My First Week Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail

With the Approach Trail behind us and some of our initial kinks worked out, Miguel and I were ready to hit the trail with everything in us. We initially decided on a slow start, not wanting to overdo it. 8-10 miles was where we wanted to be around each day. That played out for the most part in week one, give or take a few miles. Here’s a recap:

Day 1 2/9: AT Approach Trail to Springer Mtn Shelter 9 miles

Day 2 2/10: Springer Mtn Shelter to Hawk Mtn Shelter 7.9 miles

Day 3 2/11: Hawk Mtn Shelter to Gooch Mtn Shelter 7.7 miles

Day 4 2/12: Gooch Mtn Shelter to Woods Hole Shelter 12.1 miles

Day 5 2/13: Woods Hole Shelter to Neels Gap 3.6 miles (Blood Mountain)

Day 6 2/14: returned to Mountain Crossings and switched out/upgraded some gear then hiked to Baggs Creek Gap 4.3 miles

Day 7 2/15: Baggs Creek Gap to Low Gap Shelter 7.2 miles

Fixing the Initial Mishaps

I know you all are wondering what came of all the things that went wrong that first night. When we finally made it to Neel’s Gap on day 5, we were able to fix/purchase/upgrade most of what we needed.

  • Miguel purchased a Sawyer Squeeze to replace his missing one
  • We chucked the Coleman fuel that wasn’t working for us and got the appropriate MSR brand fuel. They were nice enough to test it in the store to ensure it worked before we left.
  • I told them about how my sleeping pad went kaput on the first night and the employee, Jeff, said there was a tiny pinhole that he couldn’t hear. He asked if we were in a rush and when we assured him we weren’t, he took it down to a bathtub they have to identify the hole. Unfortunately, he only found one but let me know there were two. He patched the one and showed me how to take care of the other when I find it. I’m still sleeping on a deflated pad but thankfully I have the Sea to Summit Comfort SI so I have a little padding and haven’t had any trouble sleeping on it.
  • Our gloves have been soaked by the end of the day and with it being so cold, it really sucks. We ended up buying an OR Waterproof Mitten Liner to go over our gloves and it’s worked wonders so far!
  • We purchased some Tyvek to have an extra layer between ourselves and the ground.

The Experience

Our first two days were beautiful and dry. Day 3, 4, 6, and 7 were wet and cold, with day 5 being only cold. I honestly can see how people would be miserable walking in the cold rain, but I’ve just embraced it as part of the trail. Before coming out here, I did a LOT of mental preparation and I think that has helped me so far to always see the good in every situation. So far, we’ve missed most of the designated “views” due to the fog but even just looking out, I know it would be beautiful on a clear day. We know for every foggy and wet day now, we’ll have a sunny and dry one later on.

The Nature

This Florida girl has been nothing but dazzled by even just the trees and plants alone. All I am used to seeing is palm trees and the occasional oak. And everything is covered in a vibrant green moss. On day two, we ventured off the trail on a MUST SEE stop. At mile 5.3 when the trail splits off with the Benton MacKaye Trail, trust me when I say veer off. Only about 120 steps off the AT, you’ll find Long Creek Falls. We enjoyed our lunch here on day 2 and can say without a doubt it’s the nicest “view” I’ve seen in my first week. As far as animals, it is still very cold and have not seen too much. I was very excited, however, to catch a glimpse of a chipmunk on day 1. Seems silly but it was my first time seeing one and it made my day.

The Physical Aspects

So far, the Approach Trail has still been the most challenging for me. Blood Mountain was also a little tough, but we took our time and made it through. We did our first 12-mile day the day before Blood Mountain. Then, we made the following our first half day, tackling just the mountain itself and covering only 3.6 miles.

I am not someone who has dealt with a lot of inclines (other than my treadmill) and I can say that I am out here making it. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other. One thing Miguel and I tell ourselves is that for every up there is a down. Sometimes it feels like we are walking up for hours. Then finally, the incline levels out and we get a little break before heading back down. It’s been great to see my body adjust to things I couldn’t imagine being able to do before being out here.

Trail Magic Teaser

I am already so in awe at the amount of kindness and trail magic we have been shown and in such a short time on the trail. I mentioned Tina’s kindness in my last post, but when we reached Neel’s Gap, we were blown away by how kind some people can be. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you all about it in my next post. Don’t forget to subscribe for a reminder when new content comes out! Thanks for following along on my journey and for all the kindness and support we have received so far.

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Comments 35

  • Avatar
    Tina : Feb 17th

    Great job so far! Sounds like you’ve got a great attitude, love the positivity! Wishing you some dryer and warmer days ahead. Good luck!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Nadia Fenay : Feb 18th

      Thanks so much!

      Reply
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    pearwood : Feb 17th

    Go, Nadia and Miguel!
    Your purchases sound excellent. Getting wet in the cold can kill you. Hypothermia is no joke.
    Your pace also sounds about right. Overall I figure I will need to average 15 miles per day in order to do 90 per week with one zero. But I do not expect to be starting out fast. If I match your starting pace I will be quite happy.
    Blessings,
    Steve

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Bill Markunas aka RANA : Feb 18th

      Excited for your journey. I’m praying for you on the AT frequently. I maintain the Hightop shelter at mile 906.4. Looking forward to giving y’all the local hospitality when you’re near. Godspeed

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Linda Blauch : Feb 17th

    Good luck Nadia and Miguel. I look forward to reading more about your adventures. Nadia, I bought a shirt just like yours after reading your post on gear.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Russ1663 : Feb 18th

    Good start Nadia and Miguel. The ultimate underlying treasure will be watching the earth shift from winter to spring and into summer. Best ever earth science classroom. Enjoy! Oh, chipmunks are indeed hilarious

    Reply
  • Avatar
    David Keating : Feb 18th

    So I hate being the one to point out something not quite as positive, but have you guys mapped out what your daily mileage goals are? Averaging < 8 miles a day would mean more than a 9 month hike with no zero days. It also would mean getting to Baxter state park when it is closed for the year and you would be unable to finish the trail. It really is important to make a weekly (or at least for each state) forecast of what you need to be hiking each day (or how many days in each state). Even if you are in prime hiking shape come Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine you will be getting 8 miles a day, 12 on a few days if you are very lucky. In Georgia to Pennsylvania most people are aiming for 20 miles a day which will result in around a 15 mile per day average for the entire trail. Shooting for 20 miles a day now, while it’s easy, will really help you make up for the parts of the trail that ate actually hard. I hate sounding negative, but this is just some realistic information. I highly recommend thinking about what your daily mileage goals need to be to finish the trail in your desired time frame. Make sure to plan for things to go much slower in the north and areas like the Smokey Mountains, and budget in zero days and grocery runs. Remember that putting those extra miles in now may be the difference between finishing the trail and not finishing the trail.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Paulina : Feb 18th

      they can do a flip flop n still finish……….they are smart going slow starting out………going fast increases chances of injury and then they for SURE wouldn’t be able to finish………..let them hike their own hike……….i’m sure they can figure it all out……….the way THEY want to do it

      Reply
      • Avatar
        David : Feb 18th

        Thanks for your input there Paulina, sorry if my recommendation that someone try to plan out the miles they do a day so that they can be successful in completing their hike offended you so much. I was trying to provide my insight from being a Triple Crown hiker in addition to doing a distance hike on every continent but Antarctica. I am not being rude, I am providing sound, experienced advice, much better than “hike your hike” that’s how people quit 6 weeks in. Having a plan and staying ahead of it gives you daily goals, as well as positive feelings for achieving those goals. So, I am sorry Paulina, that you don’t appreciate that I am providing them with experienced advice instead of just saying “go you!” I am trying to help them actually finish what they set out to do using the same tools that thousands have used to succeed in the past.

        Reply
        • Avatar
          Karma : Feb 25th

          David,
          I appreciate your advice. It makes complete and total sense.

          Reply
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      Gordon “renaisance man” Ripley : Feb 18th

      It took me 40 years of section hiking to. finish the trail! They will work up to 20 mole days evrntually. Sounds like you have the right attitude to make it. At 82 I hope to go from stamp gap to Meeks gape this April. May be tough as My knees have arthritis so looking like 7 mile days!! Have a wonderful hike and you will end up with a lifetime of memories, hardly a week goes by that I do not have a dream about hiking!
      Gordon Ripley
      North Port Fl

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Sorry about my spelling. Neels gap : Feb 18th

        Hike on!

        Reply
    • Avatar
      Carl Houde : Feb 18th

      I couldn’t disagree more strongly. This is week 1! Beyond HYOH, there are scores of stories of hikers blowing out knees, tendons, and spirit by pushing too hard in the early days.

      The miles will come soon enough and the real battle is to make sure you’re still on the trail by the time your body is ready for them.

      Reply
    • Avatar
      JeremyB : Feb 18th

      Your advice for planning (or at least having a good idea of what you need to do) is good, but aiming for 20 mile days out of the gate (especially in early Feb) is a great way to get injured.

      Starting slow and ramping up as you get your trail legs is a much better idea than trying to bang out big mileage really in a thru-hike.

      I see from you comment you’re a triple-cowner, so you know what you’re talking about but I’d also guess you’re what I call a super-hiker. A person that can just knock out miles like nobody’s business. That’s not typical for most people.

      Reply
    • Avatar
      SB : Feb 25th

      Taking 5 days to get to Neels Gap (including the approach) is actually exactly what the staff at Amicalola recommends when they give their spiel when you register and depart. Going out too fast too soon and getting injured is a huge reason people quit early, and there is plenty of time to increase speed, especially with such an early start. Sounds to me like they’re being smart and prudent, especially coming from FL where their muscles and joints aren’t accustomed to the demands of the elevation change. Most thru-hikers I knew in ’18 didn’t start cranking out 20s until Virginia.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Mama Lama : Feb 18th

    I’m so glad I found your great blog! I’ve been watching you and Miguel on YouTube. I leave in 11 days for my nobo thru hike and your information is so helpful! Best of luck!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Bill Yeadon : Feb 18th

    Glad to see you have overcome those first few fumbles. Your attitude will win out. Enjoy every moment.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Tractor : Feb 18th

    You are doing great, in my mind I thought I would be doing 15 miles a day by Neal’s gap
    Realistically I was doing 8 miles a day. By the time i got to Top of Georgia I was up to 10 to 12 but was work out leg and foot pain
    By that time you have figured out what you really need to carry. You will also ne working on your hiking lungs which will allow you to get your breath back in seconds instead of minutes which will increase you miles. I didn’t hit twentys until Virginia and felt comfortable at 15 to 18 miles. Hiking up out of the NOC will be a good test to see how things are going. I was still huffing and puffing on that day. Hike On, Tractor

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Brian : Feb 18th

    No matter what life throws at you, keep putting one foot in front of the other.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Jayne : Feb 18th

      Spot on!! Perfectly said..

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Deb : Feb 18th

    I love reading your posts and watching the YouTube videos! You both are doing such a great job staying positive and marching on! Thanks for sharing all your thoughts and feelings as you continue on our adventure!

    Reply
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    Debbie Fisher : Feb 18th

    Looking forward to your journey!!

    Reply
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      James Sterling : Feb 18th

      Great post, sounds like a good hike so far! I live on the coast in NC and know how gnarly the weather must be out there… stay strong and stick to your game plan!!

      Reply
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    Sully4ever : Feb 18th

    You guys are my hero’s… Quadruple bypass 1 month ago today has delayed my nobo section start. Am hoping to complete hike over 2 years. Now more determined than ever… Good luck and God speed….

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Jeremy Allen : Feb 18th

      I am on Hospice with a failing heart, and I’m looking to go up the A.T. in a few months. I’m not letting this stop me at all. I figure if I was to pass away on the trail then I went where I wanted to be, and on my terms.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Jayne : Feb 18th

        I wish you peace and a safe journey…godspeed Jeremy!

        Reply
  • Avatar
    Lora : Feb 18th

    Cheering you on all the way and wishing you a safe and amazing journey!
    (Also keeping up with you guys on YouTube.)

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Jose A Rivera : Feb 18th

    I am sure ye had a fulfilling experience Thank You for sharing
    I am planning a PNT thru hike in June -starting from Montana to Pacific Ocean
    I appreciate you sharing your highs and lows
    Great job
    SEMPER FI

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Jayne : Feb 18th

    Spot on!! Perfectly said..

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Alec : Feb 19th

    I’m proud of you guys! Keep on hiking, and savor every minute, every day.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Steve Lafferty : Feb 19th

    Way to go, Nadia. So glad to see a Bull from USF taking life by the horns. Always wanted to do it myself; we were at Amicalola Falls a few months ago and I really had the itch….life, work, kids, (excuses) just keep getting in the way. I will be cheering you on all the way. Go Bulls! Send some pics they can post on the screens in the Patel building!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Steve : Feb 19th

      …and extra impressed that you decided to start in Feb! Brrrrrrr. Stay warm, FL girl!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Russ : Feb 21st

    Nice pack! That’s what I use as well! Although mine has never been on the trail for more than a few days. Let us know how it holds up!!! 😁

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Jennifer Woram : Feb 22nd

    Inspiring!
    I appreciate your stories of the dazzling beauty and how you solved problems. Seeing the stunning photographs is a treat.
    I’m Peggy Smith Eppig’s niece. She’s why I started following your exciting journey.
    Cheers to truly loving YOUR best life!

    Reply

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