My First Overnight Hike, Featuring The Staircase From Hell
Where: Amicalola Falls AT Approach Trail
When: Jan. 14, 2018, to Jan. 15, 2018
Why: Testing pack, cold weather gear and timing
What: Highlights, crappy stuff, gear, and solutions
The weather was very on point, clear skies with lots of sun. Every creek, steam, sprinkle of water sparkled along the trail. The falls were simply beautiful. I did not spend as much time on the way up admiring the falls because I had a goal in mind and not that much time to get there. I saw quite a bit of wildlife, mostly birds. There was this one super-tiny bird that perched on a branch above me when I stopped to collect water on the way down on Monday. My other favorite wildlife encounter was two stunning blue birds that chased each other through the air. However, the greatest nature highlight was the sunset I got to see once I got to camp. The colors were so bright and beautiful. I wish I had taken a picture but I was too cold, lol.
People who go for walks in the woods are some of the nicest people. Everyone I met on the trail were contagiously merry. Every interaction I had lifted my spirits and gave me an added little boost of energy.
I was very proud of myself for getting my tent set up. For figuring out how to stay warm in my sleeping bag. And for the fact that I didn’t get eaten by animals.
I was over-the-moon happy when I was able to make coffee in the morning. And I learned I’m mentally tough enough to hack this. I can tune out everything else and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.
I started pretty late and did not make it to Springer Mountain on this run (I will be doing this trail again). If I was where I think I was then I was only a little over two miles from Springer. I did the fucking stairs and kicked myself when I saw the trail I could have taken instead. There were 604 damn steps in total!
My calves were killing me and my body refused to go past the place I ended up camping at. There was zero water where I camped. I tried hiking farther up with just my water filter stuff and my map and still couldn’t find any. I was freaking out a little bit over that. It was probably about 5:30 p.m. when I finally started setting up my tent and stuff. The temperature dropped real quick when the sun started to set.
My campsite was on a hillside. I’m pretty sure every single class I have taken about hiking has at some point mentioned not doing this. But I was so cold and so tired and just could not keep hiking with my pack. Which I later learned was 39 pounds. So I’m on the hillside and the ground is also hard and frozen. I could not get the stakes in the ground but thankfully my tent did have a feature where I could buckle the tent to the footprint. So even though the tent did keep trying to blow over, nothing just up and blew away. I took any and every silver lining I could think of.
Getting Through The Night
As I have already mentioned, it was very cold. It was 16 F but 12 F real feel. Needless to say, I did not want to get out of my sleeping bag unless absolutely necessary and I was not getting out of the tent. Well, nature came a calling in the middle of the night. I tried ignoring it but my bladder was not having it. As I was laying there trying to mentally prepare myself for the cold, I remembered I had packed a Ziploc bag to pack out my toilet paper. And so the thought process went, “I’ve peed in cups before on road trips when my dad refused to stop the car. I could totally pee in a Ziploc bag.” So that’s what I did. I got in a corner of my tent and peed into the bag. I got most of it in there and the little that got on the floor, I mopped up with a handkerchief. That was equally my least and most favorite part of my night.
The rest of the night went by with a few other hiccups but nothing major. The tent kept trying to blow over so I had to sleep with one arm outside my bag to hold it down. I couldn’t just sleep on the side coming up because I was on a hill and would just slide back down. I roused about every hour through the night.
I had left my stove outside, uncleaned, because I was trying to conserve water, and every little sound I heard scared me. I thought for sure there were animals out there because of the food smell. But nothing ate me and my stove was still there in the morning so it was all good.
- Pack: The hip straps bruised my hips. On Monday when I went to hike back down, I had to adjust it so more weight was carried on my shoulders than was comfortable.
- Shoes: I have boots and the downhill on Monday had my toes mashing the front of the boot really bad. I had to start doing this weird waddle to alleviate some of the pain.
- Water filter: I have the platypus gravity-filtration system and the filter part froze during the night. I had only two liters of water for my entire up and down hike.
- Fire starter equipment: The weather-proof matches would not light. The spark force fire starter also did not work. Thankfully, my lighter did work.
- All other gear: My sleeping bag, liner and pad, stove, clothing layers, and trekking poles all worked splendidly.
Solutions And Improvements
- Definitely have to start my hikes earlier than 12:30 p.m.
- Need to make camp by 4:30 to 5 p.m.
- Camp on flat surface with soft ground.
- Get a new pack with better cushions on hip belt.
- Look up different ways to tie shoelaces or get new shoes.
- Get Sawyer filter system. Plus, get a backup water filter system (chemical).
- Get a headlamp.
Please, please, please, if you are planning a thru-hike, go on a test overnight hike and test all your equipment. I will be thru-hiking with my boyfriend so a lot of my struggles will be lessened when he’s with me. But I feel so good about knowing that I can set up and take down everything myself. I feel good about being able to mentally cheer myself on and problem solve on the fly. We have way more prep worked out for our hike than I did for this test hike. Even though I ran into quite a bit of difficulties on this hike, I feel even more excited and ready for this adventure. Till next time
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