Yesterday marked our first week on this adventure, and so far we’ve trekked 70 miles of the actual AT. That may not sound like a huge milestone in the grand scheme of things, but it still deserved a celebration of hot apple cider and our new favorite meal: Ram Bomb. For those of you that don’t know, that consists of Ramen noodles and instant mashed potatoes mixed together. It can be really delicious, depending on how many miles you walked and how desperately hungry you are.
Last Monday, before embarking on the 8.8 mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain, there were calls for some treacherous weather. Receiving a hodgepodge of advice between ‘wait a day to start’ and ‘if you can hike in a tornado, you can hike in anything,’ we decided that hiking in the storm would be a proper initiation.
Probably in an effort to boost our morale, a fellow hiker told us that rain in your first week of a thru-hike means good luck. I wonder what rain, hail, snow, lightning, and 40+ mph winds could mean?
To dry our clothes and warm us up, we took our first ‘zero’ day on Friday in Helen, Georgia. Even though this was supposed to be our relaxing day, we spent the majority of it performing a myriad of new and unfamiliar chores that will surely become second nature: gathering quarters together to wash our muddy clothes at a nearby laundromat, resupplying oatmeal and dried fruit from the grocery store for the next five days in the woods, airing out wet gear, and taking abnormally long showers to scrub off the dirt and sweat and camp fire smell.
We’ve learned some lessons the hard way so far, such as a synthetic down jacket from Costco will in fact not keep you warm in 30 degree weather, and that Crocs are not the best for hiking in. We’ve learned that in the South people wear sleeves even when it’s hot in order to protect themselves from the ferocious sun burns that we have both acquired. Lastly, we’ve learned that even though there’s a shelter every 10 to 12 miles on the AT, your best bet is just to pitch your tent right by it. Otherwise, you’ll wake up at midnight to a mouse going through your things (true story).
Despite all the mishaps already, there have been countless glorious moments. There’s a phenomenon that occurs on the trail, and my explanation simply cannot do it justice. Although I’ve heard of it from others, we’ve only just seen the beginning of it. ‘Trail magic’ can encapsulate anything that unexpectedly happens on the trail that just makes you feel like, ‘woah…’ It can be something in nature, an act done by another hiker, or a complete stranger. People that perform trail magic for hikers often are called ‘trail angels,’ and Nicole and I have already been fortunate enough to meet a couple of them. These are people that drive their cars to gaps in the trail and wait with food and drinks, give rides to hikers in town, offer up their washing machines, etc… It honestly feels like when you’re running a road race, and there are spectators on the side cheering you on and handing out water. On a particularly cold and miserable day, we came to a gap and were handed hot coffee and sandwiches. On another day, this time blistering hot, there were people waiting with cold soda and sunscreen (we apparently just missed the beer and pizza).
Trail names are another huge part of the trail community, and basically a rite of passage. This is what you are known as while hiking, as well as after in the hiking community. Many hostel owners, trail angels, and past thru-hikers still go by their trail names. There’s no real structure to receiving your name; some people even come in having already picked it out. However, most get nicknamed by fellow hikers for something they do, or something that resembles them. Some names we’ve met so far include Fist Bump, Spit Fire, Big Red, Road Runner, Coyote, Pretzel, Mountain Dew, and OD (short for Old Dude).
Nicole has been named ‘Lost’ or ‘L n F’ for Lost and Found. She tends to lose things on the trail, and then magically have them returned to her. I just recently got deemed ‘River,’ which I wish I could say had some beautiful and profound meaning, but truthfully, it’s just because I have to stop to pee every hour or so. A fellow hiker proclaimed he read that if you don’t pee 7 times a day while hiking, you’re dehydrated. Well, for me, the river is always flowing, if you know what I mean.
Thank you to those of you that have been checking in and following these posts to stay updated. We’ve received an unfathomable amount of support, and it truly means the world to us.
Happy reading and happy hiking, my friends!