Section Tested in Georgia, Then on to a Thru-Hike

Feb. 10, 2018

The forecast called for a mix of snow, sleet, and thunderstorms. All weekend.

It was the last section I needed to finish my hike of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia: Unicoi Gap to Dicks Creek. 

The weather hadn’t cooperated the past three weeks, and the two sections I completed in the weekends before had similar forecasts: freezing temperatures and no views. 

As a section hiker, I had the luxury of returning home after each section. Which also meant I had the option not to leave my bed after reading the weather report. 

The mental struggle is real!

I overpowered my will to sleep and headed toward the mountains. “Just one more section. Just 17 miles,” I convinced myself. Ironically, in that moment, I had no idea I would make a habit of this for the next six months. 

Tray Mountain, Georgia 

If you zoom in on an elevation map of Tray Mountain, you’ll notice the ascent, peak, and descent resemble someone giving you their middle finger. This is an accurate description of the climb. 

At 4,398 feet elevation, Tray Mountain is the second highest peak on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and the seventh highest in the entire state. After Blood Mountain, this is one of the most memorable climbs in the Southeast. 

For me, this has been one of the most unforgettable climbs on the entire AT. Out of shape, carrying a heavy pack, wearing the wrong shoes, and new to hiking, I had no idea what I was doing. Adding snow, rain, and sleet to the situation, this very well could have ended my hike. 

I started from Unicoi Gap at 7:30 a.m.; the fog was so thick I couldn’t see my feet. The sleet and rain were full force when I reached the Tray Mountain Shelter for lunch; I decided to scarf down my tortilla wrap with peanut butter and jelly on the spur trail to the shelter and pushed on without a break. 

13.1 miles into the section and my new boots had about an inch of water in them. My feet had been sludging around in my boots for the past eight miles, and were completely soaked. I reached Deep Gap Shelter, where I planned to stay the night. I stared at the sign that read shelter. At this point, the rain wasn’t rolling off my gear; it was full on soaking every inch of my body and pack. I wiggled my toes to make sure I hadn’t lost my mind. I could feel the water squishing between my toes from the rain my socks and boots were retaining. 

I thought of my bed again. 

Before I could blink I found myself heading towards Dicks Creek instead of the shelter. I had never done 17 miles in one day before. I worried I wouldn’t be strong enough to make it before dark but my legs had their own agenda. My body carried me through the miles, but it’s my mind that pushed me all the way. 

I arrived at Dicks Creek nine hours after departing from Unicoi Gap. It was exhilarating. The weather couldn’t stop me; my gear didn’t stop me; my body made it happen; my mind wanted more. 

Twelve days later, I decided to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. I resumed my hike April 4 and the journey continues to this day. Follow along on Instagram @rainyhikes as I make my way to Mount Katahdin.

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Comments 5

  • RedBush : Aug 19th

    Well written!!! Hope you make it all the way…

  • SC : Aug 19th

    Go Ash! You inspire others with your attitude and fortitude. Not long now, you are almost there!

  • The Lorax : Aug 19th

    I remember you telling me this story way back in the Smoky’s when you called me your “Trad”! Keep pushing, you’re doing great! Be safe…isn’t this what your Trad is suppose to say to you?

  • Mike Dicello : Aug 20th

    Hey Ashley! Didn’t see that as your real first name.Lol I have been enjoying following your adventure as Mick 32 on Instagram. Keep walking on ⛰️?

  • Monarch : Aug 22nd

    You described the climb up Tray Mountain perfectly!


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