Appalachian Trail Fail


The AT kicked my ass.  Three times.

I went to it in 2016, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed.  It chewed me up and spat me out.  As I lay there, it stomped on me.  And when I whimpered, it kicked me in the nuts.  I love the AT and haven’t given up hope that we can get back together again some day.

I set out in March of 2016 to complete a NOBO.  For the uninitiated in the AT lingo, that’s northbound, i.e. starting in Georgia, either Amicalola Falls or Springer Mountain, and heading north, finishing on Mt Katahdin in Maine.  SOBO or southbound is the opposite.  The third option is flip-flop, which is starting in about the middle, usually Harper’s Ferry, WV and heading north to Mt Katahdin.  Once that’s done, return to Harper’s Ferry, this time going the opposite direction to Georgia.

It was tough.  Not just the hiking but how you end the day.  From my previous hikes, I was used to ending the day with a beer, a hot shower, a hot meal (prepared by someone) and a bed.  Here you had to pitch a tent.  No beer, trudge usually downhill to a creek to get water.  No shower.  And for bathroom . . . dig a hole or use the privy.  All the privies I stopped at were full or nearly full.  I wish I had taken a picture of a privy.  It was also unseasonably hot and I guess I didn’t drink enough water.  At night, laying in the tent, my whole body was cramping up.  Even my face cramped up.

I lasted three days.

As soon as I got home, I regretted quitting.  I decided to switch to a flip-flop.  In April, I flew into Washington DC, took the train to Harpers Ferry and checked into a hostel.  I started off the next day.  Still unseasonably hot.  Still cramping up.  The second night it was windy and poured down rain.  The tent collapsed several times during the night.  I woke up the third day to everything soaking wet.  I hitched a ride to Dulles and went back home.  This time, I was done.

The first time I was regretting quitting while on the plane back to Houston.  This time, it took several days after I got home.  I was going to give flip-flop another chance.  Within a couple of weeks, I caught a flight to Washington DC.  This time I took a bus to a town close to the trail where I had stopped.  The next morning I took an Uber to my previous stop and I was off.  The first day was very long.  I didn’t like the campsite I was going to stop at and kept going.  It was nearly dark when I stopped.  I decided to stay in the shelter.  While there were other people camping, there was only one other guy in the shelter.  He was a NOBO, so, had been at this for a couple of months.  However, he wasn’t sure he was going to go all the way to Maine.  I think he was getting burned out.    He offered me something to eat.  While it was wrapped, it was filthy.  I really didn’t want to but didn’t want to offend him.  So, I ate it.  The next morning I woke up sick.  And, yes, the privy was full.

I was slow packing up and was probably one of the last ones out of camp.  I progressively felt worse and when I finally got to a major road, I stopped, saw that I had some bars and called an Uber.

Once I got home, I wondered if I should have just checked into a motel for a few days.  I once again regretted stopping but this time I didn’t go back.  Instead I booked a flight for Lisbon and decide to take a long walk in Portugal.

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