The Appalachian Trail.
I did not expect the endless beauty of the trail. I did not expect the energizing feeling I had even after hiking everyday until I thought my feet would fall off. I did not expect the dozens of fascinating and kind people I met, all wanting the same escape into wilderness. I did not expect the mountains to actually be "mountains" (but when you're carrying a 35 pound pack on your back even a small hill becomes a mountain). I did not expect to miss the trail so much when I left.
I spent spring break hiking a section of the Georgia AT, from the approach trail, to Springer, and all the way to Blood Mountain. The day before the hike we all sat around with piles of our gear strewn across the living room, figuring out how to fit everything in our packs, sorting through things we didn't actually need, and wondering how we were going to carry all that stuff on our backs for so many miles.
The drive to the approach trail in North Georgia was exciting. As we got closer, the mountains became more and more prominent. We were going to be in them soon.
We threw our packs on our backs and headed out on the trail. Now if you haven't heard anything about the approach trail to the AT, it's about 7 miles of constant climbing and descending, and it is hard. In fact, we talked to a ranger on the second day of our hike and he told us that if we could do the approach trail, we could do the entirety of the Georgia section.
When I finally descended the second mountain, I felt numb to the pain and exhaustion. All I could think about was making it that last mile to camp. When I finally reached camp, I almost couldn't believe it. My entire body ached, and I passed out in my tent not long after the sun went down.
I thought I was going to be too sore to continue after that second day, but the days following I started getting into a rhythm with hiking, and I felt great. I knew I could face whatever the trail gave me. The days were long but the sights were beautiful. And there's no better feeling than reaching camp and ending the day with warm food and a big fire. No emails to check, no phone calls to catch, no worries except if that blister on your toe will feel better in the morning. I was starting to realize why thru hikers put themselves through 2,000 miles of this.
On our last day we climbed the highest mountain in Georgia, and as I was standing on the rocks looking out into the Appalachian mountains, I felt like I had accomplished the impossible. I couldn't imagine how I would feel if I had completed the entire AT. As dirty and tired and sore as I was, I was sad to say goodbye to the trail. I had gotten into a routine and it began to feel like my normal life.
On our drive back home, I don't have the words to express how I felt after looking back at the mountains I lived in for a week. I knew this wasn't the last time I'll be seeing the AT. In the future I want to make the AT my home for a few months, not stopping until I reach Katahdin.
I hope these photos conveyed at least a little bit of how incredible this trip was. If you've ever thought about hiking the AT, go do it. Even if it's just a section, I promise it will be worth it. Getting out into the wilderness for a little while is the best way to refresh your life and reconnect with yourself.
, by Jordan Clark