Back From The Funk

I won’t lie– it has been a rough two months.

Exactly two months ago today, I started my walk on the Appalachian Trail. My parents accompanied me to Amicalola State Park in Georgia to begin. I


The stone archway that marks the beginning the 8.8 mile approach trail at Amicalola State Park in Georgia.

signed into the trail and stopped by the stone archway behind the visitors’ center that signifies the beginning of the Appalachian Approach Trail. My mom and dad snapped a few pictures of me and we talked a few minutes. I hugged them and said goodbye while mom (and probably dad) wiped away a few tears of worry. I stepped through that stone archway and into a world that would forever change me- the world of the Appalachian Trail.

Don’t get me wrong- I knew what I was in for with the climbs and the hills but what I was not completely prepared for the change in me that the experience would bring.

The trail, to me, represented a challenge of the physical body and the mind and I had prepared for months. The first portion was a hike up the face of a waterfall with more than 600 steps and


A view of the Amicalola Falls near Dawesonville, Ga and the 600 steps.

a vertical climb. From the top of the Amicalola Falls, the Approach Trail leveled some and wound its way up and down for 8.8 miles topping beautiful mountains and crossing small babbling streams. I got a later start on November 5 than I wanted and did not reach the top of Springer until after dark.


By the time I made it to the top of the mountain where the actual Appalachian Trail begins, the fog had settled into heavy rain and darkness had fallen. The last few miles were traveled alone in the darkness and with the aid of only my headlamp. There were no views to snap photos of or beautiful scenes to remember. The last miles to the top were wet boots and a visibility of about three feet. Yet, I loved every minute of it.

I made my way toward the top and without warning I stepped out of the woods, onto the rock outcrop, and there it was.  I literally stumbled onto the first white blaze that marks the official beginning of the trail and my


My rain soaked and dark view of the first blaze and the beginning plaque on the top of Spinger Mountain.

adventure. Since that moment, the Trail has and will continue to occupy my mind and every non-work action for a couple of years. I had made it to the Appalachian Trail and from the top of Springer Mountain only a few hundred thousand ups and downs stood between me and the goal of Mount Katahdin in Millinocket, Maine.

In the next few posts, I want to provide those who did not have the chance to travel on the Trail an opportunity to take that walk with me as I write of my experiences. I have not been able to write or post a blog about my time on the trail in the last few months due to a self-diagnosed and self-labeled “Post-Trail Depression” since I came home.

In November, I planned a nine-day trip with high hopes of completing nearly 100 miles of the trail. When all was said and done, I failed to do


This section of the Approach Trail was beautiful with the yellow leaves and the fog near Nimblewill Gap.  This is one of my favorite photos I took on my short trip.

what I had planned. Since I made it home that Saturday night, I have struggled with the perceived failure (on my behalf) and how to deal with not doing what I wanted.

I actually only completed .06% of the more than 2,000 miles of the trail due to factors beyond my control. Only recently have I come to understand that while I only completed the 8.8-mile Approach Trail and 12.2 miles of the actual trail, I have completed more than 99% of what most people will ever see of God’s natural beauty and wonderful creation.

With time, I realized that the entirety of the Appalachian Trail (and ultimately life) was not about the number of miles I completed in a day or the distance I covered, but the secrets of the beauty and wilderness that surrounded me. I learned that in all things take time to slow down and enjoy what is there rather than race to the end. The Appalachian Trail and life are not about quantity but rather the quality of the experience.

I want to talk about the details of the trip and how my tiny amount of time in this little sliver of wonderful wilderness changed my view of the woods and life. I have finally snapped out of my “trail funk” just in time to prepare for more miles in the spring and summer of 2016.

I hope that you will enjoy my experiences as much as I did.


A little red maple leaf seemed out of place in a half acre of brown leaves along the Springer Mountain Approach Trail.  Just a simple example of the amazing beauty that the Appalachian Trail holds for those who take the time to look.


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
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3 Responses to Back From The Funk

  1. Edna Anderson says:

    Don’t be down on yourself. God was with you and things happen for a reason. You will make it! Very proud of you Stephen!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carolyn Robinson Green says:

    Stephen this part of your post…

    I stepped through that stone archway and into a world that would forever change me- the world of the Appalachian Trail.Don’t get me wrong- I knew what I was in for with the climbs and the hills but what I was not completely prepared for the change in me that the experience would bring…

    Impressed me so much. I can see that change as I read your postings even though I have never met you. I know you are a cousin…. And I am sure writing about your adventures helped you but it helps me to understand a little of who you are. In my younger years I would loved for me and my husband to have done something like this. One thing I love about what you have done and I am a little jealous is that you were out there in God’s country and alone with God in His creation with no outside interference just God and His creations. To me that would have to change a person! Thank you so much for sharing with all of us that envy you and that are very proud of you. You say fail! Oh NO it was not a fail. Not by any means!! God Bless you!


  3. Pingback: Much Better Than Dreams | bookhiker

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