“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” – Dr. Suess
This was me one year ago today, 11:00 a.m. at Springer Mountain in Georgia. I had walked the 0.9 miles up to this plaque from the parking lot on the forest service road in about 15 minutes. My head and my stomach were filled with butterflies as I took those steps, saying only “excuse me, excuse me” as I was passing the crowds of people going up to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. When I finally got there, I took a look at the view, got my photo taken (above) with the first white blaze of the AT, and then wrote a rambling, nonsensical, excited first journal entry in the log book. This is it, 5 million steps until I quit.
It was such a beautiful, warm, sunny day on March 27, 2012. My plan for the day was to walk until I felt like I didn’t want to do it anymore. Even so early in the day, I was passing people setting up their tents for the day on the side of the trail and meeting lots of hikers. The thing that really stuck out in my mind was how excited we all seemed, greeting everyone walking by with a smile and awkwardly listening to people trying to decide if they had a trail name or if they should use their real names. I immediately began with using my trail name, feeling like it was a totally different persona. People almost looked relieved when you gave them a trail name, as if to say “well, you’re doing it, so I can too!” But enough with my first day memories!
I had no idea how much this day would completely change my entire life. You hike the AT and you know something is going to change. In fact, Warren Doyle (a 17-time thru hiker who holds seminars a few times a year) has been known to tell everyone he meets who intends to hike that if you don’t want your life to change you shouldn’t go. I feel like one year ago today isn’t an anniversary of a journey beginning, I feel like it’s more of a birthday. I discovered so many things about myself on this trip, even if it wasn’t apparent to me at the time. I made life-long friends with people who I only knew for only a few days, which is mind-blowing to me. We all supported each other and, in a way, became a family in a short period of time. For all of those who were with me on the AT in 2012, be it as a thru hiker, a section hiker, or a trail angel, you helped me become the person I am today and sharing that portion of my life with you means a lot to me.
In less than one month, I’ll be leaving my home in Knoxville behind to continue on my journey. I’ll be moving to Millinocket, Maine to work at the Appalachian Trail Lodge for the hiking season. If the job works out for the summer, it’s possible I’ll stay on year-round. One year ago today I would’ve never guessed this would be my life. I’m excited for all the changes and I can’t wait to share all my new travels and experiences with you.