Welcome to the Trail
Days 1, 2 & 3
“Those who dare to fail miserably, can achieve greatly.”
– John F. Kennedy
Springer Mountain to Hawk Mountain Campsite- 8.4 miles
The big day!! The nervous butterflies in our stomachs were getting worse and worse as we drove up 400. After stopping for breakfast at Chickfila (had to get a last biscuit in), we headed up an old, nauseatingly bumpy, logging road for what seemed like 100 miles to reach the top of Springer. It was such a beautiful, sunny day and once we reached the parking lot, everything felt a little surreal. We hiked with our families (we probably had the largest send-off in history) to the southern terminus of the trail and took the requisite pictures next to the plaque that marks the beginning of the trail. I told myself I wouldn’t cry anymore after I’d already cried that morning telling our pets goodbye, but after walking away from our families after the last hugs were given, I started to cry. There were so many feelings that day, ranging from absolute disbelief that our dream was finally coming true, to sadness at leaving everyone and everything behind. It was a hard day of hiking after that. We started around 1 and got to the campground at around 5. My feet and back were killing me from the weight of my pack and blisters, and I was so ready to set up camp and get into my sleeping bag. The campsite we stayed at is brand new, with about 30 tent pads, 3 huge metal food boxes, and a privy. Stupidly, I fell asleep at about 7:00 and woke up throughout the night, wondering how it could possibly still be dark out. It was a very cold night, below freezing, and the wind was blowing pretty hard, but I stayed very warm in my sleeping bag (sweaty even). We heard strange sounds all night, like gunshots, some sort of metal squeaking noise, and a small rodent chewing on something all night right outside the tent. All in all though, the first day was tough but we were so happy to wake up on the trail the next morning!
Hawk Mountain Campsite to Gooch Mountain Shelter- 8.4 miles
Woke up feeling excited and ready to hike! We hiked up and over Sassafrass Mountain (true to its name) and Justus Mountain. Everything people say about Georgia being really difficult is absolutely true. All day we were either going up a steep incline or going down a steep incline. But what the trail takes, it gives back. After hiking back down a mountain, we came to a road crossing and Miss Janet the trail angel was waiting on us with a cooler full of sodas. We were so grateful for the cold drinks and the good conversation. She’s even taking some of Josh’s extra weight to Mountian Crossings for us to send home. After hiking a few more greuling miles, we came to a beautiful stream. There were a bunch of other hikers gathered on the banks soaking their sore feet, and we gladly joined in. I have never been so excited to soak my feet in a cold river. There were about 100 monarch butterflies fluttering around us as we soaked our feet and ate gummy worms. It was euphoric to say the least. After that, we only had 1 1/2 miles to Gooch Shelter. It was very crowded, and we got one of the last tent spots, which was on a slope. I took a “bath” in the little stream, and it felt SO good to get the salt from sweating all day off of my body. We heard two owls hooting back and forth to each other right above our tent during the night, which was super cool.
Gooch Mountain Shelter to Woody Gap- 4.5 miles
Today I woke up with a very sore, tender knee, and there is a thunderstorm rolling in tonight in the early hours of the morning, so we decided to take an Nero day and stay at the Hiker Hostel tonight. It was excruciating hiking on my knee today, and I thought every downhill slope would be my last. I felt like I was going at a snails pace in order to not damage it further. I was so very happy when we came to the Woody Gap road crossing and found an entire bus of trail angels set up. They were giving free hot tea and soup to hikers. I had the best tomato soup of my life. After I ate a bowl of soup in about 2 minutes, Maddy (Josh’s sister who goes to school in Dahlonega) picked us up and took us to get some supplies at Walmart and a milkshake. She dropped us off at the hostel where we got a private room, and I immediately started a load of laundry and took a glorious shower. I’ve been laying in a big comfy bed icing my knee ever since. We ordered a pizza for dinner and are thoroughly enjoying all the luxuries a hostel has to offer!
- You don’t need bear spray.
- You don’t need as much food as you think you do for the first few days of the trail. We haven’t really been hungry at all and we’ve given A LOT of food away.
- Dont pitch your tent on anything that even remotely resembles a slope.
- Listen to your body. If you think you’re doing too much, you are. “You can’t finish your thru-hike in a month, but you sure can end it.”
- Eat and drink even though you don’t feel like it.
We’re exhausted, sore and sunburned, but we are loving life on the trail!
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