My First 10 Days on the AT
Hey guys! It’s been a very busy past few days for me and I’m finally taking a day off the trail to rest up and take some time to write about how my trip has been going! This is my first time blogging from my phone so it probably won’t be as detailed and nicely laid out like my previous posts but I’ll do my best!
Ps. It’s actually quite hard to find time to blog each night so in the future it really will most likely be around 10 days between posts.
Wednesday afternoon I packed my backpack for the final time and headed off with my mom and dog to the train station in Philadelphia. Grabbed an ice cream cone from DQ on the way because it was free icecream day and five minutes into the drive my dog lunged for the cone and spilled it all over my jacket. Covered in icecream and soon in dead still traffic the trip wasn’t starting off too great.
Eventually the traffic cleared and I said my goodbyes and found a seat and waited for about an hour before my train arrived. The train ride wasn’t so bad but I did have someone fall asleep on my shoulder for a good 3 hours at one point. I did manage to get some sleep though, and I also met 3 other Appalachian Trail thru-hiker’s on my train! The train ended up running behind schedule and we arrived in Gainesville Georgia around 8am, a total of 16 1/2 hours.
Got picked up by the shuttle provided by the Hiker Hostel I was staying at and we drove back to the hostel. The hostel was really awesome! Super clean and big facility with a nice 1/2 mile trail through the woods surrounding the property. In total there was around 30 hikers staying at the place and people from all over the world( US, Canada, Germany, Venezuela, Korea,etc.). Spent the day talking gear and swapping stories with my fellow bunk mates. Looking back I am SO glad to have stayed here because over the next few days, coming across these faces, some of whom I never even spoke to, brought much comfort and sparked conversations when our paths crossed.
I took a nap on a hammock for a few hours laying in the sun before walking the half mile trail about 5 times, wanting to stretch my legs and just because I was getting super nervous. Hard to get to sleep this night, so much going through my head but eventually found a way to get some sleep.
Day 1 – Amicalola Approach Trail to Hawk Mt. Campsite (16.2 miles)
Wokeup bright and early to an all you can eat breakfast buffet provided by the hostel of some seriously top notch food. Ate a decent amount I didn’t want to stuff myself then packed up my final pieces of gear and brought it out to the scale and weighed it. Came in at 22 pounds full pack weight with all my food and 1 liter of water! I had the lightest pack of everyone at the hostel and soon people were calling me “Roadrunner” because everyone was predicting me to be striding past them( this turned out true and the trail name has stuck :P).
I was seriously shocked at how many people’s jaws dropped when they put their bag on the scale. Truly amazing at how some people know every little fun fact about the AT and have a spreadsheet dictating everydays mileage/campsite/ zero day layed out but have no idea that their pack weighs 50 pounds! Many people scrambled to loose pounds of gear this morning as I sat and watched.
The hostel shuttled me and about 5 other people who chose to hike the 8.8 mile approach trail that starts at Amicalola Falls and leads to the first white blaze of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain.
It was dead silent the whole ride there, it felt like the beginning of Saving Private Ryan when everyone’s in the boat about to enter into a war.
Here I signed in and got my hiker number, #737 and got my picture taken under the famous archway. After a few poses I was off!
The approach trail has a stairway to the top of a waterfall and 604 stairs that really are no joke! I put on a playlist a friend made for me and within 3 hours I was standing atop of Springer Mountain signing the trail registery.
I sat up here a long time just soaking in what I was about to embark on, I wish I could write down all that I was thinking but it’s far to much. I pulled out my trail map and started planning for the day and where I would make camp for the night. German girl who stayed at the hostel the night before and also gave me my trail name told me she was going to push for the new Hawk Mt. Campsite that was another 8.5 miles ahead. Not wanting to be outdone by a girl my pride pushed me on to finish the day at 16.2 miles. About a mile from the campsite I ran across the girl and she was walking slow and said she was not feeling good and that her knee was now hurting her sadly. Pulled into the campsite around 4pm and quickly pitched my tarp that went up fairly quick! Did my nightly chores of filtering around 3 liters of water and cooking diner as I let my feet air out. This campsite was super cool in that it had bear boxes for us to lock our food at night and very nice!
I was quite surprised that my body felt pretty good! Slightly sore feet but that was expected and other than that I felt great! Had great weather this first night with a low of only around the 40s and slept half decent.
Day 2 – Hawk Mt. Campsite to Lance Creek (17 miles)
I wokeup bright and early this morning and started hiking as the sun rose. Gorgeous 70 degree day out and I kind of just was hiking by myself.
It hasn’t rained a whole lot so most of the water sources were low and barely running making getting water difficult.
After 12 miles I was almost out of water, tired, and not very motivated to keep going. I crossed a road and just sat down for a few minutes when all the sudden two hikers come out of the woods towards me. I recognized one face as Brad, someone from the hostel who had hiked 1400 miles last year before getting injured and is finishing his hike this year. The other dude, a tall guy with a Panda strapped to his pack had the name Panda.
Meeting these two I hopped on with them and had a newfound energy and we finished another 5 miles in no time coming into Lance Creek which was packed with over 40 other tents. Found a very un-choice locations but just went with it and went to bed as it was already dark out at this time.
Day 3 – Lance Creek to Neel Gap (7.4 miles)
We checked the weather the night before and saw that a storm was headed in, and with the crazy amount of people at this campsite we knew that we needed to get to Neel Gap early to get a bunk for the night. So I wokeup around 6am and took off up Blood Mountain, my first difficult climb so far, and hiked in clouds for the next few hours. Within 4 hours I was walking into town and ordering a hot pizza and laying in a bed.
Met tons of people and made lots of friends this day and watched multiple Star Wars movies; it was a good day.
Also a church group came out and gave us all a huge bbq dinner!
Day 4 – Neel Gap to Low Gap Shelter (11.5 miles)
Took off around 10am with Panda and Brad( we gave Brad lots of names but Doc is sticking). We also added another member to our crew; a 70 year old man from Maine named White Owl( I renamed him Mr Owl).
Shot for a low mile day just so we could stay near a water source, ohyea and the looming snow storm coming in and near teen temperature.
Got into camp first and we got first go at camp spots and soon a nice warm fire. Met a guy named Frank here who has since joined our group but we have named “Killer” (don’t ask;))
It was a cold and extremely windy night with a low of 20 and winds soaring over 50 mph!
Day 5 – Low Gap to Tray Mt. Shelter (15.4 miles)
Wokeup to under an inch of snow and Doc tending to the fire. Everyone slowly got out of their tents and circled round the fire.
Didn’t get an early jump this day and got out of camp around 9am. Beautiful sunrise and awesome hiking in the snow all morning.
Soon warmed up and our crew was rocking out the miles up until we got to the base of Tray Mountain. This was the hardest climb yet of the hike and when we came to the top of the mountain we had the whole campsite to ourselves and a father a son.
Unfortunately I got a pretty nasty blister on my final climb but luckily Doc came to the rescue and fixed me up(this is how he got his name btw).
Another night around a fire on top of a mountain with a sick sunset in front of us.
Day 6 – Tray Mt. Shelter to Dicks Creek Gap (11 miles)
Wokeup slow because we were coming into town today so we took it easy. Cruised out 11 miles before 2pm and as we walked into the parking lot me and Doc see 2 Coca-Cola’s sitting on a bench waiting for us and as soon as we cracked them a shuttled pulled up and Panda popped out and hoped in and we rolled onto the hostel.
Mr Owl came in later and told us he was going to take a zero day the next day and broke up our crew 🙁
Killer joined our group at this point and took old Mr Owls spot.
side note: Killer’s original trail name was “Poser”(see below picture for why)
Day 7 – Dicks Creek Gap to Muskrat Creek Shelter ( 11.8 miles)
It was hard leaving a nice warm room when you have big elevations in the morning.
But we also had our first border crossing!
Killer and me crossed about an hour before everyone else and just hangout there for another half hour after Doc and Panda crossed.
Super good feeling to get a state behind me!
Right after the border of Georgia and North Carolina we had some really steep hard climbs but also some sick views!
Came into camp and started out a fire and cooked hot dogs and buns that was had packed out from town, super good!
Warm night and good sleep at around 40 degrees!
Day 8 – Muskrat Creek Shelter to Carter Gap Shelter (12.5 miles)
We made great time after leaving at daybreak and got to camp around 1pm! This was mostly due to rain in the forecast.
Decently easy hiking this day which made the miles fly by.
Started raining around 5 and stayed that way till 8am the next morning. Everyone congregated under the shelter till dark sharing stories and the misery of a rainy windy night ahead.
Day 9 – Carter Gap Shelter to Wallace Gap (12.8 miles)
This morning I actually wokeup quite late around 730am, mostly due to the rain pinging off my tarp all night which put me to sleep beautifully. We were off hiking by 815am and moving quick with the sight of 100 miles so close. We knocked out the first 6 miles in about 2 hours but the final ascent was over 400 feet in a quarter mile so we were basically Boulder scrambling up the mountain.
As we rounded the final turn and saw the fire tower all my pain and soreness disappeared and I slapped the 100 mile marker and hopped to the top of the fire tower. Words camp describe this view, not even just for the views sake but for the freeing knowing you’ve made it over 100 miles already! We soaked in the view over lunch and soon continued on. We planned on hiking 16 miles this day but as we came out to a road crossing 3 miles before that we took a breather. Litterly a minute later a van pulled up and offered us a free hitch into town 11 miles away for free.
So we hopped on!
Something I’m learning about this hike is that when opportunities like this arise to take them! It’s been so awesome to see how generous and kind people have been to us over the past few days.
Got a motel room and got a most glorious shower in probably the sketchy shower I’ve ever been in. Hit up an all you can eat Chinese buffet and walmart then came back and crashed for awhile. Made the mistake of buying a pint of icecream and putting it in the motels “freezer” only to find out at 11pm that it was melting so me and Panda somehow pounded that and hit the hay. Slept a solid 8 hours this night!
Wokeup to a 7am alarm to go to a free breakfast buffet provided by a local church. Solid bacon, pancakes and coffee along with some great conversation!
Doc was a boss and rented a car and we went on a road trip! Panda needed a new pack, trekking poles, and sleeping pad so we drove an hour to an REI and went on a shopping spree! Asheville North Carolina is a sweet town I will admit and after wandering around we ate a ton of Chik-fil-a and made our way home. Resupplief and lounged the rest of the day. This zero flew by but it was nice to rest and live like a normal human being today.
welcome to a thru-hiker’s motel room
Today we head back out, after of course another free breakfast buffet at the church! Sadly there is rain forecasted for the next 5 days 🙁 but that’s just the trail!
Just again wanted to thank Soooooo many of you that have been offering me encouragement or to send me food, messaging and asking me questions and everyone our there supporting me, you guys are awesome!
Feel free to follow along with my photos on Instagram: scotty_hikes
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