Thruhiker: Day 1

March 20 (10:15 –16:05)
Magnolia Park – County Parkside (12.5 mi)
Total C2C miles: 12.5
Weather: Cool, cold, and sunny

First day on the trail!

As I write the date at the top of this post, I also realize it’s the first day of spring. Unplanned, but auspicious nonetheless, to begin my trek–and, really, the trail to my new life–on the first of spring.

My selfie shows how I think I feel: excited, eager, energetic, bursting with life and enthusiasm at the prospect of everything new.

But the pic below, snapped by this guy who got off the bus at the park when I did, shows how I really feel: kinda scared, a little hesitant, a lot nervous.

I didn’t sleep well last night. I kept going over my supply list. I kept thinking about the weight of my pack, wondering what I could leave out, then I kept reviewing the supply list again, wondering what I had forgotten and what else I could bring along. Could I sneak in my bunny slippers? My pillow?

I left them behind, stuck at the top of the dumpster behind my apartment. I miss them now that I’m writing this.

I really shouldn’t worry–I see that now that I’m on the trail–and I wish I’d realized last night, tossing and turning for the last night in my bed, with my pillow, that the first few hundred miles of the trail are a cake-walk. Literally. I could get cake every day, if I wanted.

The first part of the trail goes through the suburban, urban, and rural Southeast. I won’t be getting to actual wilderness for several weeks.

This section of the trail is well-groomed and runs along roads and through towns and cities. If I want to, and I might, I can stop in Starbucks every day, to recharge my phone and caffeinate myself.

I knew this when I was planning my supplies. I haven’t packed much food–just snacks, really–because I know that I can stop off at towns along the way to pick up meals.

I’m glad I’m getting off to an easy start. Some thruhikers like to go the opposite way, starting in the northwest and ending up down here, so that by the time they’re trail-weary and hiker-starved, they find themselves on Easy Street, with sandwich shops, trail angels barbecuing feasts at every picnic ground, and Whole Foods Markets just a skip off the trail.

But I’m happy to be going the direction I’m going.

For one thing, I like an easy start. This will let me get used to my pack, to build up to doing 20 miles a day, and to not freak out too much about whether I have all I need. This is the safe start.

Plus, I’ve got to go this way. I’m walking away from my old life, towards my new one. And that only heads in this direction.

The trail is so beautiful, and though it’s cool in the sun and cold in the shade, everything sparkles with spring light.

I love the way the dirt trails feel beneath my shoes–cushy and springy. My legs feel really good.

The only thing that’s awkward is my pack. I can’t get my balance right. Maybe I should’ve bought a smaller one. I seem to pitch forward, and when I try jumping from rock to rock across the stream, I just about fall sideways.

Nothing hurts, really. It just feels really awkward, like, unbalanced.

Comments on Guthook rave about the barbecues trail angels put on at the grill sites all along this part of the trail, so I’m looking forward to a big veggie burger for supper.

But when I get to the place where I planned to camp for the night, it’s empty.

I’m the only one.

I check the app again. (That’s another good thing–I’ll have great reception all along this first segment of the trail.) It seems I’m early by a few weeks.

The official C2C season, even down here, doesn’t start until the end of March. And even then, the heaviest time is at the end of summer, when the Southeast-bounders come.

It looks like I have the picnic and tent site to myself.

I wasn’t planning on this, and I didn’t bring food for an actual supper.

I make the best of it with a Cliff bar, some raisins, dates, and almonds, and an apple. It’s a little sweet and I feel a little shaky, but it’s OK. It’s a lot of calories, which I need, since I walked for hours.

I set up the tent and check my GPS. Tomorrow, I’ll tuck into Cripple Creek for breakfast, Starbucks, and to pick up some actual food for times when it’s not convenient–or possible–to stop by town.

My mind feels like it’s still worrying–like it’s reviewing detail after detail. Did I even notice the trail today? I flip through the pictures I took on my phone. I really need to learn how to use this phone as a camera. The light looks weird in all of them.

But then I notice that, even with the weird light, all the pics are beautiful. They’re glowing. They’re like all lit up.

When I close my eyes at last, snug inside my tent, the trail flashes by, scene after scene of light on the water, through the branches, over the rocks.

This was a good first day.

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