A Rough Start

Day 2: Feeling better

     My first day on trail was something short of ideal, but I choose to believe it’s like that for most people. I assume it’s not unusual to feel something like imposter syndrome when you attempt a feat as grand as a thru-hike. I just didn’t feel confident enough to take on this challenge once I finally faced it. With help from loved ones I was able to calm down a bit and get some sleep. Only to be woken up by more rain.

    Post rainy sleep, I did my usual morning routine: wake up, eat, pack up, and go. The day turned out nice as I began my hike.

     It took maybe two hours of hiking before I started to feel those doubts again. For some reason I could not escape it. It’s easy to get lost in your thoughts while hiking alone and I was lost. In thought that is, not on trail, mom.  

     As the day went on, I caught up to someone that had taken a short break. Luckily, I wasn’t ready for a break, and he was ready to continue hiking. We actually hiked with a similar pace so it was nice to be around someone to distract me from my thoughts with conversation. 

     We hiked for several hours before arriving at Woody Gap where we had decided to have lunch. Since we were making good time, we agreed to have a long lunch. Plus it helped his group and one other hiker to catch up. I took advantage of the sun that day and set up my gear so it could dry. 

     Once the “crew” arrived, we continued to our camp spot. A stealth spot just short of Jarrard Gap to avoid the bear can restriction.

     That night, we shared some stories and got to know each other a little better before calling it. It was nice to have a group to hike with, even if it was just four of us. I quickly learned that this hike is more than just walking, it’s about the people you meet (Put that in a greeting card).

Day 3: Feeling Good-ish

     Waking up and starting as a group was nice. Especially when the people around you are excited to hike. Because we pushed a little further the day before, we had just a few miles to summit Blood Mountain. That meant I was on track to hit Neel Gap within two and a half days (my original goal). I was beginning to understand the importance of small goals. 

     While I was approaching the summit of Blood Mountain, I remembered something my high school physics teacher would always say: “you can’t have one big thing without a bunch of little things”. That stuck with me through that climb and I made sure to write something similar in the notebook up top. I wrote: “…tiny miles make big miles”. I think about that quote almost daily now and it’s been helping me as I hike between the next big mile (town). Slowly but surely, I’m understanding the tricks to help make this hike easier for me.

     Soon enough our party arrived at Neel Gap. We each ordered a pizza almost instantly and walked around the outfitter while we waited for it to be ready. It’s amazing how much you can fit inside of a small store. Picture a gift shop sized store filled with gear, food, and gifts from ceiling to floor. That’s Neel Gap. 

     In the time we spent there, we resupplied, fattened up, and made some “deposits…” All feeling relieved in our own way, we set off to our stop for the night Low Gap. 

Day 4: Going into town

     The night of day three, we talked about taking a zero (day without hiking) in town on day four or the following day. We chose between Unicoi Gap and Dick’s Creek Gap. Since we pushed a little hard on the first few days, our bodies were feeling real sore and achy. We decided to go into town on day four from Unicoi Gap. 

     From the gap, we shuttled into Hiawassee. A great little trail town just south of the border between North Carolina and Georgia. I recommend visiting if you enjoy small towns, food, beer, and friendly people. 

     While making the decision to stay here we failed to check the weather which was both good and bad. On one hand, we could’ve continued one more day and then zeroed, getting about another 15 miles in, helping us avoid a double zero. On another hand, there was a huge storm approaching bringing hail, tornadoes, and thunderstorms, which meant we were safe from that.

     It was nice to rest our legs for an extra day, but we didn’t intend to double zero. Luckily, we were able to hit the ground running once we got back out. Things were starting to get a little easier for me. 

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