Hiker life, Trail name, & smiles for miles.

Howdy! 

(Hold tight, this update is coming from my phone) 

I can’t even begin to explain how grand life is out here. I’m one day shy of a week on the trail and I have to say it’s been one of the best thus far. 
How could it not be when the sky goes to sleep this pretty? 

  

So much has happened since I began the trail. 

I’ll start off saying that The Appalachain Trail is tougher than I initially thought it was going to be. Nothing could have prepared me for this adventure. 

On March 14th my lovely sister and I tackled the approach trail. It’s roughly 8.8 miles………..although, it doesn’t technically count as the “AT”, I didn’t want to miss anything. Everyone that I talk to on the trail agrees that it has been one of the toughest hikes. 

I was dropped off in the  early afternoon of the 15th at the bottom of Springer Mountain and off I went. Well actually, my directionally challenged self got started the wrong way. I hiked a mile in the wrong direction, which was ALL up hill. Not exactly how I wanted the day to begin……….but I managed to kick into gear and arrived at shelter 8 miles later. Quite a few people were congagrated at the picnic table, and many others had made that place home for the night. I filtered water, ate some food, chatted with other thru hikers, and was in my hammock by 9 pm. I rocked to sleep gazing at the sky, while letting the feeling of satisfaction fully sink in. 
The next day I woke up feeling great and ready to accomplish the day. My hike to the next shelter was beautiful, I stopped many times just to admire God’s handy work. The 8ish miles didn’t quite seem long enough, so I put my pack back on and had plans to hike 3 more miles to Ramrock Mountain. A mile later, I stumbled upon my first “trail magic.”
For anyone that doesn’t know what trail magic is, it can be defined as- an unexpected act of kindness, is a quintessential part of the Appalachian Trail experience for many long-distance hikers.

  
They asked me right away if I wanted a beer (YES) and I knew they were put in my path for a reason. I also immediately decided I wasn’t going on any further that day. This group of Trail Angels come out annually to throw a four day St. Patrick’s Day bash. The majority of them are past thru-hikers, it was inspiring to hear all their stories and advice they had for me. They fed me as much beer and hot dogs as I wanted, it really was the perfect second evening. A couple thru-hikers I met earlier in the day caught up to me and they were easily convinced to stay as well. We became insta-friends and agreed to hike the next day together. That night I was given my trail name. Everyone, I am Shotgun. I won’t go into all the details about how it came about, I’ll just sum it up to my ability to drink a beer rather quickly. Due to some unfortunate events, my down sleeping bag got wet that night……….I woke up freezing, so I  crawled into a tent next to me for the remainder of the night.

 The next morning, I knew I needed to get to a dryer to get my bag back to normal. I convinced Ray,Tanner, and Tyler to push 14 miles to Blood Mountain Cabins(where they do your laundry for you). Talk about a hard 8 hours of solid hiking; Blood Mountain is the highest point in Georgia with the elevation reaching 4,457 feet. Here’s a selfie with the hiking crew for the day. 

 
We reached the cabins ready for a shower, food, and a comfy bed to rest our very tired bodies. Blood Mountain Cabins are so awesome, I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a cabin getaway, the hospitality there is extremely impeccable. 
Sore is the only word to describe how I felt the following morning. We managed to hike about 4 miles before deciding that was enough for the day. Home was made on the side of a mountain and we basked in the sunshine for the remainder of the day.  

 
Due to a rainy forecast, we rose before the sun, hiked to Low Gap Shelter about 9 miles further(where we stayed for the night). The sky only sprinkled on us a few times that afternoon, but cold temps were rumored for the next 48 hours. Ray, Tanner, and I were off early with hopes to get spots in the shelter for the frigid night ahead. We were the first to arrive and got a fire roaring before the rest of the hikers began pouring in. Here’s the group that stayed, clearly all trying to stay warm.  

 
Snow? What is that? Winter was so mild in Kansas City I almost forgot what those pesky little flakes are. Don’t worry, my memory was refreshed when I woke up to use the restroom midnight and a thin layer of snow had accumulated on the ground. Our initial plan was to push on until Tuesday before resupplying, but gosh darn a warm shower sounded fantastic. I gathered a group of 5, myself included, to hike a couple miles to Unicoi Gap and hitch into Hiawasse, GA for a luxurious hotel stay at their local Budget Inn. All of us are currently in a hotel room for a whopping $11/a piece. Now that I’m showered, full, in clean clothes, and enjoying a couple beers……..I can’t help but realize how lucky I am to be able to do something like this. Our official first resupply. 

 

All in all, I’m doing excellent out here. I know I’ll face many challenges ahead, however I feel excited about getting back to the trail tomorrow. I know my nails will have more dirt than I want, I’ll smell worse than a weeks worth of dirty gym clothes again, and the mountains will make my butt cheeks scream, but really it’s all worth it. 

I will be crossing my first state line into North Carolina this week, as well as celebrating my day of birth on the trail. So look out for my next post, it’ll be an exciting one. 

Until next time

 -Shotgun

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Comments 3

  • Avatar
    Cathy Robson : Mar 23rd

    Have a wonderful adventure cousin! I will hike Virginia in June! Safe travels!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Jonathan : Mar 24th

    Beautiful pictures and story!!! Miss you!!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Randy Hellbusch : Mar 24th

    I was visiting with your Dad as we enjoyed a beer or two at the Nebraska Rural Water Assn. annual conference in Kearney. He told me about your adventure and how to sign up for the blogs. Sounds like an amazing adventure.

    Reply

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