The Everything-Went-Wrong Trip

We’ve all had those days that go to hell, and you’re sitting on your couch mulling in your own mistakes. This trip was that, but for five days straight in the Georgia wilderness. Two friends and I embarked on the Georgia Loop for our spring break trip. We had the maps, the trail explanations and our hearty gear (hefty bear canisters included). I was just getting back into backpacking after years not on the trail, and this was the first trip I’d go on without the guiding hand of my dad (also the self-proclaimed Pack Mule). My friends were using this trip as an introduction to backpacking, so we were all decently naïve about certain aspects. But after the picture at the trail head we were all smiles, not having any idea of what was ahead of us.

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Georgia Loop Background

The trail begins at Woody Gap, a section of the Appalachian Trail, then moves onto the Duncan Ridge Trail, the Benton MacKaye Trail and back to the Appalachian Trail. It’s around 55 miles in total and listed as “strenuous.” Being in decent shape at the start, I can still say that I was huffing and puffing, especially on the Duncan Ridge section. The Outcasts Hike Again said “The Georgia Loop Trail is the “toughest” trail in Georgia…it is also called the “toughest” trail this side of the Mississippi.” So, we were clearly in for a challenge.

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Where am I?

All things were going well, until we hit a stream near dinner time. This is where mistake number one happened. To the left, there was a clearly defined path that seemed the obvious choice, but what we should have done was whip out the map and compass to justify our decision. We brazenly trudged forward until we noticed we were no longer passing the markers we had read about. If we turned around, there would be (embarrassed to say) hiking to our campsite in the dark. Down the path in front of us a bit, there was a road. We made our decision and plopped ourselves down on the road with our thumbs sticking in the air.

Lucky for us, a nice couple day hiking in the area took pity on us and threw our over-packed bags into the bed of their truck. They were surprised that we were making our way on the tough trail, and the man driving gave us his card to call in case we ran into another snaffoo. For all the scary stories my mom had told me in hopes I’d stay away from hitchhiking, this was the nicest interaction I could have had.

That night, we set up our tent too close to the trail. My friends were exhausted and done with the day which meant the steep uphill trek in front of us was not about to happen before bedtime. We nearly had room to sit between us and the trail. We were basically spooning the trail, and I don’t think it appreciated the unwarranted cuddles. It was a terrible choice, and we hoped to wake up before sunrise to make sure we spent as little time there as possible. We ate our Ramen as fast as we could and passed out.

2015-03-17 15.03.21

 

Faints and Fire

The morning was breathtaking because of the gorgeous scenery, but also the intense ascents and descents. We took on a military-like determination and focused on each step. I no longer heard the crunch of feet behind myself. It was just me and the wilderness, and everything fell into the background; it was like one of those movie moments where everything is muted except the actor’s breathing and the intricacies of their face. But then I realized I wasn’t in a movie—there were supposed to be breathing and crunching behind me. I looked behind myself to find one of my friends passed out in the middle of the trail.

We ran toward her and started taking her vitals, giving her water and handing her trail mix to scarf down (luckily she regained consciousness very quickly). As we tried to hitch a ride from the nearby road, a group of firemen pulled up and gave us weird looks. They seemed to unsure whether they should approach, but they eventually did. They more intensely checked out our friend’s health before explaining that we had to get out of this section of the forest immediately. The area was about to have a prescribed burn. So, I guess it was lucky she passed out and we ran into them or else we would have been chased out by flames.

Take two of hitchhiking, we got in the car and the man immediately broke the ice with stories of shrooms and “real-life” accounts of Sasquatch. The man was a gentle soul, though, and seemed to help out a lot of hikers in the area. He dropped us off at an easy entrance to the Benton MacKaye trail where we soon set up camp.

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Why Everything Wrong Still Makes a Great Trip

Even though we shirked our duties as compass lovers, hitched a ride twice and chose inopportune tent locations, there was an accomplishment at the end of the trip. We made it past those bad decisions and unfortunate situations. I was hesitant to write about this trip because I didn’t want everyone to find out that I was a complete mess (but also didn’t want to let my parents know about my hitchhiking escapades). But, moral of the story: LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES, PLEASE.

The trip was still amazing, fun and well worth it. I’ve had quite a few more backpacking trips between then and now, and I’ve upped my skill set. Up next is a multi-month road trip to the U.S. National Parks and a March 2018 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. You have to learn at some point, and overcoming bumps in the road is key to building the confidence to let you do more rad trips in the future.

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22 thoughts on “The Everything-Went-Wrong Trip

  1. Emma&Kathryn ✈️ April 7, 2017 / 8:55 am

    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anna Schlaht April 7, 2017 / 3:18 pm

    Despite the places where it went wrong, it actually sounds like you had a great time! And how better to prepare for a thru hike of the AT than running into some mishaps that you have to correct? 🙂 I’m just glad your friend is OK and that you learned about the fire beforehand, because man, that would’ve freaked me out. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Stephanie (1AdventureTraveler) April 7, 2017 / 5:19 pm

    What an experience and glad you shared. There is always a learning curve and reading this could help others. Glad all turned out well and you made it to the end. Looking forward to your next adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. bigdogtravelblog April 8, 2017 / 3:26 pm

    This was a brave adventure, and we are excited to read more about your backpacking stories. Hiking in Georgia is beautiful, and I’m sure the Appalachian trail will be magic. We have only done day hiking but we are looking to train and complete some trips over here on the West Coast. Thank you for the inspiration 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. RobRob @TravelLatte(.net) April 8, 2017 / 9:07 pm

    You know, those hikes where everything goes perfectly are rarely the ones you talk about around the campfire years later. 🙂 In my younger days, I would have loved to do a thru-hike of the AT! Today, I’m quite happy to leisurely stroll through bits and pieces. Although…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. paulandcarolelovetotravel April 9, 2017 / 3:13 am

    Glad all turned out well in the end, lots to learn from this! #feetdoteavel

    Liked by 1 person

  7. siddharthandshruti April 9, 2017 / 4:12 am

    We agree with @TravelLatte. Such trips seem like fails when they happen but they make interesting stories years later when you can laugh about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. aroundthecompass April 9, 2017 / 6:46 am

    I am glad everything was fine in the end. I did had a bad experience hiking in Lake District here in UK where I thought I will die and nobody will know where I am but in the end everything was fine and now it’s a great story to tell and laugh about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • catdismukes April 9, 2017 / 12:27 pm

      Those are scary moments! Glad you’re ok, and can look back on it and laugh 🙂

      Like

  9. Travel Lexx April 10, 2017 / 5:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing and highlighting some of your more vulnerable moments – you are absolutely right, we all need to learn from our mistakes and sounds like the experience has made you stronger! Your upcoming trips sound amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Grey World Nomads April 11, 2017 / 2:34 am

    Had a similar experience while hikeing in the Smokies. Tired, wet and cold stupidly took what I thought was a short cut and got horribly lost. Not much fun getting lost in the woods but all worked out in the end and can laugh about it now. Keep hiking.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. onlybyland April 14, 2017 / 12:17 am

    The most important thing about this was the experience and I’m sure if you were to take the route again you would organize it better. This journey sounds unforgettable though.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. tracystravels10 April 14, 2017 / 10:07 am

    Wow what an experience you had?? Sounds a bit scary to me but then the thought of a hike even if it goes well scares me lol!! Can I ask what is a snaffoo???? #feetdotravel

    Like

  13. ThriftyTrails April 14, 2017 / 8:16 pm

    At least it made for a good story to tell! haha. Definitely a great adventure too! We only hiked a tiny part of the Appalachian Trail a few years ago and it is easier to stray away from the trail than I imagined.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Becca Gouldbourne April 21, 2017 / 5:44 pm

    Oh wow what a crazy experience! But I’m sure you will look back and smile 🙂 I’m leaving for travelling in just over a week and this has helped me realise not every day is going to be sunshine and that’s okay 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. dartsandmaps June 10, 2017 / 9:21 pm

    I can defiantly empathize with this. Every backpacker has a story of a trip that just would not go right. Thanks for sharing and I am glad everything turned out OK.

    Liked by 1 person

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