This was supposed to be fun.
It was, after all, a celebration.
I’d finished grad school, and friends and I were celebrating by backpacking through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
We were doing a stretch of 72 miles on the A.T., a world class trail running 2,180 miles from Maine to Georgia, following the ridge line north to south, through one of the most beautiful places on earth.
That section of the Appalachian Trail is also considered among the steepest. So perhaps I should have known that my first day, carrying a fully loaded pack weighing in at forty pounds, might be tough.
Before we could hike the A.T., we had to get to it, starting with a steep climb up the aptly named Snake Den Trail to reach the ridge. And those first few miles were straight up.
For what seemed like forever.
My pack felt like it weighed 100 pounds. My joy turned to worry as I thought about the days ahead. “Am I going to be able to do this?”
Doubts roared in my ears, competing with a pounding heartbeat and labored breathing for my attention.
I’m a slow hiker on the best days. That day, I was so far behind, my friends thought I’d turned around and gone home.
I thought I wasn’t going to make it at all.