It’s hard sometimes to remember the bad moments.
Looking back on my hike two years later, I find that rose colored glasses quickly set in. Remembering warm nights at a hostel, gathering with new friends, or a quiet night sitting up at a campsite watching the fire slowly settle in and listening to the distant symphony of crickets sing me to my dreams. There were certainly some magical nights to remember.
But I’m glad I took photos of the other nights. Like my first one. Really, this is of the first morning, but it serves as an excellent reminder of what that night was like. What I thought was a powerful rainstorm I soon came to find out was normal weather for northern Georgia in the mountains. My tent, an MSR Fast Stash was not set up properly, I wouldn’t get the hang of it for another month, and the tent collapsed on me in the middle of the night with the slight wind, pouring accumulated water all over myself and my sleeping bag. This meant the morning chill set in even harder than usual as I desperately tried to bail out my flooded tent bed. Finally, exhausted, I laid down and decided to just embrace the suck for the first of many many times. The tent canopy laid over me like a wet sticky sheet, and the cold settled in like a constant numb noise. I took this selfie in a deep “woe as me” moment.
Even with all of that, there’s times I wish I could go back there to that moment, and just enjoy sitting in the rain.
I was absolutely not ready to hike the Appalachian Trail.
At over 320 lbs, standing at 5’6″ tall, I was out of shape. Having never successfully camped outside overnight in my entire adult life, ( I slept in my car on my shakedown after I discovered at the time I could not fit into my sleeping bag because I was too overweight) I was supremely unqualified. Having spent most of the last ten years working in some form of tech support, and my principle hobby being cooking, I was absolutely not ready to spend days or even weeks away from civilization.
But for some reason, at the time I didn’t feel nervous. I didn’t second guess myself. I honestly didn’t feel that excited either. It just felt like the next thing to do. One day I was clocking in and sitting down at a desk with three computer monitors, a mere three days later I was disembarking a Greyhound bus and setting out for the great unknown.
Most of my gear wouldn’t survive the week. That fly fishing vest was a Walmart purchase and was left at the Top of Georgia hostel in Hiawassee. The wide brimmed blue hat was a $5 impulse buy from Amazon and turned out to be sweaty itchy cotton and was dumped in the first week at a hostel in Suches. The boots were a pro deal I was endlessly proud of and wound up getting dropped in Frankly, after only a hundred miles because it turned out they no longer fit my swelling feet. The pants were a cotton pair from Meijer, and had to be used because I simply couldn’t fit into anything else. (Quick dry hiker pants simply didn’t come in a 70 inch waist size)
I’m not sure even now why I truly wanted to do it. It was something I’d dreamed of for years, but I don’t think I could really pinpoint for you what set that year apart from the others. But it was the beginning of one of most magnificent experiences of my life.