It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

March 27, 2013

In October of 2012, I headed out from Springer Mountain, GA, with the intent of hiking all of the Appalachian Trial in Georgia. There are 78.5 miles of the Trail in the state, and Springer Mountain is the southern terminus of the trail. Parking about .9 miles from the end, I walked (with friends) south to the end of the trial, which is marked by a brass plaque (I’m REALLY glad I’m not the one who chose the short straw and had to lug that huge chunk of metal up the mountain!), took a few pictures, then headed back down the mountain, north to the state line between Georgia and North Carolina.

As I wrote last Fall, I was sidelined on the fifth day by blisters that started the first day, and by Wednesday were simply crippling. In November, 2012, I went back and checked off another section of the Trail, picking up where I left off. But since then, the final 8+ miles have been nagging at me.

So I decided it was time to put it to rest.

Last Friday, March 22, I rolled out of bed, bot dressed, and drove north two hours to Dick’s Creek Gap. When I arrived around 8:00, it was grey and cold, about 35 degrees. I shouldered a day pack with some water and a little food (and some emergency supplies—once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout!), and stepped onto the Trail.

I passed a couple of thru-hikers as I made my way north, and saw some folks camped along the Trail, not yet out of their tents. I felt good, was equipped appropriately, and was confident.

About three miles in, I felt a bit of a hot spot on one foot, and stopped to apply a little tape so I would not get a blister (I was wearing relatively new boots, and had not yet been off-road with them.) I motored on.

I reached the marker that points out the state line in a little under four hours, stopping to take a few pictures,Chuck at GA-NC line and chat with a thru-hiker whom I’d passed but caught up when I stopped. “Bones” (his trail name) took the picture for me.

I reshouldered my pack, and headed back to my car. As I headed south, I encountered more and more people; some thru-hiking, some college students from Maryland on spring break, some folks out for just a couple of days. Some of the thru hikers were better prepared than others, I might add.

I did fine until I hit about the 13.5 mile mark of the day, and realized I was getting tired. Confident that I was equipped to spend the night on the Trail if need be, but even more confident in myself (“I’m not built for comfort, I’m not build for speed. I’m built for power and endurance,” I kept saying to myself.)

In retrospect, I did not drink enough (I had plenty of water), nor did I eat enough (I came home with food uneaten); I think I simply was running out of gas. I made the return hike in about the same time as it took me to reach the state line, despite flagging energy and stopping (to rest?) to talk to thru hikers. I reached my car (the ChuckWagon, my 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe), shed the pack and jacket, switched from boots to my Crocks, and headed for home.

I was BEAT. I stopped after about an hour and bought some VitaminWater, and it was all I could do to get out of the ChuckWagon, go in the store, and get back in the ChuckWagon and head back towards home. I pulled in the garage right at 12 hours after I’d left it.

Saturday and Sunday, I was dragging, and everything from my hips to my toes was sore. Here I am 6 days after reaching my goal, and while the soreness has gone, I was aware when on my bike this morning that I am still a little sluggish.

It really did seem like a good idea at the time. While I was in that last section, about the last three miles of the day’s walking, I was really questioning my wisdom. But when I awoke Saturday morning, in my own bed, with my wife, and coffee ready to brew, warm and dry on a cold rainy day, I was glad I’d not spent the night on the Trail.

But here’s the thing; having bagged Georgia, I’m now thinking—seriously—about North Carolina.

It seems like a good idea now . . .

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