I will not be hiking in New Hampshire. I will be hiking in North Georgia, at the beginning of one my biggest adventures to date, a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
I’m pretty sure that this isn’t a huge surprise for most of you that know me or at least have been following this blog for a while. I live reasonably close to the AT here in NH, hike on it quite a bit in my weekly trips to the mountains and sectioned hiked part of it during our Long Trail hike in 2013 and last summer’s hike from Gorham to the Bigelows. Those two longer backpacks were just warm ups for this bigger adventure. The whole idea to start with shorter trails and make sure that I liked long distance hiking before embarking on a long journey and finding out within a few weeks that I didn’t like long distance hiking! At least if I were in Vermont or Maine, my husband could pick me up in a few hours, rather than being half way across the United States.
Obviously, I like hiking and long distance hiking, but why the AT, and not the PCT, the CDT or another national scenic trail? Well, when I was 15 years old, the AT caught my attention in an article in National Geographic. I loved that magazine, and always wanted to go to all the interesting places I’d read about. Of course many were out of reach and still are to some degree, but there’s always been a bit of an adventurer and nomad about me (thanks mom and dad!). The AT was close – in my own country. I looked at those photos and wanted to go to those places. I even found a copy of that issue on eBay a few years ago, and have it on my shelf. Little did I know way back then, that I’d actually get to go to some of those places in the photos, some of the many times.
If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have begged my dad to hike to the AT. He would have come along with me, too. He loves a good adventure and I think would really love the trail. As it was, it was just a dream, something I thought would never happen. Maybe I should have asked! Over the years, I’d see bits and pieces of the AT on trips through the Smokies and Shenandoahs, and even a trip to north Georgia in my early 20’s. Over the course of my hiking here in NH, I’ve been on parts of the AT many times and seen many thru-hikers, and the dream was still there. Getting serious about backpacking a few years ago was the start to seeing that dream become reality.
Now I’m at the point where I have quite of bit of hiking experience, both day-hiking and backpacking, and my husband one evening last October said, “Why don’t you hike the AT next year?” We’d had many conversations about it before then, mostly pipe dreams, and it was always, “when the kids graduate from high school”, etc. It certainly was a surreal moment. I was shocked. It was the thing I’d dreamed of for a long time, was prepared for it never to happen due to various circumstances, and here it was, being handed to me. After further discussion, this year seems to be the year for many reasons. I’ve got a child that can now legally drive, my in-laws are healthy and still young enough to drive, I’ve still got my health and I haven’t yet destroyed my knees or ankles to where I can’t hike or need serious medical intervention. My husband works from home every day, both children will have the school year to finish, and then summer jobs, and will start school again right around the time I get back, if the Lord wills and the creek don’t rise (I’m serious on both accounts!). I’ve been doing some planning and preparation since then, and will detail some of that in future posts.
So, on April 7th, I will be setting off from Amicalola Falls State Park, hiking up the approach trail to Springer Mountain and the southern terminus of the AT and then be on my way northward. It is exciting, yet bittersweet. I will be starting a new adventure but not have my long distance hiking partner with me. He has to stay home because he needs to finish the 8th grade. My son has been a fantastic partner, sharing in all the good times and bad along the trails we’ve hiked. My dad, one of my heros, will not be able to come with me on this adventure, either. He will still get to be a part of the adventure, however. He lives in Georgia, and has graciously offered to take me up to AFSP to send me on my way. I always told him I’d come to Georgia some spring and he’d have to tell me to walk home!