The One Where I Threw Shoes [AT mile 0.0-69.2]

Well…not mine, but we’ll get to that. First off, a breakdown of my first week on trail.

The Numbers

Day 1: 5.6 miles on the Approach Trail, 2.8 on the AT to Stover Creek Shelter

Day 2: 14.1 miles to Gooch Gap

Day 3: 9.4 miles to Jarrard Gap

Day 4: 11.9 miles to Hogpen Gap

Day 5: 11.9 miles to Blue Mountain Shelter

Day 6: 15.5 miles to Deep Gap Shelter

Day 7: 4.6 miles to Dick’s Creek Gap

Day 8: Zero at Hostel Around the Bend

Total miles hiked on the AT: 69.2

Day One

My mom, dad and sister drove me to Amicalola to drop me off. While talking to a lady in the visitor’s center, he learned how to skip the dreaded stairs on the Approach Trail. Which sounded wonderful to me. So after signing in and taking my picture with the arch, we drove up to High Shoals road, 3.2 miles into the Approach Trail. We said goodbyes and I headed off up the remaining 5.6 miles to Springer Mountain.

It didn’t feel real. Even now as I write this a week later, it doesn’t truly feel like I’m out here. It feels like a dream I’m going to wake up from any minute, still months away from my start date.

Stover Creek Shelter

After a few hours, I summited Springer and saw my first white blaze. I took the traditional plaque photos and a nice long break before continuing on to Stover Creek Shelter where I pitched my tent for night 1. Many other hopeful thru-hikers were camping there, and I made the first of many friends that night.

Accidental Long Day

Before starting on the trail, I had planned on only hiking 8-12 miles each day so as not to push myself too hard and get injured (a large reason why many thru-hikers decide to quit). But on day 2, that plan kind of went out the window when I strolled up to a completely full Gooch Mountain Shelter. Absolutely slammed. So i continued 1.2 miles further to Gooch Gap where there was still plenty of space to pitch a tent despite many people already camping there.

Long Creek Falls— 1 min off trail, great snack spot

The infamous (but highly overrated) Blood Mountain

Blood Mountain is the highest peak on the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail, and the point at which many thru-hikers quit. So many that there’s a tree on the north side of the mountain where quitters throw their shoes into the branches. But we’ll get to that.

Sadly, due to the fog, no view from Blood Mountain for me. But the shelter was so cool

I summited Blood Mountain on a very foggy day 4. Since beginning to research the AT, I’ve heard horror stories about the difficulties of Blood Mountain—of the steep and unending climb, and the rocky and sketchy descent. But when I set out that morning, i was at the top before I knew it. Sure, it was no flat sandy beach, but I kept waiting for a killer steep section that never came. Honestly, I think the climbs up Wildcat Mountain (mile 37.8) and Kelly Knob (64.8) were much worse. So don’t believe all the horror stories you hear.

Throwing Shoes

At the bottom of Blood Mountain is Neel Gap, where Mountain Crossings (an outfitter store) and the shoe tree are located. I took a nice long lunch break here, purchasing a little celebratory philly cheese steak and Kit Kat bar from the store. Before leaving, I found a pair of boots that had fallen from the shoe tree. So of course I decided to throw them back up. I have no clue how people get their shoes so high up in the tree around the huge limbs, because it took me 4 tries and a lot of effort just to get mine around a tiny little branch. But despite only barely succeeding, I was pumped to see those boots hanging there. And on a deeper level, it felt like a burden off my shoulders to pass that tree with my shoes and my dream still intact.

Fourth time’s the charm!

Lightning never strikes the same place twice, right?

On day 5 I weathered my first thunderstorm on trail. It was pretty easy hiking, but I spent almost all of it dodging lightning. Every time lightning flashed, I’d count to see how far the storm was. Twice lightning struck so close to me that there was no delay between the light and the sound, and instead of the world just being bright for a moment, it was bright blue. It was wild.

I spent the night of the storm inside Blue Mountain Shelter and I’m so thankful I did. The wind was howling all night, I would’ve been worried about my tent blowing down. And the thunder was so loud, the shelter shook. But I was warm and snug inside the shelter.

Blue Mountain Shelter
Sunrise from Blue Mountain

Every storm runs out of rain

The day after the storm dawned sunny and warm! By midafternoon it was 70 degrees and I had to trade my leggings for shorts and I couldn’t have been happier. The weather was so great, I managed my longest day yet of 15.5 miles! It also helped knowing every mile I did was one less between me and town the next day.

Living the Hostel Life

At Dick’s Creek Gap the next day I hitched a ride to Hostel Around the Bend. It’s only 0.6 miles from the trail, but the cars were flying down that curvy road and I didn’t want to become roadkill. And talk about God providing. My ride was a girl who works at the hostel, and I arrived just in time to grab the last open bed in the place. I cannot speak highly enough of this hostel. It is clean, cozy, and has a super friendly staff. I arrived planning to zero the next day, and now as my zero day is ending, I am wishing I could stay longer. But Maine is waiting!

I have loved every moment of my first week, even the ones where I was uncomfortable, cold, or in pain. But, and this is said by a lot of hikers, my favorite part has been the people by far. I’ve met so many amazing people, all with different life stories that have led them here. I’m so thankful for everyone I’ve met, and hope to meet many more. And to all my new friends, I hope our paths continue to cross.

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Comments 10

  • Avatar
    Kevin : Mar 31st

    Ann Marie,

    As a fellow Clemson grad (’00) Go Tigers!

    I’ll be following your journey and blogs and wish you the best.

    Good luck, stay healthy and strong and I’ll look forward to your pics from Katahdin.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Ann Marie White : Apr 1st

      Thanks for the support, glad to meet another Tigers fan!!

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Don Horres : Apr 3rd

      Following. Go Tigers! Class of ’71.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    pearwood : Mar 31st

    And a brewery! God is good.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Dorothy and Toto : Apr 1st

    Another Tiger grad 1987 following – Enjoy!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Ann Marie White : Apr 1st

      Aw yay more Clemson people! Thanks for the support 🙂

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Angie : Apr 1st

    Loved reading about your first week and looking forward to following your progress to Maine!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Ann Marie White : Apr 1st

      Thanks Angie!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    tish Porter : Apr 3rd

    enjoy your trek. I’ll be following you and hope to meet you when you get to NJ we usually do a hiker feed at Waywayanda State Park by the shelter there.
    Be safe and Good LUCK 🙂

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Debra Calhoun : Apr 3rd

    Another Clemson alumnus (way back in ’78) following your hike. Glad you had a good first week and hoping you continue to have fun on the trail. Can’t wait to see what’s next for you.

    Reply

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