The First Dirty Thirty Miles
Day one: fresh off the line
The road to Springer is NO JOKE. We followed the hard ball to gravel, the gravel to rocks. The brave Focus bumped and jostled, but never got stuck thanks to John’s skills. Our dog may have had a panic attack though. The trailhead was bustling even in the foggy rain. The three of us walked up to Springer in a downpour and signed the soggy register. We said our goodbyes quickly in the rain. Despite the storm, the rhododendron and hemlock forests on the trail were amazing! The shelters were overflowing with hikers (AT crowding is real), so I found a campsite just down trail. I hung my wet clothes out to dry (which is a joke; nothing dries out here), set up the tent, and hung the food bag. The sun came out in time for a mountaintop sunset; I was living the dream!
Day two; shit gets real
I woke up after a windy night of over analyzing every sound and went to get my food bag. I pulled the rope in all directions, whipped and swirled it; that rope wasn’t budging out of that rotten old tree. Finally I got mad and gave it a great big heave that did the trick: coffee time! Or not… the mighty Coleman stove decided to start leaking through a crack in the plastic So, after a Nutrigrain and water breakfast I went off down the trail. The morning was gorgeous and the mountain views were breathtaking. I yo-yoed around about 7 other hikers, catching them on their breaks. One hiker had thru hiked 20 years ago and was back to do it again with her dog Maggie. We had a similar pace and reached a campground to rest. Feeling spunky we decided to push on to the next spot 5 miles out. Halfway through we were hot and exhausted. She dropped back and I made the gap to find it slammed with the biggest crowd; people everywhere! There was so much commotion I pushed on again to the next mountain top to camp there. The coyotes and barred owls were calling and the sun set over a valley lake. Cue the teenage selfie orgy! About 20 kids climbed up this mountain to stand on the other side of the rock I was camped behind to take selfies. The crowd left just as quickly as they showed up, leaving me to a glorious night of camping.
Day three: jaw dropping views and mistakes
Day three started with an awesome sunrise breakfast on a mountain top. To the south a storm front was movin in. The lightning and rain started as I was halfway down the mountain, but I was prepared and already had my rain gear on. The rain let up occasionally and songbirds hopped out of hiding. Maggie and her human caught up to me while I was still on the decent. They were feeling ill from the other day and camped on a ridge. I continued down to the creek to get her some water before pushing on. Blood Mountain was in my sights, but I wasn’t allowed to camp without a bear canister until Neels Gap. I thought I could still make it despite the long miles yesterday and my wimpy promise to only do 8 miles per day. Blood Mountain in the rain was amazing. An eerie fog settled down on the ascent, making me think of the Cherokee and Creek people who fought each other, giving the mountain it’s name. My knee was starting to slow me down, but I pigheadedly walked on. If you ever do one hike in Georgia, do Blood. The payday 360 views at the top and historic stone shelter were amazing. Towhees and wildflowers were everywhere; I even spotted a dusky salamander! I didn’t get pictures because my phone was dead, but my sweet husband/support crew has ordered me a spare battery so there’ll be more eye candy for you all after Hiawassee. But for now, take my word for it; it was epic. The decent sadly was atrocious. My knees were screaming and the trail was a series of steep stone hops. I met another limping hiker and felt a little less wussy. Neels Gap was a rare glimpse of civilization; a big paved road and Mountain Crossings store/hostel. Looking up in the fog was a huge tree strung with hundreds of pairs of boots: blister ridden hiker discards. They were spectral in the fog; my tired brain connecting them with an old Southern shame. The store itself was an oasis! I arrived in time to catch a ride to Misty Mountain cabins. This place wasn’t in my guide, but it was amazing. The proprietor helped us with our bags, stopped at the convenience store for the thirsty hikers in the crowd, and took us to the nicest heated cabins with hot water, beds, and kitchens. I was pretty lame and stinky by this point so it was like Christmas to take a long hot shower!
Day Four: Paying for Mistakes
I did too many miles. I also forgot to hydrate. So when I threw up my Mac and Cheese dinner in the night I shouldn’t have been surprised. As I lay alternately in my bed and on the bathroom floor, I resolved to take a rest day. Thursday was a high of only 46 and snow mixed with rain; I was grateful to be inside. After all, tomorrow is another day!
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Oo, don’t get sick! 🙁 Though I’m also glad that kept you inside and out of the snow. I hope you’re feeling better!!
Th rest of the hike sounds amazing (painful knees, etc aside). You’re so badass!
Kick ass Katie Rose! Endeavor to persevere………………..
I love that you met a dog named Maggie….give her some love from me!
I think that it is a good sign! Glad to hear your taking time to take care of yourself!
Enjoy the Journey! I look forward to hearing more about your adventure!
You are rocking it! Way to go. Super proud of you. Can’t wait to hear about your days ahead. You got this.
Way overdue to be back on the trail so I am quite envious of you. Drink, eat , walk and drink some more in between that. Looking forward to the rest of your hike.