Shutterbug’s Trail Update #1
Days -1 & 0:
Two days before I started hiking, I spent the night in Franklin, NC. The plan was to get to Outdoor 76 before it closed at 7. That morning the gps said our arrival time would be 6:55pm… My mom was able to somehow save enough time that we got there at 6:20. When we got there I was fitted for a new pair of boots. I’m absolutely in love with them! The employee that fitted me said he’s going to be pissed if he sees me within the next two weeks. Haha! He gave me some great advice that I’ve been told a few times before. Don’t hike double digit miles for the first month!
My mom, my brother’s friend Mama Cheddar (basically my adopted sister), and myself met up with my brother’s other trail friend Pocket Biscuit (known as Woodsy this year). He attempted a thru-hike last year but had to get off trail because of a knee injury but he’s back out there this year! We went out to dinner at a weird train themed restaurant and then spent some time hanging out with PB in his hotel room.
The next day my mom and I made our way to Amicalola Falls where I weighed my pack & registered my thru! I’m hiker # 713!
Today was my first day hiking on the Appalachian Trail. I’d be lying if I said it was 100% fun and everything I thought it’d be. I hiked up and down Springer with my mom, brother, and mama cheddar.
Then we had a nice hike down to the parking lot where we said our goodbyes. The next 4 miles were beautiful. I passed the bridge where last year I took my favorite photo of my dad. No one was around and I really wanted a photo of myself hiking across the same bridge. Just as I was trying to figure out a way to stand up my phone and set a timer, a man came by and was willing to take this photo of me. He had forgotten his jacket at the nearby shelter and was on his way to pick it up. He was the only person I saw (besides one guy who seemed in a hurry to make it to camp) for about an hour. If he hadn’t passed by I don’t know if I could’ve had this photo taken! The trail provides!
Then the trail started getting steeper and that’s when I started wondering what the hell I got myself into.
When the trail would flatten out I’d realize how much of a baby I am and how I should be grateful that I’m able to hike the AT when many will never get the chance! I met a woman who told me she was so excited for me. A stranger was excited for my 2000+ mile adventure! She said she’d always wanted to hike the AT but she has two small children that she wouldn’t want to leave behind and wouldn’t want to spend 6+ months in the woods.
2 miles before I reached camp it started to sprinkle and I started to cry. I really miss my dad. I recognized multiple spots along the way where we stopped for a break last year on our hike. I would do absolutely anything just to hike one more day with my dad. I kept asking him to push me to keep going and to give me a sign that he was there. It was a tough few miles to camp. Luckily when I got there I had just enough service to text my amazing boyfriend. He told me not to give up and reminded me that my dad is watching over me. I know this is just the beginning and that it’s going to get harder but I’m so grateful that I’m able to have this experience.
Last night I got to camp early & set up my tent, organized my pack and went to the privy. That’s where I met Straw Hat & his great aunt. I think her trail name is Brittle or something along those lines. She’s in her 70’s & used to run 100 mile wilderness marathons in her younger years! They had a rainbow tarp & rainbow paracord (which I think was a sign from my father Rainbow Expresss because without them I wouldn’t have had the idea to get out of the woods before more bad weather hit!) so I told them how much I loved their setup and went on my way. Later, a nice man who has the same tent as me gave some tips on how to setup the trekking poles that keep it up which made my tent feel much more roomy!
It started raining around 8:30. There’s nothing more soothing than falling asleep to the sound of rain on your tent!
I woke up around 11:30 to a different kind of sound. Roaring wind & snow falling off the trees and onto my tent.
I had to get out half asleep in the cold to get the snow off the sides of my tent because it was weighing them down so much that I didn’t have enough room inside. My balaclava and parts of my sleeping bag that were touching the walls got wet. Damn condensation! On the bright side I wasn’t cold. I had my shirt, puffy coat, fleece leggings, possum socks, & down booties to keep me extra toasty.
I woke up, got everything I could into my pack, and went to the privy. That’s when I saw Straw Hat & his great aunt talking about hitching to town because the weather is only supposed to get worse. We made a plan to get to hightower gap & find a shuttle.
I got my food bag out of the bear box & finished packing everything up. Getting a frozen & sopping wet tent back into its dry bag is almost impossible! Then I met Lainie and her mom. They’re both thru-hiking too and were planning on getting to Hawk Mountain Shelter and taking a zero tomorrow. After talking for a bit we realized that apparently Lainie has been following me on instagram for awhile, has read my blog posts on here, has a fellow past thru-hiker friend in common, and lives 5 minutes from my house! What are the chances?
We all decided to head to Hawk Mountain shelter because I remembered that my dad had 4G service when we were there last year. I was starting to feel really down about leaving the trail so soon. I knew I wasn’t going to give up but it felt like that was what I was doing. When we got to the shelter there were a couple people there. One of the guys made a comment that we’re still ahead of the bubble.
We’re the crazies that decided to start the trail in March when one of the most popular start dates is April 1st.
That made me feel a whole lot better about getting off trail for a few days. I still have time to adjust to trail life and take my time before I have to get serious about finishing before October 15th-ish when Katahdin closes.
With the help of my mom we were able to get into contact with legend trail angel Miss Janet. Her and my dad became good friends last year because they shared something in common… their love for the trail! She’s truly an angel!
Once Miss Janet said she was on her way we started to head towards Hightower Gap. At that point there were a few more of us. I had a feeling that we all weren’t going to fit in Miss Janet’s van and I was right. Luckily half of the group was able to hitch a ride with an army ranger before Miss Janet got there. While we were waiting I got a text from my mom saying she was going to explore the town of Dahlonega. Turned out that that’s the town Miss Janet was planning on bringing us to so my mom was finally able to meet her.
It wasn’t supposed to snow as much as it did. I could’ve dealt with the snow if it wasn’t a couple inches. Or if my sleeping bag didn’t get wet.
Think what you may but I believe it was another sign from my dad.
If it weren’t for this storm, my mom might not have gotten to meet Miss Janet! And the ride to town was such an exciting part of the trail experience. Miss Janet gave us all advice, cookies, gatorade, and many laughs.
When my mom picked me up she asked what I wanted to do tomorrow (I’m taking a zero because with the windchill factor it’ll feel like -5 degrees on trail!) and my first thought was trail magic! We have a car so we’re gonna go to Woody Gap and see if there’s any freezing cold hikers that need rides into town.
We went to get lunch and I devoured a sandwich, chips, & a piece of reeses pie. I hadn’t eaten enough yesterday or this morning so that full meal was much needed. Now I’m snuggled in my bed at Amicalola Lodge while my gear is hanging to dry like true hiker trash. I’m resting my already sore muscles and have started doing the famous hiker shuffle. (See video below for embarrassing evidence of said hiker shuffle. At least I’m still smiling through the pain!) I plan on starting to hike again on thursday after the bad weather stops!
Things I’ve learned on trail so far:
- The trail will break you down and build you back up in an instant.
- It’s okay to cry.
- Be careful when placing your baggie full of toilet paper on the shelf in a privy. It could fall to the ground & almost fall under the privy never to be seen again.
- Listen to Miss Janet and eat something every hour. Even if it’s just a couple of crackers and you have to force yourself.
- Using a slackpack (super small pack like the sea to summit ultra-sil pack) to carry water bottles & filtering supplies is really helpful when you need your two hands to pull you out of the ditch/stream you’re getting water from.
- Don’t be afraid of walking in mud. There’s no rule saying you have to stay clean on a thru-hike.
- Push your tent stakes in the ground as far in as you can so you don’t have to wake up at 11:30 at night to put them back in the ground.
And a wise word from a past thru-hiker I figured I’d share…
“You can quit the trail in your mind twice a day, but just keep on hiking on…” – The Dude
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