This is a week of anniversaries for me, as Rowdy on the AT. On Friday morning, April 25, 2014, my wife, Cathy, and I loaded up our Honda and began the drive to the state of Georgia and my first step ever on the Appalachian Trail. I had walked 2,200 miles in training, I had read over twenty books about the AT, I had purchased some nice camping/hiking gear, but I had never actually seen the trail before. My eldest son, Ben, lives just north of Atlanta, Georgia, the perfect spot for an overnight before the adventure and a wonderful drive to the trail head.
April 26, 2014 was my first day on the Appalachian Trail. Ben and Cathy drove me to the parking lot, one mile from Springer Mountain, Georgia. Many thru-hikers begin at Amicalola Falls and hike up a pretty grueling 8.8 mile approach trail. Some hikers, with Maine on the minds, don’t make it past this initial hike. The brutal reality of the mountain climb, similar to many in northern Georgia, quickly transforms the dreams of the hopefuls to a rude awakening to the demands of the path.
Looking back on my adventure, I am so glad that I by-passed the approach trail and opted for the ride to the parking lot on top of Springer. Ben, Cathy and I hiked together for the mile up to the summit of Springer, took some pictures of a very nervous Rowdy, hiked back to the car, said a rather quick good-bye with long hugs that needed to last several months, and then I left my wife and son at Springer as I hiked down the trail looking for white blazes.
Reflecting on the journey, which I do every day, there are times when I cannot believe I completed the thru-hike. Rocky (my wife’s trail name) and I hiked 13 miles recently and I wasn’t sure if I could make the distance. I realized that I averaged more mileage than that every day for 152 days. The people that I met, the incredible views that filled my summits, and the times of both hunger and gluttony only bring smiles to my face in 2016. A 30 pound pack, a dozen bears, four moose, a couple of face plants, the thrill of climbing the fire-towers, my fantastic Chaco sandals, and the relaxation of zero days paste a surreal experience in my mind.
Thanks to all of you who have read my ebook, Hike It Forward (if you have not got your copy, just click on the book icon and it will take you to my Amazon listing). I have received many kind and encouraging shout outs from many of you. Please continue to pass the word among your friends. I would love to hear your comments and feedback (especially if you like it). Please let me know, as well, if you have any questions about the hike, or if you know of an opportunity for me to share the adventure. I am always looking for a chance to speak about the AT.