Approach Trail to Neels Gap Scorecard
I’m currently holed up in a hotel in Blairsville, Georgia, taking a zero day due to some nasty weather and nasty blisters. It seemed like a perfect day to get the first blog posted but when I mentioned the idea out loud to some friends, I made a noise kind of like “huuuuuuyyyyuuuuuhhhh.” I’m tired and not feeling it, but here goes anyway:
31.4 miles plus the 8.8 of the approach trail, which I will probably add as an asterisk for another week or so because the approach trail was HARD.
How quickly meeting someone can turn into an actual friendship. You’ll walk with someone for a day and then you’re crammed up next to them on a cabin floor.
Less Cool Realization
White blazes (the trail markers) are the same color as snow. While this is also a candidate for Low Point, I went over Blood Mountain during the height of a snowstorm. It was only 5 miles into Neels Gap and with friends in a cabin there, I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about camping. But the white blazes on those giant asshole rocks were totally covered, so I’d inch around each icy rock face looking into every enclave for footprints, following some to find dead ends where the other person had turned around as well. Those 5 miles felt like they took 5 years, and I definitely cried once and texted my mom that I was going to die several times, which I’m sure made her feel great.
Like almost everyone, I stayed at the hiker hostel the night before I started, in a bunk room with four other people who were also starting out the next day. I woke up the next morning at around 6 am, the sun barely risen as I sat on the edge of my bunk and brushed my hair. This guy named Graham from the UK sat up across from me, rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, glanced over and deadpanned, “Got any big plans for the day?” I’m not sure why that felt like such an appropriate start to the trip, but it definitely made me laugh.
The first night on Springer Mountain was punctuated by a HUGE thunderstorm. I’ve seen thunderstorms from afar before, but have never been stuck in the middle of one on a mountaintop like that, listening to the thunder and lightning grow closer and closer together. At the height of it, I could see the lightning even with my head buried in my thick down sleeping bag. I also texted my dad that I was going to die, which I’m sure made him feel great.
MVPs of the Week
Both of my parents for their calming text conversations.
- how to defrost the rope around a bear bag with your spit so you can open it and eat breakfast.
- how to drain a blister with a safety pin and an alcohol wipe found in a hiker box.
Toenails remain unscathed, but I was sporting as many as 7 blisters at one point, so my feet are enjoying my zero day.
While I am amazed by the kindness and sense of community on the trail, from the section hiker from Florida who helped me knock down my bear bag after the rope froze to a tree to the hostel full of people who helped me comb through hiker boxes looking for safety pins, the weather and blisters made this a brutal first week. I give it 3 out of 10 fudge stripe cookies.
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