Day 1-5 Update: Amicalola to Helen
This Day 1-5 update provides questions from Day 1 Lily answered by Day 5 Lily and updates from each of the first five days on the trail from Amicalola to Helen, GA.
Day 1 questions answered by Day 5 Lily
Are you still sick?
Kinda. Might’ve been a weird decision to start your thru-hike with a head cold, but it’s manageable and slowly improving.
Is skiing adequate preparation for thru-hiking?
You know what? So far so good. Maybe it was the elevation training my lungs, but I’m certainly outdoing my expectations for myself so far. I’m not sure I’d recommend it instead of normal training like…say…hiking…but it got the job done.
How’s the social scene?
As an introvert, weird. You don’t know whether you’re ever gonna see some of these people again or if you’re similar enough speeds that a bad first impression is gonna make a big difference. You’re putting in effort when you have the energy, but when you don’t, you try not to stress it too much. Maybe you’ll neva see em again. The post-dinner fire pits at the busy campsites are your own personal hell though…
How’s the gear?
Tent withstood a thunderstorm great. You sleep better in your tent than in a hostel bunk. No blisters or foot pain (other than what’s expected). The backpack is doing what a pack needs to do. Ready to shed some pack weight after the smokies though.
Are you carrying enough water?
Drinking out of streams feels like I’m frickin Eve. It’s badass. To answer your question though, yes, I’m carrying and drinking enough and there are good sources every few miles.
Hiking from: Amicalola Falls Arch (Approach Trail)
To: Stover Creek Shelter
Miles: 11.1 (8.8 miles of the Approach Trail, 2.3 on the official AT)
Total grade: 480.5 ft/mile
Motivation: See the first white blaze and officially set foot on the Appalachian Trail!
Worst pain: Shoulders and hips from adjusting to hiking with 25 pounds on my back.
Favorite part of the day: Seeing the first white blaze and knowing it’s all finally starting!
Comments: Definitely a lot of adrenaline and nerves. It felt like the first day of school. I wanted to just get the orientation done with and settle into my new normal. Waited to have lunch at the top because every break before reaching Springer felt like even more of a delay. The stairs weren’t nearly as bad as I thought they were gonna be, but definitely deserve the hype as the hardest part of day one. Overall, feeling good. Just extremely anxious about all that’s new.
Hiking From: Stover Creek Shelter
To: Woody Gap
Total grade: 414.8 ft/mile
Motivation: Seeing if I was capable of 17.7 miles and the hot shower and laundry that was waiting for me if I was capable.
Worst pain: the sunburn on my forearms and the back of my neck.
Favorite part of the day: reaching Woody gap and meeting Miss Janet who gave us an ice-cold ginger ale and lots of advice (mostly to not listen to YouTuber’s lies).
Comments: I know, I know, I know. I’m not supposed to do 17 miles or more out of the gate. But it was just so rewarding and it was nice to know I can do it if I need to in the future. Also, we were trying to escape the rain and thunder coming that night and had already made a reservation at a nearby hostel that was gonna pick us up at either woody or Gooch gap (only 3 miles apart). Gooch had tons and tons of people camping there so we decided to push on the extra 3. Definitely no regrets (yet).
Hiking from: Woody Gap
To: Bull Gap tent site (a mile up from Neels Gap)
Total grade: 487.8 ft/mile
Motivation: Hike Blood Mountain (the tallest peak in Georgia)!
Worst pain: Still the sunburns, definitely. Also, a little sore from day 2’s mileage.
Favorite part of the day: Reaching the top of blood mountain and drinking a Gatorade at Neels gap.
Comments: I think going into the trail, I expected every ascent to feel like a day hike ascent where you go up, up, up, then it’s over, and you go down, down, down. The first two days were just rolling with few ascents. Hiking Blood was a little closer to my expectations where the first part of the day was making my way up, and the second was making my way down to Neels gap. The top of Blood was beautiful. It was pretty much clear skies so we got a great view from lunch (once again I like to reach my goal before I settle for lunch). The rockiness reminded me a lot of Maine, specifically, the shrubs and exposed boulders with expansive views. The wind up there was a huge relief from the heat.
Hiking from: Bull Gap Tentsite
To: Blue Mountain Shelter
Total grade: 420.7 ft/mile
Motivation: Reach blue mountain shelter, see if 17.7 is more of an exception or rule going forward, and reward myself with a partial zero the following day in Helen, GA.
Worst pain: Random tendon in my foot started to hurt. Damn the downhills and rocks.
Favorite part of the day: Reaching Blue Mountain Shelter (whew) and meeting someone from Windham, ME.
Comments: I woke up feeling great. It was nothing like the day after the first 17.7 miler. I was starting to feel like my body was adjusting. No, I’m not claiming hikers’ legs. That comes around mile 300 I heard. I think my body is just starting to realize it can’t go into shock after I complete each day. Anyway, this led me to take on another 17.7 miler to Blue Mountain Shelter. This would put me 2.2 miles from Unicoi Gap where I could take a Nero (not a zero-day but close) in Helen, GA. So I did it. Absolutely no regrets. Most of the trail was flat. The only trouble I had was from my foot but that eventually went away. Overall, it was a really successful day.
Hiking from: Blue Mountain Shelter
To: Unicoi Gap
Total grade: 565.0 ft/mile
Motivation: Reach Helen for a nice Nero
Worst pain: Tripping on roots in the dark. Didn’t get hurt but was worried I would.
Favorite part of the day: Reaching Unicoi and our shuttle driver dale giving us donuts.
Comments: Decided to take a nero in Helen. Definitely didn’t neeeeed the nero. But we’d been doing pretty heavy mileage and had a lot of “don’t hurt yourself” and “be careful” from hostel owners and shuttle drivers that we thought a day of premature recovery definitely couldn’t hurt. Plus, with the big mileage days, we were already a day and a half ahead of schedule. So, we got up early at 5 AM after a thunderstorm and hiked down to Unicoi Gap to meet our shuttle driver at 7 AM (it was his only available time that day). Hiking down a mountain in the dark is…doable but I have below-average coordination so lots of roots were tripped on and moths swatted chaotically. My hiking poles definitely saved me a few times. But we made it! We’d heard not to stop in Helen because it’s a tourist town and can be a little pricey, but we just budgeted because we couldn’t not see it. It’s actually designed like a German town. The main difference being (and our British friend confirmed) instead of a pedestrian-friendly cobblestone street, it’s a classic, American, home-of-the-brave, pavement street with trucks and freight traffic running through it. It’s a pretty funny dichotomy. After showering, laundry, and restaurant food, we’ll be off into the woods tomorrow where we probably won’t stop for another Nero or zero until after the smokies.
If anyone wants me to include any additional information in my 5-day updates (which I’ll continue to do going forward) let me know in the comments, or text me if you know me!
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