Welcome to the Trail

Days 1, 2 & 3

“Those who dare to fail miserably, can achieve greatly.”

– John F. Kennedy


March 28

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!

After the last goodbyes!

After the last goodbyes!





Signing into our first trail register!



Our first campsite at Hawk Mountain Campground


Filtering water from a stream at the campsite with our Sawyer.


Home sweet home


Cooking our pasta


March 29

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. 


Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal and a Strawberry Waffle: breakfast of champions


Sunkist from Miss Janet!

Oh sweet relief!


A water tank in the middle of the woods!





March 30

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!


The only method for getting all of the dirt out of the tent


Ridge walking all day

We were SO excited to see this bus!


The 12 Tribes bus that served soup and hot tea to hungry hikers. Some of ghe nicest people we’ve ever met!


The BEST tomato basil soup Ive ever had!


Maddy was nice enough to pick us up and take us to Walmart and to the hostel.

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The 12 Tribes trail Angels with hot tea and soup at Woody Gap!

Our Hiker Hostel room. It's a dream.

Our Hiker Hostel room. It’s a dream.

Lessons Learned:

  • 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!


Much love,

The Stones



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Comments 10

  • Stuart : Mar 30th

    Hi Guys, don’t ever grow up! My wife and I are doing the AT in 2017 we have no plans of growing up or old ;^)
    good luck in your hike and have fun.

  • Robert : Mar 31st

    Looking forward to your pos Best wishes

    • Tammy : Mar 31st

      As your mom, there have been a ton of emotions over the past year since you told me about doing this. I’ve been excited, but nervous and worried at the same time (you do refer to me as the overly concerned parent). As the date got closer, the knots in my stomach got bigger. It was very hard to send you off into the woods. What parent can honestly say they would not be worried about driving, what seemed like 100 miles up a rough cliff, to take their daughter to drop her off into the unknown wilderness for who knows how long and who knows what can happen. But, the bigger part of me knows that you are grown and that you have your own dreams, goals and journey in life and I would never want to hold you back. So, while I may worry and fret over your level of comfort, safety and well being… I want you to know that I fully love you and support you along this journey. I figure I will always worry, no matter what or no matter how old you are. So, better for you to go ahead and do the things you want to do in life, enjoy life to the fullest, experience things and always – always reach for your dreams and goals. And, never forget that as your mom I will always be there for you no matter what. I’m proud of you and who you are and can’t wait to follow you along this journey that you and Josh are on. I know you will see and experience some “once in a life time” moments and I will live vicariously through you the entire way. You have many people who are supporting you and even a few “special” angels looking over you as you embark on this adventure. I love you to the moon and back, Mom!

      • Stacy : Mar 31st

        As Mom’s we will always worry! But proud at the same time-GOOD for them for following their dreams.

  • Irvin Valle (coach) : Mar 31st

    I have been following Badger posts since the summer I know I have read yours before if it’s possible I may have missed it I am looking to figure out hiking equipment and how couples are sharing it because my wife and I are also planning a thru-hike interested in the stuff that you share tent stove Etc and how it reduces pack weight by splitting it between two people keep up the good posts and keep hiking

    • The Stones : Apr 6th

      Hi Irvin! We share quite a few things, which saves tremendously on weight and space! As far as equipment, we share a tent, a stove, a cook pot (we have individual collapsible cups), and fuel. We also buy food that both of us like so we can just share/trade. We also share a few toiletries, like toothpaste, wipes and medicine. We both carry our own food bags, sleeping bags and water. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask! Good luck planning your thru hike!
      Maranda Stone

  • Stacy : Mar 31st

    So proud of you both-I will definitely keep up with the blogs your posting & the pictures. Today I started reading other people’s blogs (along with yours) have ya’ll gotten Trail names yet?
    Love you! Be safe!! XOXO (your cousin)

  • Shana Tamminga : Apr 2nd

    I am so excited for you two! Sounds like you are both enjoying your adventure and your special time together. My thoughts and prayers are with you both and I look forward to reading your blogs to keep up with you on your journey.

  • Kestrelchick : Apr 8th

    enjoying your posts! I have been looking and looking to read posts from couples – my teenage son and I will be doing a thru-hike next year and so have been trying to figure out the sharing thing – looking at sharing a stove and a tent but he likes different foods than I do so he will have his own cookpot…we have been going back and forth and back and forth about the water filtering system – we purchased a Gravity 4L water filter that is really quick, thinking it would be best to filter for both of us in one swoop instead of the regular size Sawyer squeeze…do you guys share one Sawyer squeeze or do you have one for each? loving your posts 🙂

    • The Stones : Apr 9th

      We share 1 Sawyer filter, but have our own platypus bags and two smart water bottles each. Good luck planning your thru hike!!


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