An Inauspicious Start
So…I have made it to Hiawassee, GA, which means that I have made it down 69.6 miles of the Appalachian Trail! Yay!
However, as my father pointed out when I called him crying on the second day of hiking (I promise I will explain that in a minute), I was not off to a very auspicious start. And boy, was he right.
Let’s go back to pre-trail, Day -1, if you will. The day my wonderful mom and sister drove me the nine hours to get to Dahlonega. This day I’m tired, I’m nervous, and I figure this is why I don’t really feel like eating. I don’t eat lunch when they do, and when we are in town and decide to order pizza (we tried to go to a restaurant, but apparently Dahlonega is just a happening place to be and everywhere was totally full) I ate about half a slice before falling asleep. When I wake up, I figure I was just super nervous, I’m still good to go, let’s do this.
I am dropped off at Amicalola, and after the goodbyes and forcing a slice of pizza down my throat, I head up the steps. About halfway up, I think “man, I am way more tired than I thought I’d be already.” This is my prevailing thought throughout the day until, after not eating, I essentially collapse at Nimblewill Gap (only 6 miles! And not even the AT!), throw my tent up in the pouring rain, and pass out without eating. I stay passed out until about 3 AM, at which point I am so sick. I will save you all the description, but it was gross.
Yet somehow the next morning I convince myself, again without eating, to hike the 5.6 miles to Stover Creek Shelter. I am still sick, and still cannot eat.
Day 3 I make the best decision ever and hike back to the Springer Mountain parking lot (2.8 miles). It is at this point that I call my parents crying to let them know what I am doing, namely going to a hotel to sleep. I get back to the parking lot and like magic a taxi pulls up to drop a couple of, so I walk over and ask, pitifully I’m sure, if they could take me to any cheap hotel room. Thankfully, she could, and to the Dahlonega Super 8 I went. And there I stayed, for 3 nights. But, by the end I could eat food and not feel like death!
After three days of recovering, I was finally back on the trail for my real Day 1!
Day 1: Hiked the 8.1 miles to Hawk Mountain Shelter. It was a fairly easy day, except it was freezing rain by the time I got to the shelter! Luckily, there was just barely enough room in the shelter so I didn’t have to set up my tent in the freezing, pouring rain. It was still really early, but it was so cold everyone was hunkered down for the night. I ate my rice and fell asleep early, cold but not sick, so happy.
Day 2: Went to mile 15.8, to Gooch Mountain Shelter. This day felt a little longer, but probably because I didn’t make breakfast. Bad idea. Food is good. Food is energy. Some people I was talking to stopped short of this shelter (at Justus Creek), and I thought about stopping here, mostly because I was hungry, but in the end I went on to the shelter. After eating (yay!), I meet some awesome people, some of whom I kept hiking with for several days.
Day 3: Two instances of trail magic on the way to my sleeping place at Lance Creek (mile 24.3)! First thing in the morning we got fresh fruit and lovely conversation at Gooch Gap. Then, while walking along, evidently the sun was stronger than we all thought, because sunburns all around. Mine, we learned later, was worse than everyone else’s.
The plus side, however, was that the second trail magic (at Woody Gap), was AMAZING. I had the best burger ever, and so much lemonade. The people doing it were so awesome, and thru-hikers last year. They were great, and their dog Tank was adorable.
Day 4: Made it over Blood Mountain and into Neel’s Gap! Saw a snake coming up Blood Mountain, which was cool. He was sunning himself on a rock, so I just nudged him aside and continued on. For some reason this day my right hip flexor was really acting up, which made coming down the mountain super fun. But the reward was a night at Mountain Crossings and a glorious shower! They were great there, but they did tell me they didn’t have sunscreen because you don’t need it this early…I beg to differ. Other than that it was a much needed night inside, with a glorious frozen pizza, and even a glass of wine! That’s what I call a good night.
Day 5: Stayed at Hogpen Gap (mile 38.6). We didn’t like having to stay so close to the road, but we were pretty tired, and this spot had water near it. This was also the first night I hung my bear bag not on cables already there…and I failed. I managed to throw the bag into a neighboring tree and get it stuck, leading to Rock Steady shaking the tree until the bag broke, while Paradox and Right Click laughed hysterically in the background. In the end, we had success! Not thanks to me, but success nonetheless.
Day 6: Mile 50! A longer day than we wanted, but the spot with water that we thought would be good was actually the side of a hill. Not gonna work. The next spot even sort of near water was at mile 50, so that’s where we went. We were super exhausted by the end of this day, our feet were hurting, and we turned in early.
Day 7: Mile 58.6, to Tray Mountain Shelter. When we got to Unicoi Gap there was so amazing trail magic, and Right Click left to go resupply in Hiawassee (he decided he needed more meat and cheese in his food bag). The trail magic was so good, though. There were two groups, one with burgers and hotdogs, and the other with snacks and drinks and things to take with us. They were all so nice, and felt so bad about my sunburn, they gave me chapstick and sunscreen and medicine and so much. They also gave me drink mixes, which is something I’d been craving like crazy. The trail magic made hiking up those three mountains much easier, because it was looking like a long, hard day before that and it was pretty great after that.
Day 8: Mile 66 and Deep Gap Shelter. We got there early after a shorter day, and were the only people there other than one guy. Everyone but me set up a tent, so I had the shelter to myself, which is good because my sunburn was killing and I didn’t want to set up my tent. All I wanted was to wash the blisters and dead skin off.
Day 9: Mile 69.6 at Dick’s Creek Gap and a night at Top of Georgia Hostel! Fell a little in the cold rain on the way down the hill, but in the end it didn’t matter because I got a long, hot shower. I also got some lotion for my sunburn, and a new spf fishing shirt for sun protection, some hiking socks, and a delicious sub. This hostel is seriously amazing. We walked in and got offered hot cocoa (it was a very cold day), they did our laundry and gave us scrubs to wear so we could actually wash all our clothes, and took us to town and back. It’s a wonderous place.
Hopefully Day 10 will bring us to NC, but we will have to wait and see! It’s been great, lessons have been learned, and we’ve got many more miles to go!
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