One Week, 100 Miles Down!
Wow, I can’t believe it’s been only a week on the trail. Last Monday, April 25th, my husband drove me up to Amicalola so I could register and weigh my pack: hiker #1672, 21 pounds! Since I had no interest in doing the approach trail, we drove the 45 minutes up rough dirt roads to the Springer parking lot. He walked with me a mile to the summit and the mile back. Saying goodbye at that point was hard- I didn’t know when I’d see him again, but he assured me he would be fine and he was supporting me and believed in me. And so, I set off.
Good omen! I hiked right past the Real Hiking Viking at mile 4!! I fangirled a bit and he paused long enough in his quest for total trail domination to let me take a terrible photo of us together. So inspirational!
And now 8 days later, here I sit in the Penny Pincher’s Hiker Den, a former apartment building renovated and converted into a hiker hostel. Me and my five new best friends have a one-bedroom apartment to ourselves in Franklin, NC, for the lovely price of $12.50 per person per night. I slept on the two-person couch with my quilt and it felt like heaven.
Recap of last week’s numbers:
Day One: 8.1 miles, Springer to Hawk Mtn Shelter. Total: 8.1 miles.
Day Two: 7.7 miles, Hawk Mtn Shelter to Gooch Mtn Shelter. Total: 15.8 miles.
Day Three: 8.5 miles, Gooch Mtn Shelter to Lance Creek Campsite. Total: 24.3 miles.
Day Four: 14.3 miles, Lance Creek to Hogpen Gap (stayed in Helen, GA). Total: 38.6 miles.
Day Five: 14.3 miles. Hogpen Gap to Unicoi Gap (stayed in Helen again). Total: 52.9 miles.
Day 6: 13.1 miles. Unicoi Gap to Deep Gap Shelter. Total: 66.0 miles.
Day 7: 15.4 miles. Deep Gap Shelter to Muskrat Creek Shelter. Total: 81.4 miles.
Day 8: 17 miles. Muskrat Creek Shelter to Moony Gap, where we met our shuttle to Franklin for a much needed zero. Total: 98.4 miles!!
I got so lucky meeting awesome people on Day 1. I walked into Hawk Mtn Shelter for my first night on the trail and there they were at the picnic table (along with about 25 other people scattered around the site). Alice, Audrey, and Daniel are hiking together (along with Daniel’s dad Mark, who did the first 4 days with us and is such a kind soul, and the reason we were able to stay in Helen for two nights). Also there was Eric, a fellow solo hiker, from PA. We picked up Mike on Day 3, when he rolled into Lance Creek and set his hammock up near Audrey. So our little Trail Fam is 3 men and 3 women. It’s great being with other badass hiker chicks. The dudes are cool, too.
The first few days were tough. I felt lonely and physically unprepared and was questioning my decision to hike ALL. THE. WAY. TO. MAINE. But then I got friendly with my Trail Fam, and met other thru and section hikers, and started embracing the hiker trash lifestyle, and feeling more like I belonged. My body still feels like one big bruise but I’m getting stronger every day, feeling more confident, and figuring out my routine: turns out I don’t love mornings in camp, when everything is clammy and dirty and I’m sore and chilly. I prefer to get up and get out ASAP, warm up, and then break after an hour or so for breakfast. I prefer hiking at a moderate pace and consistently rather than fast with lots of breaks. And I seem to end up finishing my day by 3 or 4pm, then spending lots of time in camp at night. It’s working for me. Our little group seems to be mostly on the same wavelength.
Most importantly, I’ve realized, really realized, that the fate of my hike is up to me. Barring a surprise traumatic injury, I simply have to decide if I want to finish or not. That thought is both liberating and scary. I read something once about a successful marriage: you have to wake up each day and consciously choose to be in the relationship. That’s how I’m feeling about the trail, too. You can’t be in it by default. Each day, you have to wake up, and decide to hike. You choose this life.
So coming up: tomorrow will be Mile 100 at the Albert Mountain fire tower, then shortly after is the Smokies. My husband has a flight and a minivan booked to pick us all up just as we pop out of the Smokies to get to Trail Days in a week and a half!!/That’s as far as we’ve planned. It’s lots of big miles and hopefully more amazing times to come.
I’ll do my best to keep updating the ole blog here, but if you want more frequent trail lovin’, I’m way more active on the Instagram: @nicholeyoung1. See you there!
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