Trail starts with new friends

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

EDITOR"S NOTE: Darton College students Ashton Pace and Patrick Miller of Albany have embarked on a 2,181-mile journey to hike the Appalachian Trail. This is pace's first installment on their "Trek of a Lifetime."

Patrick Miller and I have arrived in Franklin, N.C., which is 107 miles along the Appalachian Trail. God has truly blessed us with the weather. It has only rained on us once and that was during a night when we were staying in one of the shelters, so it was not that bad.

However, sleep has been pretty rough. Every night when we are in the shelters, there are mice crawling everywhere. They make such creepy noises and are just running everywhere. They have really kept Patrick from getting a good night's sleep.

In fact, one night when we were about to fall asleep, Patrick was staring at the ceiling when all of a sudden a mouse ran directly across his face. Patrick did what most would do and sat up immedialty in a frantic display of shock at what had just happened. This was personally one of my favorite moments of the trip thus far. I have gotten more joy out of that moment than I probably should have, but I still cannot help but laugh when I think about the look on his face.

For me, though, the mice have not been that big of a problem (knock on wood), but my sleeping problems have come in the form of back pain. Every night around 3 a.m., I wake up with close to unbearable pain in my back. I then have to bundle up in my jacket and sit up straight until my back finally relaxes. I am hoping that this will soon work itself out.

Some other negatives thus far are that our feet and legs have been hurting pretty bad. They are just not used to taking such a pounding on a day-to-day basis. Also, Patrick's knee has really been bothering him since the second or third day in the trip.

All of those are things have been bad, but going without the delicious food of back home is probably the worst. It seems that every conversation some how turns toward food. Patrick has been craving a steak, baked potato and some peach or blackberry cobbler from the moment we left, and I have been craving a Moe's burrito and a lot of pineapple.

Now that all of the negatives are out of the way, we can discuss the positive points of the trip. The first positive is that we can continually feel our relationship with God getting stronger and stronger, which has definitely been the best part of the trip.

Also, we have already met so many awesome people, and got a chance to see a great friend. The friend we were able to see was Chris Lyle (we graduated from high school together). He goes to Young Harris College. He gave us a place to stay indoors for a night and drove us to the places we needed to go. He lives with five other guys and it was great getting to know them. They were an awesome group of guys that we both enjoyed spending time with.

We were also able to stay at the Helen Dorf Inn for a night, thanks to the Barnhill family from Albany. One other place that we stayed was at a hostel called the Blueberry Patch in Hawassie. We met some great and interesting people at this hostel.

One of the guys that we met at the Blueberry Patch was Chuck. Chuck is such an amazing person. He is a 45-year-old man from Iowa who is also attempting to through hike.

Chuck has a heart of gold and a love for the outdoors. However, his two biggest loves are for God -- "The Boss" -- and for his son, Caleb. I do not know his son, but from what I understand he is an amazing kid with a dad who loves him more than anything in the world. That is something that deserves true respect.

Since we met Chuck we have been hiking together and plan to hike together at least through the Smoky Mountains.

One last negative is that this particular journey for Patrick is ending in Franklin. He made it a long and difficult way, but it was not in God's plan for him to continue. Nevertheless, I do truly thank him and am proud of him for coming as far as he did. His reason for ending this journey is simply put: It is just not his cup of tea. Honestly, the physical part is not what got to Patrick, it is was the never-ending part, walking day after day. I am pleased with how far he went being that 60 percent drop out after the first three days.

As for me, I still plan on trying to get to Maine, but, as in everything, God's will shall be done, so we will see what happens next. I thank those that have been praying for us and respectfully ask for them to continue because those are what truly mean the most.

Until next time, God speed.