Week 1- Blood, Rain and Tears
For the first time, Hello from the Appalachian Trail!
We have now completed 52.5 miles plus the 9 miles of the Approach Trail! We spent our first zero in Helen, GA (*highly* recommend). Overall, we are feeling really good and are still very happy with our plan to hike to Maine.
I had really big plans for this first blog post but, as I should have expected, zero days are actually really busy and I ran out of time to put this together.. so now I am writing this at 1130 pm while Bryce gives our friends a chess lesson before bed…. So here’s the highlights from our first week-
Our First Hitch
If you read our previous post you know that Mirage’s mom drove us to Amicalola State Park. We arrived after dark and had a surprisingly hard time finding our campsite. In the morning we discovered that the campground is actually at the top of the falls! We wanted to hike the stairs, and hit up the GATC visitor center to get our thru hiker tags. Mom suggested we ask someone for a ride, lucky for us the first people we asked were happy to give us a ride down! Thus our first hitch, extremely easy to achieve!
Our First Night
We spent our first night on trail at Black Gap Shelter. Bryce wanted to push on to Springer shelter but I didn’t want to do another climb, and wanted to enforce our first week policy of taking it easy on miles. We were glad we stayed at Black Gap because we met some lovely people there. It was actually the least crowded shelter we stayed at all week, and everyone tented!
We hit the summit of Springer bright and early Tuesday morning. We were lucky enough to be alone when we got there, not for long, but enough time for us to shed a few tears and share a few happy kisses without an audience. Right when we were ready to take photos a sweet couple came out of the woods and we traded places as each others photographers. On the way down from the summit Bryce noticed an owl hunting up in the trees. He named her Gertrude and we watched her for a good while. We spent most of the day in a cloud and Springer was no exception. Mirage remains convinced there are no good views from Springer.
Our First Rainstorms
Tuesday night we stayed in the most crowded shelter- 13 people and 2 dogs! – to avoid a heavy downpour over night. Mirage slept well and enjoyed listening to the rain on the metal roof, Bryce was kept up by some loud snoring… in the morning the rain cleared up by the time we were ready to go, just leaving us with muddy trail. We spent the day in spooky misty woods and saw many wet snails. The first two were named Dunston and Günther.
On Friday we knew we had Blood Mountain ahead of us. Mirage has hiked it before and remembered it being very tough, plus we knew there was a thunderstorm coming in sometime between 11am and 2pm. We got our earliest start yet, 850am – and started our 5 mile climb. Sure enough, at 1130 we heard thunder while we were finishing up lunch at Slaughter Creek. We made it to the peak just in time for the storm to really get going. Thunderstorms are apparently quite motivating to us because we completed our fastest mile yet. We were also motivated by the promise of warmth, pizza and our friend Hot Dog at Neel’s Gap. When we got there we were absolutely drenched and it took many hours to convince a tearful Mirage to leave Neel’s Gap… we eventually left and spent our first rainy night in our tent. Due to a series of unfortunate events we can now confirm our big ass 3 person tent can sleep 3 adults through wind and rain.
Our First Trail Magic
I would say that our first trail magic was actually how simple it was to get our hitch to the bottom of the falls but I’m going to talk about our first few “hiker feed” magics. Our first trail magic was from That Hiker Chick, she had cheese and beer – it was probably the best beer we ever had. Our second trail magic was from Geek on St Patty’s day at Gooch Gap. Also beer plus excellent conversation about all his adventures. Our third was probably the most necessary, at Hogpen Gap a church group comes out every weekend to feed and care for hikers, inspired by a members hike after receiving a cancer diagnosis (he was there, happy and healthy though one kidney short). We had just done a tough climb and Hot Dog and Bryce were dreaming of Gatorade – low and behold they had just enough Gatorade for both of them and fruit for all three of us. Bryce ate half of a tangerine in a single bite. Plus the best pound cake I’ve evah had, which I saved for breakfast the next day.
Our First Trail Friends
We are lucky enough to have more people we consider friends now than I can reasonably list here. The bubble is *huge* right now- we literally camped around 50 people at Low Gap shelter the other night. But we have a smaller bubble of folks that we are becoming familiar with and really hope we get to keep. Several of them have been in Helen with us and we have had a great time getting to know them off trail. Everyone is settling into their speed groove so we don’t expect to be around these folks forever but we are really enjoying the friends we are making.
Tomorrow we head back to the trail with two of our dear Richmond friends. We are excited for what this next week holds!
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