georgia: an intro to the AT

Over spring break, we took a trip down to Georgia with two friends. Mixed in with the walks through woods, the visits with their family and the massive amounts of board games was a trip a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

Joe & Mark are both minor “preppers,” so we wanted to take a day trip that touched on some survival skills. We started the day off with–I can’t believe I’m saying this–some time at an outdoor shooting range.

I was terrified (that I’d hurt someone & that I’d leave the place actually liking guns). I shot a rifle & a handgun, but mostly I watched a group of militiamen practice their accuracy with large, black, designed-to-snipe-people-not-deer guns. We avoided any political topics, but I think the men got a big kick out of us kids being in the mountains shooting for our spring break. spring_break2013_70 spring_break2013_57spring_break2013_74While I was surprised I even shot a gun, I do feel like the experience made me (1) safer & more knowledgeable and (2) better able to talk about guns. A few nights before going, we watched Skyfall. I spent most of my time at the range thinking about how unrealistic so many of our gun movies are, which may contribute to our often careless handling of them. I’m not ashamed to say that when I pulled the trigger for the first time, I screamed a bit.

After getting our adrenaline going & feeling like we were ready to survive anything, we headed over to Neels Gap, to check out Mountain Crossings & hike a portion of the trail. Mountain Crossings is a bit fascinating in that it’s a shop actually built over the trail. You pass under it on your way North to Maine. (Here‘s a fun blog post about it.)

Lots of hikers stop to buy new gear after spending a few days on the trail lugging around gear that’s far too heavy. A sign outside the shop actually said they help hikers lose an average of 12 pounds. If you plan to spend the six months hiking from Georgia to Maine, that’s a big load off of your shoulders.

We packed some lunch and enjoyed it on Mountain Crossings’ sunny deck, next to the resident cats & hikers only a few days on their journey. Since more than 75% of people stop before they reach Maine, we couldn’t help but wonder which hikers would make it. They were already bandaged blistered feed & growing uncomfortable body hair. (I mean, how many showers are you taking, and how many disposable razors are you packing?)

spring_break2013_75 spring_break2013_77You can’t help but get excited about the adventure of hiking the length of our country, though. Even I, who left the walk with a serious case of poison ivy*, thought it would be a great idea to quit a job & hike the trail. After hiking up–or rather, down–Blood Mountain, I’d changed my mind.

The hike took less than three hours & gave us some great views of the (perfectly named) Blue Ridge Mountains. But tromping down that hill left all of our knees a bit shaky & sore. I’m sure the pain will be forgotten in a few weeks, but I’ll never forget how good it felt to hike a mountain–this from the girl who’s afraid to look off the edge of anything or cross a bridge that sways a tiny bit. Joe had to calm me down a few times, but I did it.

spring_break2013_89 spring_break2013_86Look at me! I’m on top of a mountain!

Overall, spring break left me with a lot of motivation to get in better shape & take a simpler, smaller approach to exercise. Just do something each day. Move. It felt so great to charge up this mountain, but my goal is to feel equally satisfied when I just stop through an hour of Wii Fit or do some yoga. (Thanks for the motivation, Heidi!) I think the refreshing mountain air went to my head…

*Did you know you could get poison ivy from inhaling it? I am now afraid to go to any bonfire. There were countless times on our drives around the mountains that we smelled something burning. Who knows which time sent a bunch of allergens into my system?

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About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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