Two Weeks In

Today is day 17 of my northbound thru hike of the AT. Today is also my first zero day. Thus far, I’ve made it the first 207 miles of the trail, from Springer Mountain to Newfound Gap.  I’ll just offer a quick recap of the first few weeks of my journey so that I can fully enjoy the rest of my zero.

My parents drove me down to Georgia from Cincinnati, OH on May 25, and I started hiking at Springer the next day. I skipped the approach trail and drove up to the parking area a mile north of Springer to start my hike. My parents hiked the first day with me up to Hawk Mountain Shelter and we all stayed the night. They headed south to the car the next morning and I headed north. On day one I acquired my trail name of “Leapfrog” because I hike fast and had a tendency to pass people, and the name has stuck. By day 3 I was climbing Blood Mtn, which I found to be nowhere near as bad as I had anticipated. I picked up a mail drop at Neels Gap and continued hiking. I made the poor choice of putting in a 23 mile day on day 4 from Baggs Creek to Tray Mtn Shelter, but I’ve since learned my lesson. I was so tired from the hike, including a brutal climb out of Unicoi Gap 17 miles in, that I skipped dinner and went straight to bed. I hiked to Dicks Creek the next day and spent a relaxing evening at Top of Georgia hostel. The evening was fun because I met many of my trail friends there who I am still hiking with. The highlights of the next few days included crossing into NC and enjoying beautiful views from the Ravens Rock side trail near Muskrat Creek Shelter. I enjoyed the stop at the NOC, but the climb out in the pouring rain was not as enjoyable. I brilliantly climbed the seven miles uphill in crocs so my hiking shoes didn’t get wet. It was great putting on dry shoes in the morning while everyone else had soaked boots. The rain was made better by leftover pizza I brought for dinner, which made everyone else jealous.  I’ve been taking it easy and just doing 12-15 mile days for the past few days. What I thought would be an easy 15 miles day over fairly flat elevation turned out to probably be my hardest climb yet. I found out later the section I struggled with so much was Jacob’s Ladder; it would’ve been nice to have been warned about it ahead of time. We hit Fontana a few days ago, which gave me a Nero and a relaxing day. Fontana was terrific because it was perfect for hikers- general store, ice cream, laundry, and a pool all in the same area. Due to several shelters being closed in the Smokies, I hiked 17.5 miles to Spence Field on the climb into the Smokies, and saw four bears in my first day in the park. The weather has cooperated for the most part and the Smokies have been incredible. I’ve now hit the highest point on the trail at Clingmans Dome (thanks to the trail angel who left sodas near the tower!) and am enjoying my zero in Waynesville, NC after being picked up at Newfound Gap. The trail has been great so far, although with a fair amount of trials, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the trail has in store. Happy Trails!

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