Bear, BBQ, and Body Aches
There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires. — Nelson Mandela
Right now, I’m lying in a bunk at The Blueberry Patch with what seems like a fever. This is my second fever since I’ve begun my thru-hike. You know what that means? It’s been cold and wet these past nine days, and my 20F synthetic sleeping bag and liner are not doing their job. My body can’t seem to make up its mind whether or not I’m burning up or freezing, so today’s my first zero day–womp womp. Though, besides my current ailment, I’ve been enjoying the Trail.
My boyfriend Lucas and I started the Approach Trail to Springer at 3pm on Sunday; there was thick overcast the entire hike–rain, too. The mist engulfed everything–I felt as if I were a character in a spooky halloween movie. The first few miles were rough, as we climbed 600 steps over Amicalola Falls. Everything on/including our bodies was drenched when we arrived outside of The Len Foote Hike Inn, 6.3 miles into the trail. After filling our water bladders in the bathroom sink, and sitting on the porch outside to rest, the manager and 2001 thru-hiker, Robert Smith, said hello.
First taste of Trail Magic! He said he could provide us a room if we helped out in the kitchen–a pretty sweet deal if you ask me, and we were incredibly grateful for the opportunity to finally sleep. If you plan on visiting Amicalola Falls, I highly recommend The Len Foote Hike Inn. It’s environmentally friendly (think composting toilets and green buildings), beautiful, and filled with crazy-nice people.
Once we made it up Springer Mountain, the days began turning into one long day, consisting of rain, sunshine, food, sleep (or the absence of), and hiking. Our first four days were definitely NOT dry. Mostly misty during the day, then rain and chilling wind all throughout the night (you learn quickly that camping on a mountain top is only great in theory…). The night before we reached Neel Gap my sleeping bag was soaked, so I “slept” half in Lucas’ bag and half under an emergency blanket. It’s no wonder I had a fever the next day.
It was fortunate that the first clear day we had coincided with us summiting Blood Mountain, the tallest mountain in Georgia. It was our first glimpse of mountain ridges that expanded for miles; up until that point, there was fog thick enough to pee wherever without being seen (that part’s a bit different for a girl). However, good weather doesn’t always mean perfection–that night was by far the most eventful night we’ve had, aka the beginning of fever #1.
My friend Kelly sent me a message saying that her Dad lived in the area; he offered us a warm meal. Bill and Kathy are great people, and the BBQ joint was fantastic. I got a pulled pork sandwich pilled high, like falling out of the bun high, and drenched it in “Butt Sauce.” Oh boy, Trail Magic surely lifts the spirit.
Due to our thin wallets, we decided to stealth camp not far from Neels Gap–all the nearby camping spots were taken. Long story short, we got scared off by a curious bear (or boar or screeching owl). There we were, laying in our tent half-asleep, when we heard this loud, curious sound not far from the tent. After a few minutes, Lucas started yelling “Hey bear,” in a low voice. The animal just spoke back. Lucas and I were trying to care, but we were so exhausted there was little room for anxiety.
After ten minutes, Lucas got out of our tent and shouted/waved his arms around, but the noise got closer. My headlamp picked out a pair of glowing eyes up a nearby tree. Guess what we did? Grabbed half of our things and set-up camp outside of the hostel bathroom. The second time we went back to retrieve our gear, I spotted the eyes on the pathway working their way towards our tent.
That night we fell asleep on the concrete. I woke up a couple of hours later to a fluffy cat smelling my eyelid. Of course I yelped, and then Lucas jumped to the conclusion that the bear had followed us. Nope. Just a cold cat wanting to snuggle into my sleeping bag. Lucas was jealous.
Remember how I said I got sick that night? (TMI) Well, soon after, I experienced extreme stomach pain, then proceeded to puke up all that delicious, few-hours-digested, BBQ and coleslaw. At first, we thought I might have contracted the dreaded Norovirus, but my sickness passed the next morning. In fact, I felt quite chipper as we hiked the 11.5 miles to Low Gap Shelter.
So here I am, with bummed knees and an achey body at The Blueberry Patch fighting my second fever–Gary and Lennie have been wonderful. Their comfortable bunks and homestyle breakfasts are the perfect things for my recovery (I lovelovelove this hostel). This time my entire body aches, and I hope that it can repair itself by tomorrow. Kind of frustrates me how much of a wimp I am to the cold–how come a lil’ ole ice on our tent is enough to slow me down? Gotta’ get back out there and climb some mountains!
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