Thunderstorms, New Friendships, & Inner Struggles.
My sister has flown back to NJ (missing her a ton) and the adventure continues…
You will read a lot about the roller coaster ride of emotions that thru-hikers experience and let me assure you, they are real! I keep finding myself thinking, “This is incredible and I wish Jade and Dan were here to experience this with me.” Of course, I also find myself thinking, “fuck this shit, I’m fucking done. I will stay a section hiker and I miss my family” The roller coaster ride of emotions is alive and well within me. The highs are extremely high and the lows are bottom-of-the-barrel low. These insane emotions we all experience have a lot to do with the weather conditions, the terrain, and how much food/water we are taking in. For me personally, eating is a battle right now. I also know that soon this will change dramatically and I will want to eat entire buffets but right now it’s quite the opposite! My husband can attest to the fact that I turn into a beast when I don’t eat enough and these days I find myself forcing down food because I know my body needs the calories and if I don’t eat them, my body will not make it up the next steep incline. Right now, my Go Macro bars are what I have been living on (and carrying all this extra food weight, and not wanting to eat it, sucks). I just can’t stomach anything else at the moment. This has since changed but at this time was not wanting food.
Georgia, oh Georgia. I am no stranger to these mountains and during my last encounter with them, I was literally throwing myself down a mud covered mountain in a crazy thunderstorm with my husband. I am a glutton for punishment and thrill seeking I guess, haha! Listen, I am no couch potato. I am by no means an “athlete.” I am somewhere in-between. No matter what your level of fitness, the elevation changes and steep inclines in Georgia will swallow you up and shit you out. I promise you that. I also promise that if you just keep going you will and can conquer it.
Hiking from Springer to Hawk Mountain Shelter was not too bad. The majority of the trail is fairly easy terrain with slight and gradual incline changes. Spirits were high today and the excitement of this adventure is still fresh while adrenaline is pumping through my system. I also picked up my new hiking partner the day before and was enjoying her company, especially as we chatted about our shared love of “tiny homes.” After getting aquatinted and having a great first day out together, we set up camp, and got some well needed rest.
I am not a fan of thunderstorms while hiking and we awoke to a nasty one. I was thankful that I woke up around 7am and had all my gear packed up before mother nature decided to open the sky up. I quickly hauled ass into the shelter to take cover from the thunder and lighting bolts. Anyone still at camp crammed into the shelter and waited out the worst of the storm. I do very much enjoy watching them from inside the safe shelter. By 9am a few of us decided to head out and on we went.
The following day Sassafras Mountain decided to give me and my bad knees a proper welcome on a rainy day. Fuck you Sassafras Mountain, fuck you! As far as I am concerned I conquered you. My weird mood was interrupted by “G.I. Joe.” He took me by surprise and quickly asked, “Hey! Are you thru-hiking?” I forced a smile and replied, “yes.” I must have looked like a drowned rat and absolutely miserable because he gave me a quick pep talk. He said, “Stick with it you are doing amazing! Your trail legs will come somewhere in Virginia.” I smiled and he kept moving quickly up the mountain and was gone. Although he meant well, I now really felt like shit and was questioning myself even more as the rain came down, “What the fuck are you doing out here, Jess? They will come in Virginia! Was that some sick joke?” Once I got to the top and rejoined my partner who was also shocked to be struggling this much (I was already struggling with keeping at her pace – she was not struggling as much), we snapped each other out of it and continued on. I quickly reminded myself that this is truly an adventure of a lifetime and the lows are only temporary. If you think you can, you will. If you think you can’t, you won’t. A little rain and some inclines aren’t going to piss on my day! I am an extremely positive person and tend to keep any negative thoughts to myself. It is nice venting my inner battles here and putting them into perspective.
March and April during peak backpacking season also welcome so much opportunity to cross paths with a lot of other aspiring thru-hikers who are just starting out. Over the next few days, I loved getting to meet so many incredible people. Honestly, I thought I was the only weirdo who wanted to wander around and do awesome shit. Nope! There are tons of weirdos wanting to do the same out here. I love it.
“But what’s so wrong about being a natural born weirdo anyway? Why do most of us pretend to be “average” and “normal”, putting on airs and graces and stony-faced masks to get by in a society that values “normalcy”? For acceptance of course!” – Loner Wolf
We met all sorts of people from new, aspiring thru-hikers to section hikers to seasoned thru-hikers who had completed the trail and were back to section hike. It was great listening to who I think was a class of 2013 thru-hiker, “Blaze.” He was an older gentleman who was accompanied by a guy we named, “Steve Prefontaine.” They were planning to just go to Fontana Dam this trip and doing big mile days. We ran into them once again at Gooch Mountain Shelter. They happened to be stopped here for a lunch break before pushing on towards Neels Gap.
I really enjoyed Gooch Mountain Shelter. I know most people are out here for solo time and solitude. I, however, am not. I am not looking to “find myself” or have some huge life changing epiphany. Hey, if you are, that’s awesome and I can respect and appreciate that. But I am honestly just out here for my love of adventure, wandering, and passion for the outdoors & backpacking. And if some epiphany happens along the way, it’s merely an added bonus. I enjoyed the company of so many unique people who rolled into Gooch that night. Turns out that my pep talk buddy “G.I. Joe” was already here enjoying his huge cigar. I am pissed I did not get a photo of him – what a character and fitting trail name for him. It turns out he is in his 40s with a wife and 3 girls, retired military, and a trail runner in phenomenal shape (this discovery made me feel a little better about our previous encounter).
As we rolled in to camp, I heard a familiar voice call out to me from the top of the shelter and say, “Jess!! We have your new trail name!” The voice was Cecil. We had met him and his hiking buddy the previous day as they were cursing out there heavy packs and debating if they needed to carry the blow torch they brought. I was a little nervous as I have heard some horrific trail names. But I accepted my new trail name, “Goldilocks.” It stuck easily. The next day rolling into camp Cliff quickly welcomed me with a big smile, “Hey! Goldilocks, you made it!” And so my trail name was born.
I am truly fortunate to have met so many awesome people at Gooch. “Moonchild”, Steve, Kevin, Andrew, “Florida”, “the newlyweds”, and so many others. It’s really hard to remember everyone’s names. Definitely one of the high moments filled with a lot of laughter.
Another frustration I am running into is my lack of photo taking. Photography is a huge passion and hobby of mine but I am either too exhausted, trying to keep pace with my partner, or pressed for time to make it to the next shelter. Something has to give. One of the reasons I want to be out here is to capture it and to take everything in. I have got to learn to slow down and smell the flowers, literally. This leads me to another high point – I feel like we are being blessed with the opportunity to watch spring come to life out here. It started off with a few tiny buds and some greenery and then boom! I feel like overnight we witnessed an explosion of life. It’s inspiring to see the forest come back to life after a long winter and a welcoming reminder of why I am doing what I’m doing out here.
I am going to leave it here for today as I sort through my notes and try and compose a few more posts. Can’t wait to elaborate on the amazing people, trail magic, and snake encounter that was to come. Until then…
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