Trekking along week one with my Tramily & Trail Angels

Week one is done y’all!

Comin’ in hot from the Carter Gap shelter, North Carolina!! Mile 93.9! I can proudly say I have made it through an entire week of trekking the AT. Was it hard? Heck yes. Was I cold? Definitely. Are you in Pain? A little. Did I poop in the woods yet? NOPE! 😛 (thankful for privys!)

Now that we got some of the most important and most asked questions out of the way let me just say this, I am so freaking blessed. This week has had its struggles but the amount of encouragement from friends and family combined with trail magic and help of my tramily (trail family) has been beyond what I could have ever imagined. So thank you everyone!


Day 1:

Monday I completed the Amicalola approach trail with my mama (who hiked it like a champ!) and went on to further to Hawk Mountain Shelter. There were 6 others there and we didn’t know it yet but that was the day our tramily was formed. Day two came and we all set out down the trail on our own time, not really sure where we were gonna end up. All I knew was I was not going to camp alone yet if I could help it. So gulping in as much air as my lungs could handle, I hauled ass over Sassafrass mountain to catch whoever I could from last night.

Day 2:

While descending down Sassafrass I came across a friendly group of elderly hikers who bestowed upon me my first piece of trail magic…an orange! (Thank you Carol). We chit-chatted for a minute, I had my picture taken then continued on my way down peeling away at my prize. Not long after I met up with Sam (Long Haul) and John (Carpenter), two from the night before and we pushed to a campsite at Suches, Georgia where we were surprised to see Travis (Four Seasons) and Tim (Fresh Ground), two more from the night before!! The other two showed up eventually and Fresh Ground already had a great campsite picked out so we set up there. There was a chance for rain and he said he didn’t think it would put us under water but I think he just wanted to watch us pull our tents out of the puddles at 6 AM 😛



Day 3:

And that is exactly what we did on day three. Wet gear and all we headed out into the fog one by one with plans to meet up at Neel Gap. I thought I was gonna get to test out my rain gear but was pleasantly surprised by how quick the weather cleared and was blessed with the amazing view from the top of Blood Mountain. Descending from Blood Mountain, we all took a small break and resupplied then headed another mile in to Bulls Gap. Now I’ve never experienced a tornado or hurricane but I’m willing to be the winds we had were darn near close! That was by far the worst night yet on the trail. To make it even worse, it dropped below freezing that night.


Day 4:

I guess I wasn’t the only one who didn’t sleep cause all but one of us were up and outta there by six AM. Headlamps and all, we trekked through the mountains which gave us the most colorful sunrise I’ve ever seen. It was so unbelievable and made every minute of that morning hike worthwhile. Coming down was as much of a challenge as going up but more so when I snapped not just one but both trekking poles in half and then one again after fixing it up with a stick and duct tape. Thus earning my trail name, Snap. But it was after that climb that I met Leonard, an angel. Literally- A Trail Angel! He was waiting at the bottom for Fresh Grounds and some of us with him to supply us with refreshments and even slack packed (hiking without a pack or just a day pack) us over the hardest climb of the day! Leonard being the kind hearted person that he is also let me borrow his trekking poles until the next day when we would see him again, along with his beanie because mine was sadly not warm enough.

This was also the day I had to pull out my “Why” list for hiking the trail. I woke up with a sharp pain in my upper hip that would not let up at all that day. Every rock my toes came in contact with sent a shooting pain up my entire leg and made me yelp in pain. Knowing that I should not have- I pushed on. We ended up doing 17 miles but really probably crawled the last few more than hiked it. My spirits and energy were so low. I slowly and painfully put up my tent, shoved three packets of oatmeal into my belly and tearfully crawled into my tent for the night. I read over my Why list, texted my mom and prayed for a warm night.

Day 5:

It was not. It was 2 AM when I heard the wind howling again and I pulled out my emergency blanket to wrap up in over top of my quilt. It must’ve worked because I woke in the morning with condensation on top of the quilt and wiped the sleep from my eyes.

Leonard met us again after our first climb of the day and was waiting with McDonalds sausage biscuits and other yummy treats! Even better though, he bought me new trekking poles!! Bless that man. Also letting me keep the beanie, he gifted me a insulated sleeping bag liner too? I was in awe. Here is this man I have barely known for a day, being so generous to me! Already proving what I’ve read so many times from other hikers: the trail will restore your faith in humanity.

We all downed a yoohoo, gatoraid and goodies then headed up another mountain (a couple of us also got to Slack pack!!) And there he was again on the other side waiting for us to fuel up with more goodies and do it all again. Though this time Caleb, Leonard’s grandson led us up the next climb. That little boy flew up the mountain! He even kept up a conversation the entire­ way! We bestowed upon him the trail name Happy Feet ?. After that climb we all said our thank yous and goodbyes to Leonard and walked away just amazed at how much he helped us.



Day 6:

But that was not the end of our trail magic. The following morning Fresh Ground’s friends Jimmy and I Believe (who is a previous thru-hiker) were waiting for us with oranges and doughnuts! Also Speedy and Lily who met up (with more doughnuts) to visit with us all. They all gave us a ride to the Budget Inn in Hiwassee and we split two rooms, got hot showers (I took two), and we killed the local Buffett at lunch then another pizza buffet at dinner.


The next morning Jimmy shuttled us back to the trail and we were on our way! Thank you Jimmy, I Believe, Speedy & Lily for your kindness and help!! We miss y’all already.

Overall I’d say the first week and first town have been a success!


Trail Names

If you’re a long distance hiker you probably have one of these. Some choose their own but many let their habits or gear

  •  Fresh Ground or should I say Papa chatterbox? 😛 (kidding!) This man knows it all. He is our southern AT tour guide, packed full with information along with his French press, coffee beans and grinder! Every morning he makes himself a pot of coffee to start the day and if you’re lucky he’ll make you one too 🙂
  • Long Haul is the most fitting out of the names I’d say. This guy could feed the 19 kids and counting family and STILL have a meal left for himself! You’re probably thinking it slows him down right? Absolutely not. If he weren’t long haul he’d be flash or mountain goat cause he can fly up the mountains! Talk about strong. And I think even with all of the food he has packed he’d probably tell you mashed potatoes are his favorite.
  • Imagine is our comic relief. If the trail doesn’t give us six pack abs, laughing at his jokes will. Some may say he’s a smart ass but he’ll tell ya he can’t have a smart ass, just a smart brain.
  • Four Seasons earned his name by bringing along a four season tent (which is rare) and once he’s in he doesn’t come out. He just peeps his head out of the door to add to Imagine’s smart remarks. Although he did get camp shoes today so maybe we’ll see more of him now.
  • Carpenter… this man brought along a hammer!! He said to heck with rocks, he was gonna ground his stakes the right way darn it. We thought we lost him on day three and named him solo but luckily he showed back up and joined the crew again.

We have another member of the tramily, Adam who fell back for a little while on day three to recuperate. He caught back up to us but we haven’t been able to come up with a good one for him yet!

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Comments 12

  • Christine Taylor : Feb 21st

    I am so sorry you had to stay at the Budget in Hiawassee. It was one of the worst stays for me on the trail. Every day will have very good parts and very bad parts. In the end the great times out wiegh the bad. It is hard but so worth it. I wish I could do it again this year.

    • Eugene Partridge : Feb 22nd

      Hi Bethany from Houston, Texas.
      A good trail name might be “chipmunk” your desires to go out on a limb i.e. this type of adventure and you are a bit of a nut according to your mom. I will not go any further but you can decide if it is fitting.
      It is my hopes to hike the AT in 2019 at the age of 62 for the first time, I need to retire first then see if I can be away from my wife and family for 6 months that is the hardest part for me. I do not want to leave my wife for 6 months it feels so selfish and I love her dearly. Wish you the very best and listen to your body keep your own pace and you will meet many people I am sure that will be there for you.

      • Bethany Varner : Feb 27th

        If I weren’t self conscious about my cheeks I’d love that name ? but I think I’ve taken a liking to the trail name “snap”. It will definitely be difficult to leave them but time will fly by and you’ll be so thankful you hiked it! Have your read AWOL’s book? His wife and kids met him a couple times on the trail.

    • Bethany Varner : Feb 27th

      Ah dang sorry to hear your stay wasn’t good. We had a great time there and were mostly just grateful for hot water and a warm bed. Glad to have my tramily to meet at the end of the day and cheer each other up after the tough climbs

  • Chris Jalbert : Feb 22nd

    Hi Snap! Greetings from Reading Pa! Kinda bitter sweet for me to read your blog because an ankle injury six weeks proir to my start date has me hanging in limbo! Hopefully this year! Keep in touch as you get closer to Port Clinton Pa I will promise you and the Tramily some magic when you get here! Not ‘if’ , when!

    • Bethany Varner : Feb 27th

      Sad to hear about your injury! Praying for a quicky recovery and hope you get the chance to hike yourself! I will keep in mind to reach out as our tramily treks closer to where you are! Very kind of you to offer trail magic 🙂

  • KENNETH CALHOUN : Feb 22nd


  • Robert Scott : Feb 22nd

    Jimmy and I Believe must have been sharing the magic quite a bit the past couple of days.

    You can see them at about the 13:00 mark in this video from Reddmage: . I’m guessing that you and your group are the other hikers he mentions that they were going back to meet.

    • Bethany Varner : Feb 27th

      Jimmy told us about Reddmage! Maybe we will catch up with him. But yes they were going to quite a few stops last week to help a lot of us! So much appreciated, they are wonderful!

  • Jimmy and I Believe : Feb 26th

    Wow wow, we made it home on saturday evening and now its sunday early in the morning and i found this site of yours (WOW WOW) and read everything you have posted from the very first sentence including the comments. IMPRESSED would be an understatement. Great writing ability!! We are so gratefull God gave us the priviledge of meeting you. Sorry we didnt get to meet your mom at the NOC, but maybe up the trail we will get that chance.

    • Bethany Varner : Feb 27th

      We miss y’all so much!! Every day we talk about how great y’all have been to us. We do hope to see y’all again on the trail 🙂

  • Michelle Hammer : Mar 14th

    What are you using to keep your hair out of your face? Looks great!


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