About the Author: Aspin is a young writer, who grew up in Michigan. She enjoys hiking, camping, photography, and spending time outdoors with her boyfriend and dog. She has dreams of long distance hiking, with plans to complete a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2019. You can find her on Instagram (@brokeroaming), Facebook (facebook.com/brokeroaming), or her website (brokeroaming.com).
We arrived at Amicalola Visitor Center around 8:30, me and the two guys I bunked with the previous night at the hostel. As we walk through it’s hard not to feel jittery and nervous. I’ve been planning this for over a year now. Daydreaming about it. And now the day has come for me to take those first steps.
We get a Leave No Trace lecture (really only about 10-15 minutes) from hiker Bob, reminding us to pack out our trash, bury our poop and don’t bug the animals. We weigh out packs (23 lbs fully loaded by the way!), get our pictures by the arch and head out.
Word of advice for those that don’t know, the approach trail is more than just the stairs and the entire thing will kick your butt, but in a good way. You learn that you CAN do it. Our weather was beautiful. We just so happened to pick the perfect day to start, clear blue skies, 50+ degrees, the first day of spring, and the night of the Super Moon. It was like Mother Nature was just as excited for us to start as we were and this beautiful day was her blessing to start off strong (though we just KNOW that she is going to stab us in the back later with days of rain!)
Reaching the end of the Approach Trail and touching that first white blaze… that is the surreal moment. I had prepared myself for the anticipation of the visitor center, the fear of the stairs, and even the throbbing in my feet. But there was no way I could prepare myself for the joy, relief, and excitement that came with touching that first blaze…
As I lay in bed tonight reading, I wonder what the AT has in store for me.
I debated for a long time how I want to go about this blog, and I decided that reality is the best way. I want everyone to know the reality and can prepare as best as possible.
When I woke up on day two my body protested every move. My back hurt, my legs hurt and my feet were terrible. I had two blisters, one on the bottom of each foot, and putting my shoes on was hard to do mentally. While the terrain of the second day, from Springer Mountain to Hawk Mountain Shelter, is easier than I had expected, hiking on blistered feet and sore muscles was extremely hard.
Making it to the shelter that night was more out of desperation than anything. I reached Hawk Mountain at 1:30 in the afternoon. I set up my campsite, threw my food into the bear box, and laid down for a good 3-4 hours. I laid and listened to my book, stretching as much as my body would allow. The only time I got up was to get some food and go to the bathroom.
I remember texting my boyfriend telling him that while I had no intentions of quitting my body was in a lot of pain. I kept reminding myself that I had done this before. Not the trail, but the pain. I remember specifically when I started weight lifting in high school, being unable to get up and down the stairs to my bedroom without a ton of pain for a week straight. I knew that if I could endure the first few weeks the rest would get easier and my body would adjust.
Waking up day 3 was a struggle. I don’t know the exact temperature, but I can tell you that all of us had to stop regularly to warm up our fingers. Putting my stuff into my bag was painful, my fingers being frozen and all, but I knew as soon as I started moving I would warm up.
There were plenty of ups and downs for the day but my blisters had popped and I could barely feel them hiking out. I leap frogged with a group of guys calling themselves the “Minnesota Hikings” and I appreciated that every time I saw them they would stop and ask how my feet were and offer to look at them once we got to camp. They went ahead an extra mile to some trail magic while I stopped at Gooch Mountain Shelter, but I know I’ll see them again tomorrow.
As I crawl into bed tonight I will be doing my best to stay warm. I am staying in the shelter with only a couple other people, including a guy who is completing his triple crown and a guy that I had bunked with the night prior to starting the trail and has been a few miles behind me the whole time.
My body slowly starts to feel better as the days go by. The hike from Gooch Mountain Shelter to Lance Creek Campsite was a beautiful hike. In the morning we were greeted by a welcoming breakfast provided by a church group. I sat with a couple of guys for the trail magic, chatting about what I did for work prior to the trail (addiction counselor, if you’re wondering), tips on how I got my pack so light (14~ pound base weight), and everything else we could think to talk about while I bandaged up a blister on my foot.
The night at Lance Creek Campsite was the most memorable part of the day though. The campsite was over crowded, but we fit everyone in that we could. Around dinner time, one of the guys started a fire, and it seemed to attract other hikers near us like moths to a flame. In total we had around 10 people around the fire, talking about our feet and our lives and the hike so far. One of the most interesting things about being a thru-hiker on trail is that you are automatically part of the “club”. As soon as someone learns you are headed to Maine you are now friends and have each others’ backs, talking about the best routes, the weather and sharing food and advice when needed.
It is easy to forget that in the real world you aren’t supposed to talk to strangers, because on trail these strangers become your neighbors. We are all in this journey together rooting for each other, hoping to see the person at the next shelter or town.