Back in the spring of 2002, I was desperately trying to think of something exciting to do – an adventure for myself and my teen age daughters. We also had an Italian exchange student living with us and she was graduating from high school. I just couldn’t see letting her go off to Cancun for the senior trip and needed something to dull the pain of being denied. So, I thought, let’s go on a hike. Let’s see if the Appalachian Trail is as great a place as they say in all those books… Surely if some 80 year old woman can thru hike in her tennis shoes with only a drawstring bag of supplies, we can survive a week on the trail.
Hiking newbies, we bought/borrowed backpacks and gear. We decided who would carry which supplies. I researched our options and hired a trail expert to transport us to our starting point. It was a lovely day and we were getting a nice, early start. My only reservation as I
hoisted was helped into my backpack was “wow, this thing is really kind of weighty. I thought it was only 40 lbs?”. Yeah, well, we were pretty exhausted by the end of that day’s walking.
The AT teaches you to hate going downhill. It has some lovely flat stretches on high ridges just to keep morale up but mostly it is going down only to go up again. Every descent brings to mind all the wasted effort put into climbing the last hill. But after all, these are mountains. I distinctly remember as we were climbing one very steep series of steps carved into the rock, one of the girls was ready to quit. I was already maxed out on motivational talk so we just did a nice long rest after each step. No need to rush, we only have to do 10 miles of this today…
Each time we made camp it was a major victory. You have to do some thinking before you pick your spot. Where is it safe? Is there a good place to hang your food so bears don’t get it? Bears! Is there a place with no bears? Is there water?
Water is very precious when you are hiking and you can only carry so much of it. Water is heavy. Finding a stream or spring was always a relief and we learned not to pass them by without filtering enough to fill our jars. One experience with dehydration was enough for me. I was weak to the point of not being able to keep my balance, which is not a good characteristic to have on a mountain. I submitted happily to being trucked to that night’s camping spot by rangers. They set up the tent and put me in it for a recovery sleep. Hours later I woke to the sounds of the girls arriving.
We made it. From our starting point back down to the parking lot at Amicalola Falls. We gratefully fell into the car and went to a motel to wash off five days of grime and weariness. Although it may sound a bit like a bad experience, it wasn’t. I don’t think any of us will forget our time hiking, and I and the youngest daughter have even gone back for more