survived with nothing but what I carried on my back. I made enduring friendships and created memories enough to last a lifetime. I pushed my body and my mind to the absolute limits.
For 4 and 1/2 months, I walked from Georgia to Maine…and lived and loved every minute of it.