GA-ME On: Days One to 11
Hi, everybody. Today is May 2, meaning it is the 11th day of my journey. So much good has already happened, and I absolutely love this lifestyle and the people I’ve met along the way. I already have stories to tell, accomplishments to be proud of, and friends to keep laughing with. I’ve been keeping a personal daily journal to keep track of my adventures in detail, but here I hope to give people interested in following me the basic rundown of what’s happened so far.
Day One: Sunday, April 22 (11.8 Miles)
My trip began at 8:45 a.m. at the Amicalola Falls Visitor Center with an hour-long intro class from former thru-hiker and ridge runner Master Splinter. My cousin Nathan and I hiked the 8.8-mile approach trail to the top of Springer Mountain on what became a rainy, cold day. My Uncle John met us at the top and hiked us back down to his car where I got to warm up for a bit before finishing the rest of my 2.8 miles to get to my stop for the night, Stover Creek Shelter. I chatted with a couple of guys at the shelter but didn’t see many people on the trail after about 2. To date, this was the only shelter I was able to get a spot in.
Day Two: Monday, April 23 (12.9 Miles)
Got up and moving in more cold rain. I met a few more people throughout the day and met a guy who became one of my best friends by the end of the day, a 45-year-old proud father we ended up naming Uncle Wow. Pretty cold, wet day for the most part, and I was pretty bummed to find the shelter totally packed with people when I got there a little after 3. So I set out to setting up my tent in the light drizzle on a mud puddle (one of the few tent spots even left) and set myself up for what would be a very wet night. I learned the hard way how to not set up my tent.
Day Three: Tuesday, April 24 (16 Miles)
Rain held out until just after I started hiking around 8:45, meaning I at least got to pack up without rain, though most of my stuff had gotten pretty wet anyway. Uncle Wow and I stuck together for most of the day, but as we started climbing Blood Mountain (Georgia’s tallest point on the AT) I sped on ahead. The two of us and a few other guys had decided we were all going to try to get spots at the hostel at Neel Gap, so if one of us got there first we should check to see how much room is left and grab a cabin to split four ways if the hostel was full. I ended up booking it to get there by 4:40 only to find out that everything around there closed at 5. So I decided to run (literally) over to Blood Mountain Cabins to rent one for the night for the other guys and myself. I then went back to Mountain Crossings (the store and hostel that the trail comes out at) to direct the guys in the right direction. They were all extremely grateful and more than repaid me for their shares at the cabin. Solid night with solid guys.
Day Four: Wednesday, April 25 (0 Miles)
Even though I only wanted to take a half day here, fate had other plans. I wanted to spend a half day here, resupply, grab a hot meal, and hit about six miles to the nearest shelter. One of our guys went on ahead early in the day, Uncle Wow was paying for another night so he could take a zero, and our fourth guy was planning on doing whatever I did. After we’d all had our time at Mountain Crossings and were ready for pizza (about 2 p.m.), the power in the area went out. We decided to wait it out until about 4:30 and then hit the trail if the power hadn’t come on yet. Right at 4:18 the power came on, we got our pizza, and I made a new plan. I told the other guys I’d be happy to stay another night if we booked it the next day to make up for lost miles, and sure enough, they were up for it.
Day Five: Thursday, April 26 (18.8 Miles)
The three of us got moving around 7:30 and I quickly lost the other two. By this point I’d gotten used to a pretty quick pace, due entirely to the light weight of my pack. I’ve been right around 20 loaded up with food and the average pack is probably 35 to 40 pounds. I waited at a few spots for the guys to catch up before moving on, and I made it to camp around 4:30 to the most packed shelter I’d seen yet. There were probably about eight tents already up in the vicinity so I joined in. My last 7.3 miles of the day were my fastest yet as it had begun raining again and was the coldest yet so I had to hike fast to stay warm. Fortunately, the rain subsided for the extent of time between when I arrived to set up my tent and when I hung my bear bag before getting into my tent. I learned my lesson the first time and did much better in my tent setup this time around. I also bought a piece of Tyvek to use as a ground sheet and it did its job quite well.
Day Six: Friday, April 27 (12.7 Miles)
I slept in this day since our distance wasn’t too far and my stuff needed to dry out a bit anyway. The rain stopped in the middle of the night so we all had the pleasure of waking up to sunshine. Uncle Wow and Admirable (no, not Admiral) Awesome made it in the night before just as I was getting in my tent, so my two buds were there and ready to move on out. They had come up with my trail name the day before, so from then on I’ve been known only as Professor. I went on ahead and found a nice shelter for lunch where I ended up waiting about two hours for my crew to catch up, but in the meantime I met a couple of guys from New York who would become part of our crew and who I would later give the trail names Moxie and Odysseus. We all met up at a campsite later that night and made plans to all head into town together the next day.
Day Seven: Saturday, April 28 (10.9 Miles)
Uncle John pulled through big time for us. We met him about six miles into our day so that he could drive us into Hiawassee for a resupply, but he also ended up buying lunch for all six of us at a buffet. We got our food and then hit the trail again after a few extremely fulfilling hours in town, though Admirable Awesome decided to stick behind at the hostel and catch up with us a few days down the road. We knocked out our last fourish miles to find, yet again, the most packed shelter yet. There were close to 20 tents set up around it, as it was clearly a popular weekend destination for many folks. Our crew of four set up pretty close together and called it a night.
Day Eight: Sunday, April 29 (19.8 Miles)
I set out with Odysseus and Moxie to knock out about 20 miles to make it closer to town (Franklin). I’d set up a date for myself the next day, so I needed to crank out the miles. We said goodbye to Uncle Wow, hoping he’d be able to catch back up to us after our upcoming rest day. We talked almost nonstop all day, which really made the miles fly, and we got to the shelter before we knew it. There were only a couple of guys here, but we decided we really liked our tent setups and filled up a little gap nearby to hang out. I gave Moxie his trail name at the end of the day and then we hit our tents for our coldest night yet.
Day Nine: Monday, April 30 (15.9 Miles)
The day began by giving Odysseus his trail name to kick off his birthday. From then on out, it was a straightforward hiking day, though we met one of the most interesting characters to date at our lunch spot, Paw. A long-haired shirtless man in his 30s or 40s, everything that came out of his mouth was fascinating. The first thing he told us was how much he loved his dog. He loved her so much, in fact, that after she died he had her cremated and put her ashes into silicon pouches that he then inserted into his chest in the shape of, yes, a dog’s paw. After actually seeing that, we were quick to accept the other somewhat off-the-wall statements he laid out, such as the proclamation that his sister once dated Donald Trump. Who knows, man. Our day ended at Winding Stair Gap, roughly mile 109 not including the approach trail. Moxie and Odysseus were picked up by a guy named Zen and taken into town, but not before Zen brought the three of us ice-cold beers in the parking lot. I stuck around sipping my beer waiting for my ride into town and date for the weekend to arrive. She did, and it was awesome.
Day Ten: Tuesday, May 1 (0 Miles)
I spent my day relaxing, resupplying, doing laundry, and hanging out with my crew in town at the brewery. Uncle Wow bought beers for all of us and kept the tab running, so we all gratefully drank up. A gal named Big Money joined in the festivities and will probably join the crew, though we unfortunately lost Uncle Wow as he has to head home to be with his son, who is missing him too terribly. We worked on our game plan and decided to do a short day the next day so we could all stick together with our varying start times.
Day 11: Wednesday, May 2 (10.9 miles)
Odysseus and I got started bright and early and made it to the trail by 9. We cranked out our miles and got to the shelter comfortably around 1:30, where we’ve been hanging out for the afternoon. Hopefully, the rest of our crew will make it out soon and we’ll be able to make a game plan for the next few days (varying sobrieties ended up preventing that yesterday).
–Water: I’s been plentiful and easy to come by.
–Friends: They’ve been easy to make and mostly super friendly.
–Pains: My left knee has actually been giving me a good bit of trouble the last few days even though I’ve never had knee problems before. I bought a brace when Uncle John took us into town the other day but it still hurts from time to time.
–Gear: I’ve been extremely delighted by my pack setup. I have everything I need and it is definitely super light. I love it.
–Money: I’ve done pretty well with my funds so far, even staying in town a few days. I’ve been averaging about $9 to $12 a day for food.
–Weight: I’ve probably lost at least five to eight pounds so far, even eating comfortably as much as I want. Even now I can tell that I’m on average even hungrier than I normally am and can eat even more without getting full.
–Feelings: I love thru-hiking and am as happy as I’ve ever been in my life. This trip is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. I love the schedule, I love the people, I love the challenge, and I love being outside.
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