AT Update: Day 1-4

Day 1:

Well, day 1!!!! Or day 0 depending on how you want to count. I did NOT sleep well last night, which I wasn’t super surprised by, but I thought I’d do a little better than lying there until 2:00 a.m. Nothing to do about that now. Had a bit of a queasy feeling at breakfast, not sure if it was because of the no sleep or the nerves. We drove over to the check-in site at around 8:45. It was honestly less crowded than I expected, there were supposedly line 40 people starting today, but I guess they may all be a little bit later than us. After a short presentation with the ranger, we weighed our bags, got our registration tags (I’m hiker number 1256!), took some pictures and were off!

Lindsey’s parents hiked with us about a mile or so up to Amicalola falls, which was a very fun little hike. Nice views of the mountains behind us, and a really pretty top down view of the falls at the end. After we wandered around there for a while, we said bye to Lindsey’s parents, and off we went! The approach hike to Springer Mountain is about eight miles and climbs around 2,000 feet in elevation. Not the craziest day in the world, but with 30 pounds on your back it’s certainly not easy. Honestly, I was kind of freaking out at the beginning. Once it was just us, the size of what we are trying to do kind of hit me. 2,200 miles, 5 months. I was tossing those numbers around for a long time trying to really wrap my head around them, without much success. I don’t know if I’ll ever really be able to.

The hike was really, really pretty, if not the most eventful. Once we climbed up onto the ridge line, there were gorgeous views of the mountains sprawling around up. Especially because it’s early in the season, and there’s no leaves, you can see EVERYTHING. We met a dog when we stopped for lunch (peanut butter tortillas), who was in fact gonna be thru-hiking with someone! I hope we get to see more of them. Lindsey sentenced herself to 15 minutes of silence for an awful joke after lunch. I started saying wildly incorrect things about trees to piss her off, which was probably the most entertaining single part of the day.

A couple hours after lunch, we finished the approach hike, and finally got to the top of Springer, the southern tip of the AT. the view was stunning. You could see for miles back the way we came, through rolling hills that just seemed to go forever. We sat there for a while just soaking it all in. It was less than half a mile from there to our first camp site.

View from the Southern Terminus of the trail

Overall, I think it was a really smooth first day. Physically, I feel pretty good. Legs are definitely sore but not as bad as I thought they’d be. Emotionally, I’m a little all over the place. I think the nerves are definitely still there, they probably will be for a while. I definitely also felt like I was rushing a little bit today, just pushing hard to get to camp, to get miles in. I’m trying not to be frustrated that I struggled so much to enjoy the trip without worrying about the end goal. I know that’s a habit that I’m going to have for a while, but hopefully it gets better with time. There’s a little bit of a “now what” feeling at camp, there’s not a whole lot to do. But I guess there doesn’t really have to be?

Anyway, that’s day 1. We managed to not run into any violent youths as of yet, hopefully that keeps up. I’m gonna go cook dinner now then probably just fall asleep early, i’m tired.

Quote of the day: “Live life for the downhills”

How many owls would you have to see in a day before you got suspicious?: “IDK like 8?”

Day 2:

Last night was cold. Like COLD cold. And insanely windy. I slept from about 7:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m., when I really had to pee. And let me tell you, that was the coldest two minutes I’ve had in a long time. After that I slept on and off until about 8:30, when it was finally time to get up and get breakfast.

In terms of hiking, it was a pretty light day, only another eight miles and it was pretty flat. We made it four miles in just a couple of hours. The last four took a little longer, because there was a little elevation, but nothing awful. Just before lunch we took a small detour to see a waterfall, which was beautiful. There were a ton of people there, including a dude playing one of those musical pan things, I can’t remember the name. But the vibe was great.

We rolled into camp around 2:00 p.m., which makes for a long time sitting around doing nothing at the end of the day. I think this is my biggest struggle to be honest, trying to fill the time after getting to camp. I spent some time stretching, doing karate, and throwing a frisbee (duh, glad I brought that). But after all that it was only like 4:00 p.m., so now I don’t really know what to do. Everyone’s friendly, but also people are kinda keeping to themselves so I can’t really go talk to anyone. Lindsey’s hanging out reading in her tent, but I’ve only got books on tape so I can’t really READ per se. But I’ll listen to books for a while, then cook. probably another early night.

I’d be lying if I said today was mentally easy. Again, even trying to think about what we’re about to try and do is mind boggling. Waking up in the cold last night and this morning didn’t help. Thoughts of going home definitely crossed my mind. But by the afternoon it was nice and sunny, and we were walking through some beautiful forest, which made it a lot easier. Staving off boredom is another big challenge, but I think that’ll get easier too. And hopefully when we add some mileage there will be less time hanging around camp. That won’t be for a few days though.

Oh, and it’s gonna be colder tonight. Like 20 degrees cold. Whoopdee doo. Hopefully we don’t freeze.

Quote of the day: “Speak your truth? More like BEAK your truth!”

How many owls would you have to see before you got suspicious?: “Probably around 60. But only if there’s one adult. Definitely not 60 baby owls.”

Day 3:

Yeah, so I thought night 1 was cold? NOTHING compared to night 2. For context, I was wearing three tops, two pants, and had filled both my Nalgenes with boiling water before going to bed. Oh, and two pairs of socks. The result? I was FRIGID. I had to huddle in the fetal position in my sleeping bag. I still wasn’t “warm,” but it was tolerable. And the second any cold air got in, it was game over. Anything that left the sleeping bag came back a popsicle. Needless to say, not the best sleep. But we made it through. We decided it was simply too cold to stand around and make breakfast in the morning, so we ate a couple bars and got moving to warm up.

The walk was certainly not warm, but definitely better than standing around camp. We had been warned by a few trail workers that today we had to climb Sassafras Mountain, which includes 700 feet of elevation gain in about a mile. So, definitely not an easy day, especially after back-to-back eight milers. But to be honest, we kicked Sassafras’s ASS. Not that it was easy, but by the end I was thinking to myself “that was it?” I’m sure that karma will come back around at some point.

Ice crystals along our morning walk

The best part of the day came after we climbed down the back side of Sassafras. We can to a gap where a road intersected the trail, and there parked waiting for us was a white van. In normal circumstances, suspicious. Today? Today was our lucky day. We found our first bit of trail magic. Trail magic (or trail angels) are people who drive up along the trail in order to help out thru-hikers on their way. Food, water, supplies, you name it. The angel we ran in to was named Ms. Janet, who is apparently quite a famous trail angel and helps people from Georgia all the way up to Maine. She gave us plenty of food (including the best banana I’ve ever had, that’s what two days without fresh fruit does to you), Gatorade to rehydrate us, and she even helped some folks refill their food packs. We probably sat there for about 45 minutes before we got moving again, but definitely an amazing start considering how the night before had been.

The rest of the hike was pretty easy. Relatively flat, through pretty pine and rhododendron, along a few streams (one of which we stopped at for lunch). We got to the shelter around 1:30, and here’s where being with Lindsey probably saved me. See, on my own, I would’ve looked at that, looked at the mileage to the next campsite (about five miles) and said “Yeah, I can do that.” But Lindsey’s smart and will not go more than eight miles a day yet, no matter how early we get to camp. It’s not the easiest pill to swallow, but she’s right. And I’m trying to learn to take it slow, and enjoy the whole journey, not rush to the end. So yeah, definitely good that I’m not alone.

View from the ridge of our day 3 hike

At camp, we finally had some of the community moments that we had heard so much about before coming out here. People gathered around the shelter to trade stories, talk shop, and just chat about anything at all. It was really really lovely. So yeah, toughest night so far, followed by probably the best day so far.

I’ve learned that it’s really easy to be pessimistic at night. “I want to go home, this sucks” sounds like a much more solid thought when you’re cold at 2:00 a.m. than it does in the bright sun at noon. So, I’m trying to remember that whenever those thoughts come up. Annnnnnd hoping the lights get a little easier. Other than that, I’m feeling pretty good today. A little stressed about resupply stuff, but I suspect that’ll linger until we do it a few times. It’ll just come with experience. Fingers crossed for a better night, followed by another good day!

Quote of the day: “Then everyone is watching you spit.”

How many owls would you have to see before you got suspicious? “Why, is there a wizard around?”

Day 4:

Well, a much better night this time! Temperature stayed in the 40s, very comfortable. We had a bit of a chill morning, cooked breakfast, and got out around 9:00. Today was gonna be our hardest day yet. But, with each challenge comes some good! We had not one, but TWO separate trail magic stops today. Having good food, fire, and people to talk too makes this all so much more rewarding. After the second stop, around lunch, we started a 400 foot climb up to Preacher’s Rock.

The view at the top was gorgeous. We had a whole valley of rolling mountains to see, and we sat there for about 20-30 minutes, slowly being joined by people trickling up from the trail magic. After this stop, we kinda of became part of a big group of people we had been seeing on and off for the past few days, and we were all going the same pace, so it made sense to join up.

View from the top of Preachers Rock

We had a choice of campsites tonight. There’s a small stretch (about five miles) where there are no bear boxes, so to camp your need to have a hard bear canister. A ton of people stopped at a camp site about two miles before that place to be safe, but by the time our group got there the site was super full. We probably could have squeezed, but we decided to push another two miles to a site right on the edge of the bear country, where we could camp without canisters but needed to hang out food bags from trees to protect them.

We made it to camp uneventfully, and we were all pretty tired, so we set up quickly and started making dinner. This is a really fun group, and I really am enjoying our time with them. I hope we stick together for a while. Also we have a dog with us, who’s probably everyone’s favorite. After dinner, we went to set up our bear hangs, and this was the singular most frustrating part of the day.

I had agreed to hang someone else’s bag with mine, as he didn’t have the rope to set one up. Thing is, you have to drag the bags about 20 feet up a tree, and they are HEAVY. So hauling two took me about 20 minutes to get to the right height. After that, you attach a stick as a stopper so that the bags don’t fall. I set up my stick and walked away to filter water. On my way back, lo and behold, the twig had snapped with the weight and dropped the bags. Great. I was NOT about to take the time to haul them up again, so I set them up to counterweight each other. But as I was hoisting the thing the branch sagged so low that the hang would’ve been super ineffective. At this point I was insanely frustrated, so I recruited Lindsey to help me before I totally lost it. It took us another like ten minutes, but we finally got it set up. Thank GOD.

Today felt pretty good, all in all. Great weather, nice hiking, it was lovely. And mentally I feel like I’m settling in at this point. Although I do wish we had service, so I could check in on some family stuff happening today. But we’re into town tomorrow, so I should be able to check then. This whole thing is still feeling a little crazy, but overall, I’m in a much better place than I was like two days ago. Hopefully that keeps going up!

Quote of the day: “Switchbacks? More like BITCHBACKS! And I am a BITCH!”

How many owls would you have to see before you got suspicious? “IDK I saw like eight owls in a day once, that felt pretty normal?”

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

What Do You Think?