Goodbyes, First Mistakes, Trail Names, and Next Steps
The New Life of Walking
Since I left from the bottom of Amicalola Falls on Saturday morning I have learned many things. I have learned that Snickers are an absolute must have, exactly how much 4 cups is, and that you can take Tylenol and Motrin at the same time. A major thing that I have also learned is that I really cannot depend on my youth to get me through this trail. It at times takes more planning than “I’ll figure it out when I get there”.
This isn’t the first time that I have done the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail. In fact for some sections this is my fourth or fifth time. It’s nice to have home field advantage the first couple of weeks. After all it only took me a little over an hour to get from my house to Amicalola Falls State Park. Saying goodbye to the folks is never easy but this was a slightly different experience. This isn’t a trip to a destination but rather a journey to learn and grow. That idea has been vocalized a few times before this date which made those goodbyes much easier. Once on the trail I went right to work, putting down the 8.8 mile approach trail by 1:30 in the afternoon. Not bad timing. Even though there were about 40 people staying on top of Springer Mountain only 3 of us actually stayed in the shelter. I was wiped from the long uphill climb so I had dinner by 5:30 and was in my sleeping bag by 7! To help myself go to sleep I decided to listen to 30 minutes of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance… I made it maybe 10 minutes in before I fell asleep!
This was probably the easiest day I’ll have on the trail. I didn’t leave the shelter till almost 8:30 and made the meager 7 mile downhill walk to Hawk Mountain campsites where I got my trail name. I wanted to make a pretty big lunch so I busted out a freeze dried meal of chili mac that is supposed to feed a family of four. I figured I could probably take down 2 servings and without much thought I g0t to work making the meal by cutting the directions. Soon I had a whole liter of chili mac sitting in my 1.1 liter pot… mistake number one. Mistake two came when I decided to eat that whole liter. Mistake three happened when I hadn’t read the nutrition label to realize that I had just consumed 156% of my daily fiber in one meal! The privy at Hawk Mountain Campsites became my best friend for the next couple of hours. So for the next couple months Matthew Morelli doesn’t exist, but Chili Mac is here to keep y’all company.
I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep so I got an early start to the day and was out of the campsite by 6 a.m. It is always a pleasure getting to experience the sun rise and the woods come alive. I had decided to not do my original plan of making it to the next shelter 8 miles down the trail, but rather push it to Woody Gap to get my resupply early and try and beat the crowds into Neels Gap the following day. Good lord that just about did me in. In true first time thru hikers arrogance, I figured my young strong self could handle a 17-mile day just three days into the hike. While I was right that I could do it, I surely do not want to attempt that again! I essentially walked for 12 hours with a small nap around noon to break it up. I knew that some nasty rains were coming and I wanted to get my tent and everything else inside my waterproofed pack before the down pours that were starting around 7 am. I slept without problems that night.
I woke up at 4 this morning. No alarms went off, I just did it. I figured I would take the opportunity to get a jump on the rain and head for Neels Gap before everyone else tried to get there for the night to escape the torrential down pours that were sure to be coming soon. After I had everything packed away I decided to check my phone to see if I could get service for the weather report. In true meteorological fashion the hyped up storm was pushed back and was less intense. Well that’s just perfect. I decide to go ahead and push on to the gap anyway. The first hour or so was a bit intimidating since it was still dark and my headlamp did hardly anything to the extremely dense fog. At moments, I could hardly see my feet, let alone the trail blazes. But I made it over Blood Mountain and into Neels Gap by 9 am, a 7.5 mile hike, so I was more than pleased with the timing. What I was not pleased with was how hard I had pushed myself yesterday. I was sore, tired, and blistered from the 17- mile day. Not for a second do I think it was worth it. The silver lining though is that a friend of mine who lives in Blairsville came and picked me up. Free room, laundry, shower, and hot meals that didn’t consist of chili mac is music to my ears. Even though this is a little slice of paradise, I am already itching to get back onto the trail. Though don’t expect any 17- mile days out of me for a while again!
Miles to Katahdin – 2158.4
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