My First Week

I know I am way behind on an update. When we hit Neels Gap, I ran out of time getting some gear sorted out. I’ll try to do better… But here’s my first week (plus a day or two…)

Day 1 – Amicalola Falls State Park to Springer Mountain Shelter

Trail miles: 0.2 Non-Trail Miles: 8.8

After signing in at the Visitors Center (Thru Hiker #1004) and weighing in (pack weight 42#), I posed for a few pics with my parents, gave last hugs and kisses, and set out on my trek. It was a beautiful day, sunny and cool. Whoever thought it was a good idea to start a thru hike with a thousand stairs should be institutionalized! Wow. It was horrible. But I made it. Once on an actual trail, I found my pace and was able to push some miles. My lack of breakfast (nerves wouldn’t allow food to sit properly…) made me run out of gas pretty early but I kept pushing up. I thought about stopping at Black Gap Shelter, shy of Springer Mountain, but heard there was rain coming so kept going. I made the summit and saw my first white blaze. I stumbled into Springer Mountain Shelter, set up camp, cooked a small dinner and went to bed.

Before climbing to the top of the falls

Before climbing to the top of the falls

Day 2 – Springer Mountain Shelter to Hawk Mountain Shelter

Miles: 7.9

A light rain woke me early, so I quickly packed up to avoid getting too wet. The group at the shelter posed for a couple pics, naming ourselves the Easter Pod (we all started Easter morning) and then I hit the trail. The hike seemed a little easier, but there was a lot of downhills so that’s part of it. I had my first equipment failure – the adjustable hip belt on my pack came unadjusted. Repeatedly. Velcro is never a good idea, in my opinion. I got to the shelter pretty early, only to find a large group of section hikers had zeroed and were taking up half of the shelter trying to dry out gear. With the rain coming down, it was a bit disheartening. Spending a whole afternoon just sitting around in the wet and cold was frustrating, too, but I met my first friend, “Friction”. She and I talked in the shelter on and off.

First bad night of rain.

First bad night of rain.

Day 3 – Hawk Mountain Shelter to Gooch Mountain Shelter

Miles: 7.7

I woke up to find my second gear failure – my air mattress must’ve caught a splinter and leaked. This is going to be a long trip. I pulled out of the shelter around 8 with a light rain still falling and immediately found my weakness. Uphills. My lungs don’t like uphills.  Sassafras Mountain kicked my butt. But Friction paced me up most of the way, which was a huge morale boost. And at the bottom, at Coopers Gap, we got our first Trail Magic. “Courtesy” was providing hotdogs, fruit, water, coffee. It was magical. We continued on over Justus Mountain, the sun came out around noon, and we made camp by 2. Today’s hike was the first I felt lonely, too – another reason I appreciated
Friction pacing me. At the shelter, there were three previous thru hikers who gave advice, told stories, and generally kept spirits high. It was a nice end to the day.

Day 4 – Gooch Mountain Shelter to Lance Creek

Miles: 8.5

Friction and I paced each other most of the day. It was a beautiful day to hike – sunny and warm. Big Cedar Mountain was just as hard as Sassafras! And my pack straps are still sporadically failing, which throws off my pace as I readjust. My calf muscles were really sore today, too, probably from Sassafras. The worst part of today was that I ran out of water. The book said there’d be water at a few places, but there was none. My one bottle didn’t cut it. Thankfully, we crossed a good spring a mile before camp and I was able to filter a bottle. We got to camp around 2, and immediately set out gear to dry.  It was a relaxing afternoon, spent soaking feet in the stream and catching up on journaling. Today Max got his trail name – “Spudz”.

Day 5 – Lance Creek to Neels Gap

Miles: 7.4

I was woken very early by the guy in the next tent. So my day started early. I hiked alone most of the day, lost in my thoughts. Everyone kept saying how Blood Mountain was such a bad hike, and it was. I know I’m going to hell, but I was swearing at God for putting such a miserable piece of rock on the planet. An hour later, I was thanking Him for the spectacular view. And the downhill killed my legs!  Ironically, it’s my right knee that hurts the most. I walked into Neels Gap about 12:30 and immediately bought a Sprite, a Gatorade and a samich. Lunch of kings. Then I checked into the hostel, showered, did laundry and started getting gear sorted out. Carley and Pretzel were great at answering my questions and getting me set up with a water bladder (no more dry days for me!). Their advice on the hip belt wasn’t as helpful – I was told when the Velcro gets wet, it has a tendency to fail. Not cool, Osprey. None of us could find the leak in my pad, and a quick call to Big Agnes customer service got me a brand new pad off the shelf. Thank you BA and Mountain Crossing!! Later that night, a local church group came with a big dinner for us thru hikers. I noticed today that I’ve developed a bit of a cough, too, most likely from the damp and cold.

Harley Bear looking out from the top of Blood Mountain.

Harley Bear looking out from the top of Blood Mountain.

Day 6 – Neels Gap to Low Gap Shelter

Miles: 11.5

My first double-digit mile day! It started raining about 8, and was a cold rain all day. But as one blogger already mentioned, rain is a great motivator! Hiking in the rain was almost fun today, splashing away in the mud with a smile on my face. I made the shelter by 1:30, so had a good pace going. There was a big mix of people at the shelter and campsites, which made it a bit weird as the afternoon progressed. And loud.

Day 7 – Low Gap Shelter to Rocky Mountain

Miles: 11.1

Before leaving camp, I was tagged with my new Trail Name – “Scribe”.  Apparently, I am always writing in my journal.  Works for me.  Today was a beautiful day to hike! Sunny and mid-70s. I felt good early on, but drained quickly. Apparently I need to force myself to eat more for breakfast. Ugh. There seemed like there was a lot more people on the trail today – not sure if different bubbles are colliding or if it was just the day hikers out for the weekend. But it was a great day, with spring starting to show. Days like today make me feel very blessed to have the opportunity to do something like this. When I arrived at Unicoi Gap, there was an amazing Trail Magic going on, thanks to the Todd Taylor Foundation. They had everything you could think of – hot dogs, veggie burgers, potato salad and pasta salad, pop, batteries, snacks, charging stations, and most importantly, chairs with actual back supports! Amazingness. It was only another mile to camp, so a bunch of us sat and enjoyed the conversations for a while.

Wonderful Trail Angels!

Wonderful Trail Angels!

Day 8 – Rocky Mountain to Deep Gap Shelter

Miles: 11.7

This was a rough rough day. I hiked alone most of the day. Tray Mountain wasn’t as bad as everyone talked it up to be, but Kelly Knob was! No switchbacks and a very steep climb. I made it to camp a little later than normal, but got camp set up and cooked a good dinner. There was a new group of people here, along with the EasterPod, so the conversation was entertaining.

Day 9 – Deep Gap Shelter to Dicks Creek Gap

Miles: 3.6

A Nero for today. It started raining overnight so I got an early start and made it to the Gap by 930, just in time to catch the shuttle to the Top of Georgia Hostel. Wow, what an amazing place!! Hot shower, cold pop, they give you scrubs to wear while they do your laundry, and free shuttles into Hiawassee. Good day to dry out, resupply, rest and relax some.

All in all, spirits are high and morale is soaring. It’s been nice to get to know some of the Easter Pod and even better to call home and hear familiar voices. I’ve got a ton of pics but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get any or all of them into this post. More to follow!  Remember to Spin the Compass.

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Comments 2

  • CliffordTheDog : Apr 13th

    Keep on trekking! Hopefully the rain lets up. Keep us posted on the next leg!


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