Georgia Peach My A$$

Now that I have your attention. Let me just say, the Georgia mountains are no joke.

Wow did that first week teach me a lot. But before I get into that, let me back up to the most gruesome 8.8 miles, the AT Approach Trail at Amicalola Falls.

Day 1

Lessons learned on my first day: 175 strenuous steps to the top of a waterfall are extremely hard, do not consume a protein shake before hiking said 175 strenuous steps, and according to the AT registration guy, hiking the AT is the Olympics of hiking.

Hm. Well shit. Here goes nothing, guess I’m about to be an Olympian. For real though, that initial mile to the top of Amicalola Falls is intense. But let me set the scene of my emotional state at the time. Just to be blunt, I’m a damn basket case. I’ve already cried once this morning, the registration guy about made me cry, and per normal I’ve started hiking later than I wanted and am now panicking that there won’t be room for my food in the bear box and that I’ll have to throw a bear bag the first night. Thank god for all my family helping calm my nerves and shout out to my stepdad who with no previous knowledge of the difficulty of the first mile agreed to hike it with me. He did great. I proceeded to run to the women’s restroom at the top of the falls and vomit in the trash can. Damn that protein shake but it’s ok, I’ve convinced myself that I cannot be the first thru-hiker to vomit in that last public restroom before setting out on a ~2000-mile trek.

Off I go, into the woods. Slowly, very slowly disappearing out of eyesight of my family. And then I just start grinning. And can’t stop grinning. I’m here, I’m doing this. The wind is blowing in my face and I swear it was such a surreal feeling. I’ve had to go through a lot to be here. But oddly enough, the universe works in mysterious and sometimes F’d up ways, and I guess I’m just gonna go with it.

Four miles later… I’m working on making a conscious effort to get out of my own head (one of my goals for this hike) and am really noticing my surroundings. It’s beautiful. I then realize I also have song lyrics stuck on repeat in my head. I swear the mind is a crazy thing. I haven’t heard this song in I don’t know how long but I’m singing, “Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie… saying this will be the day that I die.” Oh sigh.

I didn’t die I actually thrived. Well maybe not thrived but I did it. I made it to the top of Springer Mountain got my photo with the very first blaze, signed the registry, and then headed to the shelter. That is after falling on my ass in front of the sweetest Danish couple while trying to pick up my trekking poles while also wearing my backpack. (I have since then improved on this skill.) I will also add that I walked straight past the shelter on the trail. Added a whole extra mile by the time I realized what I had done and turned around, back up the mountain. I now know the blue blazes lead to shelters. I swear I cannot make this stuff up. Only me.

Overall the first day was fantastic! A lot of moments I will never forget. I was indeed the very last hiker to the shelter that night but I successfully set up camp, successfully made my dinner, and then slept my first night on the Appalachian Trail.

The First 50 miles…

Springer Mountain to Blue Mountain Shelter. Fifty miles and six days. It’s so hard for me to sum up even just six days on the trail. My second day on the trail was wonderful. The hike was easier than the first day and I started to meet some really cool people. The highlight of my second day was lunch. I took a small side trail to Long Creek Falls and enjoyed my peanut butter tortilla (10/10 recommend) with some new friends and beautiful scenery.

It is amazing the different types of people you meet out here. Just that day I met a 63-year-old woman who told me she had wanted to hike the AT since she was 16 and that the time had finally come. She said, and I quote, “I sold it all. I have a car and a cat and I’m as free as a bird.” I then met a 71-year-old man who was thru-hiking for his FIFTH time. I ask him what the secret was and he said, “I just love being out here.” It’s been so inspiring meeting people from all walks of life all out here walking together. There is no competition, we’re just walking and enjoying each other’s company.

Day three…

brought tons of new experiences. I hiked my first 10-mile day, I learned the meaning of “the trail provides,” and I threw my first bear bag while on trail.

I feel like a child again in this environment. Everything is new, full of wonder, and so so beautiful. I’m getting to witness winter slowly turning into spring. And even with this only being the third day I already can’t help but think about how this is the happiest I’ve ever felt. The woods can bring such a feeling of contentment.

Day four was an odd day.

It started out normal. I had a 10-mile day planned and I was up at seven a.m. ready to go! (Actually, me being up at seven a.m., ready to go isn’t normal at all and should have been my first sign that it would be an odd day.) So here I am ready to go and then we all get a weather notification from the ATC. There’s a severe weather alert with 60mph winds. Well shit. This newb ain’t trying to be squished by a tree on day four. So my three new hiking buddies and I hike the 3.6 miles to Woody Gap where we see tons of other hikers getting off trail for the storm and we decide to do the same. My first nero. Which I know now is a day that is pretty close to hiking zero miles but you still hiked a little. ; )

Looking back I would have probably stayed on trail during the storm but at the time things were still extremely new. On the plus side, I got to explore the quaint little town of Dahlonega and take a shower.

Day five was full of highs.

I hiked in pitch dark in extremely heavy fog, I sat on top of the highest peak in Georgia; Blood Mtn, and I reached my first resupply in Neel’s Gap. And boy was that resupply good! Filled up on frozen pizza and cold beer and made some more hiking friends.

Day six was full of lows…

…and was the first time I cried while on the trail. It was so extremely cold and windy that I had a hard time sleeping. Just tossing and turning, crinkling away on my sleeping pad. When I decided to crawl out of the burrito that was my sleeping bag I noticed that everyone in my group was either packing up to leave or were already gone. Cue the stress and the tears. (If you’re following along on my journey, I promise this won’t be the last time I cry. Ya girl got big emotions.) But I was able to get through it.

A quick pep talk where I reminded myself that this was why I was out here, to do this alone. That this is MY journey. It’s crazy what the state of your mind can do to your physical performance. I read in some book that thoughts are the most effective weapon in the human arsenal and never have I been able to see that more clearly. Each day on the trail will not be fun I know that, but whatever each day brings I feel ready for it.

Day seven and the first milestone of 50 miles!

Everything about this past week has been amazing and oh so rewarding. The highs, the lows, I accept and welcome them all. Hiking these mountains can really give you perspective.

So maybe I should take back my title statement of “Georgia Peach My A$$” because you Georgia, you truly have been a peach and I look forward to the next 30ish more miles of walking through your mountains. In the words of my new friend RoadRunner, “Keep Er Movin.” North Carolina, here I come!

-A

Hiker#1989

Also, side note: this post is in much more depth than future posts likely will be. I wanted to truly capture the first week on trail but am seeing how difficult it can be to find reliable Wi-Fi while in the backwoods. First world probs I know.

And if you have made it this far reading this post then bless you. Hopefully, I will have stronger Wi-Fi next time to upload photos or figure out a different solution as far as adding photos to my posts while on the trail. This has all been a huge learning curve. Bear with me.
(hey bear) ; )

 

 

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Comments 37

  • Olivia : Apr 22nd

    Oh WOW!! I feel like I’ve walked with you. I love hearing the details of your day. I admire you so much for your courage and determination.
    I love that you sing as you hike. That just makes me happy.
    Although I’m still nervous I have a wonderful peaceful feeling that you are living your dream. You are amazing darling. I love you. Mama💕

    Reply
  • David : Apr 22nd

    Sounds like a magical journey! Not always easy, but what major triumph is easy? So proud of you!

    Reply
  • Betty : Apr 22nd

    I am so happy you are happy! Love following you and seeing pictures of your wonderful adventures. I can only imagine how difficult and rewarding it is. Keep it up! You’re doing great!

    Reply
  • Jeff Moser : Apr 22nd

    We are all rooting for you and praying for you to get everything you need from this experience. Love ya!

    Reply
  • Mark Hayes : Apr 22nd

    5 yrs ago I hiked 50 mi on the AT around Roanoke, VA with a former boss who is hiking the entire AT in segments. He will start the last 100 mi wilderness to finish in Maine this fall. I enjoyed my experience and have done a couple of hikes in Estes Park, CO and the North Shore of MN. I have a desire to start at the beginning of the AT (northbound) and hike to the NC border. I’m not really wired to be on the trail for more than a couple of weeks – but really enjoy reading about true Thru Hikers experiences.

    Reply
  • David626 : Apr 22nd

    Blood Mt is the highest mountain on the AT in Georgia, the sixth largest mountain in GA…

    Reply
    • Do better : Apr 24th

      I clicked for the name and was disappointed I’m everything after. I’m blocking your site you are so bad. I hope you feel shame.

      Reply
  • Jhony : Apr 22nd

    “Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie” Greatest pick for a trail song ever. Never in a million years would I have come up w/ that . Now I have to add to my iTunes.
    Just started your post on the right foot and making this old guy want to read the rest.
    And so glad I did. Great ass posting. And so well written. I hope you don’t mind the comparison but you are right up there with Carrot Quinn.
    Can’t wait for you next installment, here and on IG.
    THANK YOU SO VERY Much

    Reply
  • Damian Ortiz : Apr 23rd

    Hiking is the greatest peace I’ve ever felt. The whole world disappears and your mind and body only have one single goal… getting to that peak, waterfall, or River. It’s literally changed my life over the last 3 years. Great blog! Sending you encouragement and positive energy as you continue your journey. You’re a BOSS!

    Reply
  • Cindy C. : Apr 23rd

    Soul Sista!
    I feel like I know you from your first post and relate more than you know- My real sister and I just hiked our first steps on the AT last month, from Newfound Gap to Charlie’s Bunion outside Gatlinburg, TN. We did it with my dad’s hiking stick- As a paramedic, you would’ve loved my dad. I’m 56- When I was little, he WAS the ambulance service for our community and started the EMS for the area. He was the local rescue diver- and the coroner and mortician 🤣 Odd combination, I know! But what a hero- Every little girl should have a dad like mine 🙂
    He’s the one that started my passion for the AT and got me dreaming of it young…. But life… We lost him in Sept. and now I dream of doing a thru-hike with his stick to help heal my heart and soul from LIFE. No peace like those mountains for me-
    You’re the first they hiker I’ve followed and I look forward to your posts! I’m praying for your safety and healing- Namaste! ❤️ Cindy

    Reply
  • Dina Carr : Apr 23rd

    When things get you down, remember Grandma Gatewood! Look her up. Best wishes for an incredible journey. When you get to the Presidentials in NH and the 100mile wilderness in Maine you will know “the stuff” you are made of. If you go into Lincoln NH for a break, stop in the Mountain Wanderer Book shop and meet Steven Smith. Owner and co-author of the Four Thousand Footers of the White Mountains. My go to for hiking the bigs of NH. Also if you spy a book about Joe Dodge, the mayor of Porky Gulch, get it. Fascinating. He was the guy, who along with young guys from Dartmouth Outing Club, built and managed NH’s famous AMC hut system. Wait til you see those huts! Mountain gold! Peace and happy trails, Mama D

    Reply
  • Mark McGouirk : Apr 23rd

    Blood Mtn is not the highest peak in Georgia, Brasstown Bald is. Blood Mountain is the 6th highest peak in Georgia. Congratulations on your achievement otherwise.

    Reply
  • Jim Miller : Apr 23rd

    Not even sure how to prepare for that hike

    Reply
  • Jen : Apr 23rd

    I stumbled upon this blog randomly and read the entire thing, loved it. I would love to hike the Appalachian Trail and it is nice to live vicariously through you. Keep on trekkin!!

    Reply
    • Detox : Apr 23rd

      Just do it… it’ll change your life… Detox NOBO21

      Reply
  • Arnold “Bloodhound” Guzman : Apr 24th

    I know it seems rough right now but don’t worry: I heard a rumor that Virginia is flat!

    Reply
  • W. A. Whitmire : Apr 24th

    Great post! Hope to keep up with you (vicariously) on the trail. Many years ago, when I could possibly endure the hike, a buddy and I were going to hike just the approach trail to Springer. What a laugh! I had a quart of whole milk in my pack. (We were just doing an overnighter). It was February. I pulled a groin muscle and had to abort. That same week a Boy Scout troop lost its leader to the cold elements. Hiking this is not for the faint of heart. Blessings!

    Reply
  • Dave : Apr 24th

    Your a true inspiration. I recently lost the use of my legs to a point, but I’m gonna try this on crutches. Not sure if anybody has tried that before, but hey your story give me the drive to try. If I never try them I’ll never know. Besides it’s the adventure that counts. I love reading stories like yours. Thank you for the inspiration.

    Reply
  • Julian (NC) : Apr 24th

    You’re amazing, what a story!!! Never give up, your goal statements make it clear. 🤘

    Reply
    • Billie Shelton : May 18th

      I admire anyone who hikes the AT!

      Reply
  • Robert L : Apr 25th

    I have loved everything you have written so far. I am 69 years young and will be starting my hike next March in Ga. I have been planning for three years but Covid got in the way two years ago. Now I am training and purchasing all the gear needed to take this wonderful trip. Last year I followed a guy who wrote very little in detail and I love how you are sharing the details of your journey. Keep it up. I will be looking for each update.

    Reply
  • Dave : Apr 25th

    Hi Ashley, I am so Glas I stumbled upon your blog. I’m looking forward to following along with you.

    Reply
  • Brent : Apr 26th

    I hope your hanging in there. Alabama, here. Be careful.

    Reply
    • John cavallo : Apr 26th

      Wait until you hit mt mouselache that’s not for a bit though best of luck on your journey I did half the trail new Hampshire \vermont side is beautiful but challenging be safe!

      Reply
  • John cavallo : Apr 26th

    Wait until you hit mt mouselache that’s not for a bit though best of luck on your journey I did half the trail new Hampshire \vermont side is beautiful but challenging be safe!

    Reply
  • Postictal : Apr 26th

    Are you really a Paramedic? In 35 years I’ve not met one yet who wouldn’t walk to bedroom but would sleep 14 hours in a recliner. Good luck and push on.

    Reply
  • Luther D : Apr 26th

    I just came across your blog, Title got me. I enjoyed the Read. My Older Brother had always wanted to hike it.(Sadly he passed away in 2020) As for Me not so much,js. Nevertheless, I’ll follow your blogs. Be Safe and Remember “The World Belongs to the Brave”
    Follow your Gut. And be Safe. Peace 🙏💪💙😎
    Luther D

    Reply
  • Daniel : Apr 26th

    For those who believe in the Lord shall soar on the wings of Heavenly creatures! Fly peach, just fly…

    Reply
  • Ray Stone : Apr 26th

    I think you have a future in writing your detailed and well written I liked it I just came across comfortable to read and comprehend and i think you have a knack for talking to people and putting it to paperthx n admirer….Ray…

    Reply
  • Kt : Apr 26th

    Ew

    Reply
  • Tyler McGuire : Apr 26th

    Heck yeah! GO ASHLEY! All I can say is WOW! I knew when I saw the article in my Google feed with the picture I was like, “No Shit! I know that girl!” Im not on social media so I can’t believe I’m even seeing this, just crazy. So I clicked on it to verify it was you and now I have ready the entire thing, just so intriguing and cool. This is and YOU are awesome. And this is SO YOU. Really proud and happy for you taking this huge leap and I know you can do this, no doubt in my mind. Will be praying for you and looking forward to reading more stories about your trip. You are living it! (and I’m a little jealous ; )

    Reply
  • Jan : Apr 26th

    As a 72 year old former bartender, now presently a yoga instructor, am thrilled to find you on your trek and believe in you as you search for answers. You will certainly find them whether you’re on the trail or not but I’m so glad you are. Sending you peace and love across the miles. Namaste, keep it real.

    Reply
  • Tish : Apr 26th

    I love your journey! I want to go!!
    Keep on keeping on! You are doing great!!!

    Reply
    • Bill : Apr 27th

      Keep me posted. I’ve wanted to do the Trail also but circumstances have kept me doing so. If you do a straight through; you will learn things about yourself that you would not have believed before.
      One thing is why did you decide to do the Trail? Don’t be afraid to cry let it go whenever— aside benefit of crying is that you won’t surprising bears and hopefully they will move on rather than meet up with you.
      If you should meet a bear; DO NOT RUN — that will invite an attack; DO NOT SHOW FEAR; DO MAKE YOURSELF LOOK HUGE; STAND YOUR GROUND IF YOU CAN; DO NOT APPEAR to be an aggressor— that can help by having Honey on you as a friendly defense to distract the Bear. DO NOT FEED FRIENDLY BEARS but remember they are wild creatures and can turn on you for no apparent reason. Aside from Bears; Noise can be very dangerous creatures — maybe more so than bears. Stay as far as you can from Mama Bear and kids. Try to walk in the middle of the trail to avoid getting bitten by a rattler or allied snake and listen for then but watch your step because they do not always rattle. You are less likely to be bitten on a cold day than a warm one. This time of the year; they will be coming out to warm up but may hide along the trail for you in brush and under bushes or logs. Put your cell phone away because it can cause you to get bitten but keep it charged. If you focus sheerly on getting from one point to another you will be missing many if the Glories of the trail. Take in the plants ferns and orchids you will meet up with as well as animals. Yes, you’ll have some tough times ahead to get through as in Pennsylvania over very rough boulders where Rattlers have been known to shelter. Reward yourself for making it through such rough spots. Georgia,South and North Carolina are some of the toughest all up and downs but you will be rewarded in Virginia for getting through it. In my many days of hiking in the Carolinas; while there are dangers from animals — the most dangerous I’ve come into are other humans, very sorry to say. Don’t give up because the trail will be making you into a different person and probably better person when you’ve finished than you were before. That’s why the changes the trail forced you to go through are difficult

      Reply
  • Steve : Apr 27th

    Ashley,
    I’m glad I found your trek and will be following you as you experience this hike. I’m a paramedic too and have always wanted to through hike the AT but have not yet done so. I’ve done weekenders on the Pennsylvania section, but that’s it. My son lives in Wilmington, NC also, just finished 4 years in the army and is now in school to be a cardiac ultrasonographer and working EMS while he’s on school. I had a medical director years ago that did exactly what you are doing now and it was so much fun to follow along with his posts on the adventure. So with these similarities I kinda felt a connection and I kinda needed your journey right now. Last month I was diagnosed with colon cancer so I’m kinda on a hike of my own, a journey on the trail of treatment. I’m looking forward to reading your posts and how you are doing and all the little things that make this hike so amazing. Then, once I’m all better, I’m going to get out there myself! Just keep putting one foot in front of another and before you know it you’ll be in Maine and this experience of a lifetime will be massive bank of wonderful memories. Press on!!
    Steve

    Reply
  • John pogen : Apr 30th

    Great ! My friend is Bonzo . I can’t wait til I get to do the trail some day .

    Reply
  • Tracy Effler : May 12th

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY 🎂 Ashley I hope you have an amazing day today.
    Love reading about your journey and the pictures are breath taking. ❤️

    Reply

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