100 Miles on Appalachian Trail from Approach Trail to Mt Alberts
April 15th was my official day on the trail. I checked in at Amicoloa Falls SP, sat through an orientation about all things Appalachian Trail, Leave No Trace, Pooping in the Woods and where to camp, Shelters or Dirt. It was run by a very informative Moxie and I just couldn’t get enough of her. I scored my tag #2849 and off I went.
Approach Trail and all them steps
First of all, the Approach Trail is not actually part of the Appalachian Trail. However, most thru-hikers use it to determine what kind of shape they really are in. It’s over 3000’ climb, some 750 stairs and it’s a butt kicker. I slack packed it being it really doesn’t count! To my surprise, it does count being that once you finish climbing, the placard, the sign-in box and ledger are waiting for you. Thank goodness I didn’t miss this! Afterwards my friend picked me up and I spent my last night at the Amicoloa Lodge. Very swanky!
Entering the AT
Technically my first day on the trail was Good Friday. The weather was pristine and the trail was ripe for tracking. I entered the Enchanted Forest with creeks, lush vegetation and ferns. It was more than I had expected. Within a few miles, I had already met another hiker Colton. What I hadn’t expected was the ceremonial walking stick he was about to receive.
SpeedBump is a legend in these parts. He positions himself on an uphill slog and waits for an unsuspecting thru-hiker to approach without trekking poles. This is where the magic begins. Colton arrives and SpeedBump stops him. Hi there, do you have hiking poles? Colton looks at him and shakes his head no. Then SpeedBump asks him why? Colton is a new hiker and honestly has no good answer as to why he is not carrying them. Then without missing a beat, SpeedBump presents him with the most ornately engraved walking stick and asks, will you take this to Maine? Colton obliges and we are off. He is the proud owner of Stick #15.
Blood Mountain has been etched into my mind. The tails of wars fought on this mountain, the rocks stained with blood, all that encompasses this iconic mountain, is like walking onto a piece of history. Easter Sunday I awoke to a most perfect day. A bluebird day as I say. I started off early knowing it was to be a climb, a rock scramble as some call it. I meandered through overgrown Mountain Laurel with brush, and moss at foot. Then it happened. The mountain turned to rock and before I knew it, I was looking at Blood Mountain Shelter. There was a group from Floridians that told me to climb the rock, then you will see what this mountain had to truly offer. Oh, what a sight! Views of distant peaks, low lying cloud cover, rolling green hillsides, it was breathtaking. What a day to be atop a battlefield.
Rainy Days & Maine
Before I came on the trail, I was forewarned. No pain-no rain-no Maine. My feet have been the painful part. I’m dealing with a couple of issues. I decided it would be a great idea to have one last pedicure before I hit the trail. My technician obviously did not think any woman should have thick callouses and before I knew it, my callouses were gone. Arg, I worked hard for those so now I have little to no protection on the soles and my little bitty feet are dawg tired. The saga of hiker woes.
Around midnight I could hear the pitter patter of raindrops on my tent. Here it comes. And it never stopped. The worse part of the rain, is packing up. Something about attempting to wring out my tent, shove the muddy mess in its bag is my least favorite part of hiking! I am a soggy mess. Everyone else in camp is still inside their tents, ignoring the weather. The day was uneventful as I couldn’t see anything that resembled a view. I planned to keep moving till I made my way to Low Gap Shelter. I arrived as five other guys showed up. I hung out my tent, repacked it and off I went for Poplar Ridge. Lucky for me, the rain stopped but the winds arrived. Hmm, that’ll dry out my tent if it doesn’t blow us both off the mountain. Nothing but fun and games on the AT!
Around the Bend
After five days of hiking, it was time to get a shower, laundry my stinky clothes and resupply. I had mailed a box to Around the Bend Hostel earlier. As I was sitting around with the other hikers, everyone was talking about going to Hiawassee. I called the Hostel and Lisa informed me there was no room at the inn. What??? She had space the following night and a plan was made. I’ll stay one more night and then head in. My only issue was…I planned food for five days not six. This is where the trail provides. These two brothers who I call “Two Men in a Shed” bail me out. As I head into Deep Gap Shelter, hanging on a post is a large ziplock back with Top Ramen and Chicken which reads, “Dinner for GG.” The next morning, with a spring in my step, I walked off trail, road walked an additional .6 miles and arrived at my home for the night. What a treat that was!
The hardest part of getting off trail is getting back on. My pack was restocked with food for the next five days. The extra ten pounds is debilitating. You always eat the heaviest stuff first and hope it makes a difference. It doesn’t. A couple of days later, it begins to lighten. As I’m slowly heading up the trail, my new trail family mentions Indian Rock Shelter. I’ve decided I’m not a big fan of shelters unless I’m stopping for lunch or drying out from the rain. But sleeping in shelters isn’t my cup of tea. I continue passed the shelter and make it to Indian Rock. Oh my! What an amazing piece of real estate it is. Before I knew it, my tramily arrived and we all set up camp and waited. The sky was beckoning for a most splendid sunset. It didn’t disappoint.
This is the sad part of the trail. Bears! These creatures are big and bold and extremely hungry. I have never seen a wanted poster of sorts for a Black Bear, but there it was! Posted on a tree, Beware of Black Bear! He is stealing food, taking food bags and running, and cannot be stopped. Three nights in a row, Mr. Black Bear has somehow figured out how to knockdown food that is tied up in a tree. Very ingenious but unfortunately, most likely he will not be able to digest the enormous amounts of moon pies, pop tarts and ramen. It’s a thing. Just be careful when and where you hang your low hanging fruit.
I did some research before hitting this trail. I knew the weather would be a big issue, the pointless ups and downs “PUDS“ would wear on me, but I did not hear anything about this rock scramble on my tenth day! Fortunately the ground was dry, as we had no rain, for the past couple of days. I stopped for a food refuel and began the upward slog. The profile showed a drastic up on my app, but how hard could it be? It’s hard enough that I put my poles away hard! I’m on my hands and knees pulling myself up this rock face. Where’s the ladders? Where’s the rope? Where’s the net if I fall? After I about pooped my pants, I arrived atop Mt Alberts. It was a great arrival indeed. Applause erupted, I bowed and kissed the ground. That was more than this California Girl bargained for!
The first 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail has been nothing short of an adventure. It has shown me that it is one tough trail. The topography is surreal, nothing I’ve ever seen as I have done all my hiking on the west coast. My body is feeling like a Mack-truck rolled over me and now I’m trying to recover! Yet, my mind is excited to see what is next to come around the bend. Such a trail, what an adventure, what a life I have, on the trail!
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