The Miles Fly By on the First Days in Georgia
Day One, March 13
I started hiking at Amicalola State Park this morning around 9:15 a.m. Before setting out on the approach trail I registered with the ATC. I was the 964th thru-hiker this year. After signing in, I weighed my bag, which came in at 29 pounds (this includes food and water). The person running the ATC office went through general information for trail safety, and instructions for Leave No Trace. The approach hike was beautiful, and for those who contemplate doing it or not, I would highly suggest it. The falls at the beginning are magnificent; they were much taller than I was originally thinking they would be. I summited Springer Mountain around 12:20 p.m. and ate a lot of food. Luckily, before starting the trail I had a huge breakfast, but by the time I was atop Springer, my stomach was growling. I three granola bars and some trail mix. The skies are very clear today, which makes the lookout on Springer grand. After resting on the summit for an hour I started hiking again, and I am currently taking another break here at Long Creek Falls. Each break I’ve taken so far, I’ve taken off my shoes and socks to let my feet dry out to prevent blisters — hopefully it works. Aside from the trail itself, I’ve gotten to meet a lot of great people. It’s a common phase people say, “It’s a small world,” but that really comes into perspective when one travels. I’m over ten hours from home in the mountains and I’ve come across two groups of guys from Ohio (where I’m from). One was a group of college students on spring break from OU. I’ve gotten to talk to many thru-hikers and it seems we are all excited. I’ve heard a couple of people say they wish they had packed less so their pack was lighter — but don’t we all. Well, it’s time to hit the trail again; my feet are dry, my legs are rested, and the mountains are calling my name.
Day Two, March 14
Yesterday after I got done writing at Long Creek Falls I kept on hiking to Hawk Mountain Shelter. It surprised me how many people were camping at one shelter — 40 or so. After getting to camp I set up my tent, talked to a couple of other thru-hikers, made a phone call (yes there is service), and went to bed. This morning I woke up around 6:30 a.m., ate breakfast, packed up, and hit the trails by 7:30 a.m. I pushed it pretty hard today to make it to Neel Gap. I slept poorly last night because it got so cold — I was determined to stock up on a few warmer pieces of gear. So I hiked from Hawk Mountain Shelter to Neel Gap and arrived here around 4:30 p.m. — about 23 miles, and I’m feeling it. Fortunately I was able to get a wool beanie, better gloves, and a sleeping bag liner. I’m currently in my sleeping bag now, and the purchases were definitely worth it. Today’s hike, even though challenging, was gorgeous. Anyone looking for a good weekend hike would have a wonderful time seeing Preachers Rock and Blood Mountain. The skies were clear again today and you could see for miles. Aside from hiking I’ve continued to meet many amazing and unique thru-hikers. Getting to hear people’s perspective on life, the trail, and general conversation is great. It’s interesting that back home the first thing many people say to each other is: “What do you do?” Out here it’s common to hear, “Where’d you start?” “What’s your trail name?” or “Where are you headed?” Well, my legs are tired, my back is sore, and my eyes are slowly closing. Time to go to bed. Life is good.
Day Three, March 15
Time works weird out here on the trail. The days seem so long, but looking back at the miles, they seem to have flown by. Last night I noticed that I left my prescription sunglasses sitting on the counter at Neel Gap; luckily, I woke up the next morning and they had them behind the counter for me. It’s too early in the trip to make a mistake like that. After I got my glasses I hiked a quarter of a mile up the trail where I camped the night before, and packed up all my stuff. I was on the trail by 9 a.m. and began to hike. Two times today I came across trail magic, and it made my day. There is nothing better than being fatigued, sore, and hungry, and a trail angel goes out of their way to help you. The first stop I came to was King Tut’s setup, and he had a bunch of food. The second was from No Service and Bottle (who was a former thru-hiker), and they were handing out fruit, water, and pop. While sitting there No Service saw my solar panel hooked up to my backpack (not many, if any, thru-hikers I’ve seen use solar panels), and he was intrigued by it. He then gave me the trail name Solar. Being a sustainability minor in college, it seems to make sense. I had a good conversation with a former thru-hiker named Corn Chip, who gave a bunch of advice on hiking the trail. I had the opportunity to meet many other great thru-hikers: Handless Hammer, Trail Wreak, Ben, and Caveman. Conversations on the trail seem to go anywhere, and it’s all dependent on what comes to mind while walking or resting. It is really nice how open people are to helping others and giving advice; in a way we are all helping each other make it to Katahdin. Back to logistics, I started around Neel Gap today and I’m currently at Blue Mountain Shelter, which was about an 18-mile day. My calf muscles are sore, and three miles out from shelter I had a bit of pain in my Achilles tendon, but I’m hoping it will subside if I take it easier tomorrow. Life is good.
Day Four, March 16
(My former posts were written during the day they took place, but I have to make an adjustment to my writing. My phone battery will die too fast if I write every night, so I’ll have to wait until I get to town to recap the days.) On day four I woke at Blue Mountain Shelter and got on the trail around 9 a.m. Being sore the day before, I planned to take it a little easier and enjoy the views, and they were spectacular. It’s hard to describe through blogging just how amazing the landscape is, and I’m not sure if pictures can even amount to what it feels like to experience them in person. There’s something so fulfilling about being sweaty, out of breath, body drained, and looking out over mountains as far as the eye can see. In these moments I am awestruck at the size and age of the mountains, and how insignificant they make me feel — a mix between the sublime and beauty. I hiked until I reached Trey Mountain Shelter, where I met an awesome thru-hiker, whose name was Mark. Mark is from England and is thru-hiking as far as he can make. After I started talking to him he offered me some tea, and I gladly accepted. It was some really good tea, straight from England. It was also the first time in my life that I was offered milk for my tea (I declined). Mark and I chilled and talked about the hike and life in England. A couple other thru-hikers showed up, and this is the awesome thing about the AT, you’re always meeting new and interesting people. From Trey Mountain Shelter I continued to Sassafras Gap. The last three miles were brutal. I showed up for the trail in pretty good shape, but you can only put so much stress on the body until stuff starts to give. Doing 17 miles, then 23, and then 18, I probably pushed a bit to much, because the back of my left knee starting hurting pretty bad. Back home in Ohio those miles aren’t horrible, but the topography is much flatter than the mountain ranges here. I met a few other people at the campsite, and we had a nice campfire. I did some journaling and fell asleep by 8:30. Life is good.
Day Five, March 17
Every night so far I’ve gone to bed sore and woke up somewhat ready to take on the day; unfortunately, this morning was a little different. My knee that was hurting the previous evening got a little worse. I shrugged off the pain and got out of camp around 7:30 a.m. My mind was ready, but my body was not. As I continued to walk I found different ways to step and stride that took some pressure off my knee, which greatly reduced the soreness. It was a rainy morning, and fog was dispersed all throughout the trees — a bit eerie, but another enjoyable aspect of nature. Every once in a while, I would think I would see a bear through the fog, but it would turn out to be a fallen tree or a stump. I made it to the Top of Georgia Hostel around noon, which is 69 miles into the trail. In total, including the approach trail, I’ve done 77.8 miles in five days. It’s been beautiful, and it’s kicked my butt. So many of the nature writers who I’ve studied and read have made very similar statements to the ones I’ve experienced out here so far. I wonder how so many people from different backgrounds, educations, and outlooks on life can come to similar realizations through nature. What about nature, mountains, forests, lakes, and the oceans brings us to these thoughts and feelings? OK, moving away from my sociological side, while I visited the Top of Georgia I had the opportunity to speak with the owner about hiking the trail. He seemed like an expert, and had been a thru-hiker. He gave me some advice on slowing down the miles and taking it a bit slower, something I will try to do. Tonight I’m staying in Hiawassee, Ga. Today was a shorter day, only 6.6 miles. The trail has been amazing so far. There’s definitely a challenge between connecting to a specific place, and getting the miles you need. While writing a phase came to my mind: it’s not about the miles, it’s about the moments. I’m hoping to get a good rest tonight and get back out on the trail tomorrow. I’m only seven miles from the Georgia-North Carolina border. Life is good!
For photos of the hike, follow me on Instagram at adamsmithbgsu
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