hiker #1289

Madison, WI
Madison Energy

Hiker #1289. That’s my identity now. Well, until I get my trail name, which if I am not careful, will probably be something involving burping, flatulence or poo (seriously, I have no idea why either. I’m not as gross as I make myself out to be, I promise.)

After a particularly interesting Greyhound journey from Madison -> Milwaukee -> Chicago -> Nashville -> Atlanta, my friend Erin swooped us up, treated us to a killer breakfast, drove us to Amicalola Falls in the foggy rain (thank you SO much again), where we registered, weighed our packs (just under 30lbs, which I’m happy with…for now) and began Day 0, the five-mile hike off the Approach Trail to Len Foote Hike Inn, miles that don’t “count” as AT progress.

through the blurry rain

Amicalola Falls was raging in the wind and the rain was coming down hard, which continued the first few miles of our hike. I had never looked better in my sweet poncho/pack cover (think blue ninja turtle) with hot pink compression socks. I could almost hear Mother Nature laughing softly…Welcome to the AT, ladies.

amicalola falls, georgia

In crazy anticipation of The Hike, I’ve been reading every blog that comes through Appalachian Trials from past, future and current hikers, layering myself in second-hand experience and expectation, identifying with emotions and fears, losing myself in familiar words from strangers. A common thread ran through a lot of these initial posts: other people’s reactions to the Hiker’s decision to hike, usually along the lines of: You crazy.

This is one area I can’t really relate to, as I’ve had almost zero reaction to my decision:

My family was all like, “Cool! Have fun! See you in the fall!”
My friends were all like, “Well, she’s doing that now, I guess.”
Melissa was all like, “Sooo what you are saying is you need me to watch your kitties until October.”
My cats were all like, “Meow.”
Even when my yoga instructor asked what was next when I randomly reappeared in class after Europe just said, “Ah. Of course you are,” when I told him I was walking from Georgia to Maine.

I can’t decide if I am jealous of the attention others deal with or grateful for the lack of it. On one hand, maybe no one has told me I can’t do it or will never make it because they believe I will, believe that I am just the right kind of “off” to happily trot through the woods, starving, wet and broken, for months on end. Maybe this is my normal and it doesn’t seem out of character at all. And I guess that’s sort of awesome. On the other hand, aren’t you going to miss me? Aren’t you sad I am missing another summer? WHAT IF I GET EATEN BY A BEAR?!? Aren’t you even going to ask me about bears? Or about pooping in the woods? Is it because you think I talk about poo too much?

Most beautiful Capitol building around
Most beautiful Capitol building around

In any case, I’ve spent the past few weeks saying silent goodbyes to the comforts of what has become my normal life. Goodbye upstairs bedroom in the Dorf Haus, MacBook, cotton, good beer, yogurt. Goodbye flushing toilet, only a few more meetings with you. Goodbye Donald Draper, afternoon wine, tonka truck. Goodbye bicycles, Wisconsin spring, more than one pair of underwear, jeans of any sort. Goodbye variety. Goodbye Arboretum sunsets, morning yoga, neighborhood turkeys.

I’ve been indulging in beer and cheese curds (WISCONSIN), telling people I am gaining weight for the trail to avoid my pack weighing more than 1/3 of my body weight, which is like 7% true. The other 93% of me just really, really wants to eat a lot of cheese curds and beer, and this is a super cool excuse to be openly gluttonous.

I shaved my legs yesterday in a very rare full shower event, and couldn’t help but wonder, why bother? I’ll look like a wooly mammoth in two weeks anyway. Men get to grow these cool badass beards. They take before and after selfies of how rugged they’ve become, the Manliest of All the Men status they’ve reached. No one wants to see how much armpit, leg and bush hair women can grow in six months (though I tried to bring the bush back twice; met with mixed reviews). Actually, I’ll probably let you know anyway because I overshare.

Capitol sunset
Capitol sunset

And now I am sitting at Len Foote Hike Inn, 4.4 miles from Springer Mountain, where The AT technically begins. It’s funny, I don’t have a lot of shit going on upstairs like I did when I left for Finland last year. I’m just happy today is here, grateful my only goal for the next six months is to just keep walking, and unbelievably stoked I get to bask in the simplicity of life, day after day after day (after day after day after day), soaking up every sunrise, every sunset, until my feet and Katahdin meet.

As you may or may not know, I am the producer of the Soundtrack To My Life. It was difficult to choose which song to send myself off with this time, not because there are few, but because there are so many. Originally I chose Farewell Milwaukee’s Forgiveness and a Vacancy Sign, but I couldn’t find the lyrics online and typing on an iPhone is infinitely harder than a computer, and I have no patience right now. Tim might not be the most rugged of cowboys, but when I hear this song, I always tip my imaginary hat to all of those who understand the very real words.

So, that is what I am doing right now.


I don’t know why I act the way I do
Like I ain’t got a single thing to lose
Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy
I guess that’s just the cowboy in me

I got a life that most would love to have
But sometimes I still wake up fightin’ mad
At where this road I’m heading down might lead
I guess that’s just the cowboy in me

The urge to run, the restlessness
The heart of stone I sometimes get
The things I’ve done for foolish pride
The me that’s never satisfied
The face that’s in the mirror when I don’t like what I see
I guess that’s just the cowboy in me

We ride and never worry about the fall
I guess that’s just the cowboy in us all

(Yes, I know I eliminated one verse. It didn’t make sense for my situation and it’s my blog so I can do shit like that.)

Peace out, friends. Springer Mountain, I’m coming for you.

Madison Energy Sunset
Madison Energy Sunset

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