Saturday, May 27, 2017


We've talked about it for almost two years now.  I've read countless posts about it on various Facebook pages.  I've even posted my own questions about it.  And now, in one week, I'll finally be doing it...

...I'll be taking my first steps into the Smoky Mountains.  As with all of my section hikes, as the departure dates draws closer, I'm starting to feel that excitement that always comes with heading back out on the Appalachian Trail.  But this time, I'm feeling something different.  It comes from the fear of the unknown, with this hike being filled with a few "firsts" for me:

1.  I am required to sleep in the shelter.  I prefer to sleep in my tent.

  Yes, I typically stay in the shelter areas, but enjoy the privacy of my tent when darkness falls.  I don't fancy the idea of trying to sleep as the mice run across my chest while the bugs and other creepy crawlies attempt to make themselves at home in my sleeping bag.  I consider myself to be a rather social person, but don't relish the thought of spending the night immersed in a group of total strangers.  That being said, everyone I've asked said it's an experience not to missed, so I hope that turns out to be true. 

2.  I am terrified of bears...

....and the Smoky Mountains is full of black bears!  I've always been pretty anal about my food storage habits, and I go out of my way to secure anything that has any smell to it, whether it be food, deodorant, or even toothpaste.  Still, just knowing that the chances are very good that I'll encounter one of these beautiful, impressive creatures puts that knot of fear in the pit of my stomach.  Honestly, it's my fear of bears that makes sleeping in a shelter full of other hikers not seem quite so bad!

3.  I am questioning my physical abilities...I'm not a fast hiker and being from Florida, I have no opportunity to really get in adequate practice climbing mountains.  Knowing that I've got almost 14 miles to go the very first day, up some grueling elevation changes, carrying 35lbs on my back...well...I'd be lying if I said just the thought of it is daunting to me.  For the last week, every time I begin to doubt myself, I stop and repeat, "I can do it," to myself.  Hopefully by the time we hit the trail again, I'll believe it.

I do have to say that I've never gone into a hike without wondering what the trail holds in store for me.  I've fallen.  I've hiked with blisters.  I've walked in water that covered the tops of my boots, as the rain pelted me in the face.  I've cried.  I've laughed.  I've danced a jig.  Most of all, I've taken deep breaths and let go of the excess baggage I'd carried into the woods with me.  So, as I deal with my emotions this week, I'll be looking forward to returning to the woods once again.  I'll be looking forward to spending time with my siblings.  I'll be looking forward to showing myself, yet again, just what I'm capable of doing when I put my mind to it!