This post first appeared on TheTrek.co on March 23, 2018.
The other night, I dreamt of a space heater. Literally, the thing I wanted most in the world was a space heater. I was extremely disappointed to wake up and find it had only been a figment of my imagination. It was hands down the coldest night of my life. I shivered and shivered and shivered, hugging myself ferociously and praying I’d fall asleep until morning. I didn’t. I tossed and turned all night as the wind unforgivingly ROARED through the trees. All. Night. Long. At one point, I slept with my arms over my head, convinced a branch was going to fall on my tent (it didn’t).
But I made it through the long, frigid night to wake up to sunshine, blue sky for as far as the eye could see, and smiling, friendly people across the campsite, thrilled to face another day on the Appalachian Trail.
Only a few days into the trail, I already know the decision to come out here was absolutely the right one. I’m so happy.
I love getting up, knowing my only responsibility will be to hike xx miles through the woods with my friends. I love seeing familiar faces on the trail and knowing we’re all in this together. I love knowing each day I’ll meet someone new. I love watching my step and finding cute little spring flowers dotting my path. I love trail magic. There is just so much joy here.
I know the newness of the trail will fade – and it’s only human nature to perhaps love it (and the experience) a little less when that happens. There will be more cold nights and likely some monotonous days (or so I’ve heard). But even to this point, I’ve met so many people (volunteers, ridge runners, day hikers, trail angels, and even a funny thru-hiker named Mickey who’s doing it for a second plus time) who have known it for a long time and yet seem to love it deeply. Mickey told me it gets it to your blood – you can’t shake it once you’ve been here. All these people give me hope that perhaps this feeling can, and will, stick around, for me and all of us who are out here.
I hope so. Because I haven’t felt this way, about anything, in a very long time. It feels like first love. Only a few days in, and it feels like the most natural thing in the world. If only for this space in time, I belong here.