Adventures getting to the Appalachian Trail

The journey of the Appalachian Trail (AT) starts before getting to the trailhead, and the adventure begins the moment you leave your house for the AT. While you can expect to have your patience and flexibility to be tested on the trail, sometimes those tests start before reaching the trail…

Plane, trains, and automobiles

Living on the opposite side of the country from the AT, I opted to fly across the country to Atlanta from Los Angeles. Little did I know when I booked my flight the adventures that lay ahead, starting the moment I climbed into a Uber.

It is never a good thing when you get to the airline counter and get a cringe when they look up your flight.

“Your flight has been delayed due to a crew timing issue,” the person behind the counter starts. “And I see you have a 45-minute layover in Phoenix.”

“Okay, so what are you saying,” I enquire.

“I’m going to issue your tickets as is since there’s a chance your flight will get in time, but once those doors open I suggest you run.”

Ug, flashbacks to when I flew a lot for work played out in my mind; none of them good. Taking my tickets, I head to the TSA security checkpoint, where my next adventure awaits.

Excuse me, Sir, would you step over here?

Not sure why I phrased that as a question, you don’t have a choice but to step over there; but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Emptying my pockets, taking off my shoes, and putting my backpack into the plastic tray so they can go through the x-ray machine, I proceed to step into the full body scanner. Imitating the stick figure in the device and standing there, I hear those words all current travels fear.

“Excuse me, Sir, would you step over here?” the TSA agent asks.

Seriously? Why is it that just about every time I fly I get pulled aside for an enhanced search? Stepping over to the indicated spot, I’m instructed to hold my arms out to my side as they pat me down. As a guy I’m uncomfortable with these enhanced pat-downs, I can only imagine how a woman feels.

When 10 minutes becomes 60

Finally getting through security, I proceed to my gate and settle in. When I checked in, I was told the flight was delayed 10-minutes. As the departure time came and went, I knew the rest of my journey was up in the air.

Finally, they start boarding the plane, but since I’m flying basic economy, I relax since I’m in the last boarding group. Ah, how far I have come down since those days of jetting around in first class.

We finally board, taxi to the runway, and take off in very short order. One of the few advantages to flying out of a tiny airport. The flight is uneventful until we land.

Taxiing to the gate after landing in Phoenix, the plane stops on the tarmac. The pilot informs us that our gate is occupied and it will be a bit before we get to the gate. After sitting for 15-minutes, we are told it’s going to be another 30-minutes. Yep, any chance of making my connecting flight are shot.

My planned 3:30 arrival time in Atlanta is out the window.

I like to think that the universe was testing my resolve. Eventually, I make it to Atlanta, have a whole 20-minutes to shop at REI before they close, and luckily, my hotel held my reservation. So, while a stressful and rather long day, my staying flexible, patient, and calm ultimately got me through the day. So take that universe! You’re not stopping me from my AT hike!

About Gerard Saint-Pierre

I'm a long-distance hiker, writer, photographer, environmentalist, & digital nomad. I'm thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail NOBO starting in March to help raise awareness about mental health. Come and follow along as I blog about the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of a thru-hike while battling depression and PTSD.

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