First 5 Days
Well, it’s Day 5 including the Approach Trail, day 4 on the Appalachian Trail. We’ve run out of food and water and Kara is cooking a mouse I managed to kill while fighting over the last of the crumbs in the bottom of our food bags…
KIDDING. The trail has been amazing and we are doing just fine in the confines of a cozy B&B just outside of Blairsville, GA (not kidding). The weather forecast called for a rainy day all day today so we decided to hike 2.5 miles this morning from Bagg’s Creek to Hogpen Gap where the host of the B&B picked us up. It’s uncharacteristic of me to keep a consistent and detailed journal but it’s become a nightly ritual because it seems so much happens in one day. I have so much to share but I’ll just share the highlights:
The first day, after camping on Springer Mountain, which is the beginning of the trail or the Southern Terminus, we watched a gorgeous foggy sunrise and had breakfast with fellow hikers camping there. Kara bestowed the trail name “Thrice” to a nice college grad who was telling us the story of how he got lost and went through the Amacolola Approach Trail arch three times before finding the beginning of the AT. He wasn’t ashamed and gladly took his name.
AT thru-hikers give each other “trail names” instead of using their real names on trail. Neither of us has taken on a trail name yet, so we’re still just Nick and Kara. We made it to our planned destination, Hawk Mountain Shelter, at 1 p.m. We met a few people who were also thru-hiking but the most notable was a couple about our age with a 2-year-old and a 5-month-old baby. The father/husband had done the entire AT back in ‘15 so I suppose he knew what he was getting into. One p.m. was a bit early to stop so we broke our ‘8-10 mile maximum’ rule and ended up at Justus Creek for the night another 6 miles later. Camped with ‘Stride,’ who’s a thru-hiker from none other than Grand Rapids, Michigan! He hikes in a kilt. A 79-year-old man who was hiking the trail for 100 days and had a double lung transplant ran out of fuel asked us if we could boil some water for his dinner; we gladly obliged. Slept peacefully with the river right next to us.
From Justus Creek, we hiked on to Lance Creek which is only about 8 miles. We stopped for the night here and began to see the usual suspects. We parked next to a guy from Knoxville who we’d later dub ‘Samson’ from yelling in his sleep after he thought his barber cut off 2 years’ worth of hard-earned man bun. Stride rolled in shortly after we’d begun unpacking. An 18-year-old thru-hiker came up to our tent grouping and joined our conversation. He was the eldest of his 9 siblings and was the first one to leave the house!
During the night Kara and I both woke up to what sounded like a plane crashing in the mountains above us in slow motion. Neither Stride nor Samson heard it, but other people down the campsite did. Maybe a C-130 or a resurrected, refitted B-52 running low stealth missions is my best guess.
Next up is Blood Mountain- the highest peak on the AT in Georgia. Blood Mountain shelter to me is a 1940’s pyramid. Built before helicopters, I can only imagine how tough it must have been for the poor bastards who lugged the stone and lumber up that grueling stretch.
Absolutely gorgeous views from all sides. Most hikers complained about hiking up to the 4800’ peak; I complained about going down. Kara doesn’t ever seem to complain, just seems extra-appreciative when we’re done moving.
We made it to Neel Gap around lunchtime, and again, met all the usual suspects we’ve been leapfrogging with the last couple of days. We both got sub sandwiches and watched the crowd of bikers, hikers, and tourists all act surprised to see each other there. Stride rolled in as we finished our sandwiches and Samson shortly after.
We turned down a generous offer to stay at a Blood Mountain cabin to keep moving onto Bagg’s Creek. We said our see-ya’s (because Adieu’s are bad hiker juju) and found our way. Bagg’s, whoever he was, mustn’t have been popular in the area because the “creek” seeped out of the mountain from a sad-looking PVC pipe with a flow at exactly 1 liter per 21 seconds.
The campsite was our favorite high campsite and Justus had been our favorite low campsite). Kara and I rushed to get our tent set up just before a quick and steady rainfall which lasted all of 15 minutes. With a little daylight left, the 8 or so of us sat around sharing stories and cooking dinner before retiring for the night. Everyone seems to happily and collectively agree on when bedtime is at each campsite: shortly after sunset, also called Hiker’s Midnight.
Shortly after we cozied into our tents or hammocks, a blood-curdling shrieking started off in the distance. A conversation between the tents quickly began about what was making the awful sound. I had no ideas other than from what I saw in scary movies. A local to the south was confident that it was a wild boar in distress. I made a joke about the two brothers in hammocks being an easy hog snack and everyone laughed… the brothers with a little nervousness in theirs. I wasn’t worried, I had earplugs.
PS – those who are asking about not receiving email notifications for our posts… we are not able to post daily. No need to fret, we’ll keep the content coming as time, cell phone service, and more hiking stories allow. 😉
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