Only 3 Weeks?!
Well, if you haven’t guessed already…yup that’s right…I’ve been hiking north along the Appalachian Trail now for three weeks! It seems like just yesterday and a million years ago all at the same time that I was making the climb up to Springer Mountain (shout out to my Mom for climbing it with me) to begin my northbound journey to Maine. So, where did my two feet bring me in 3 weeks? Let me tell you about it.
Week 1: Springer Mountain to Tellico Gap (Miles 0.0-128.8)
Hello Georgia, you are very far from flat and a hot box filled with the second most elevation gain in one state next to New Hampshire (fact check this)–and you’re only 78 miles! I began my trek in what felt both literally and physically a jungle. The gorgeous rhododendron tunnels swept me through my days and eased the intensity of the first real climbs. I immediately fell in love with the trail and knew I was in for quite a ride. Hostel Around the Bend was my first treat of civilization and what a great place. I said goodbye to Georgia and moved onto North Carolina, closing off the week with an incredible sunset on Standing Indian ountain, which is still my favorite night on the trail so far (yes, I know it’s still early.)
Week 2: Tellico Gap to Standing Bear Hostel (Mile 128.8-241.5)
I have a hard time letting go of my superhero complex, and trust me I am working on it out here. I have a tendency to ignore things when it comes to my body and push myself beyond what I shouldn’t. I’ve done it most of my life and I’ve now carried it into this hike. Coming into Tellico Gap was painful. I pushed the pain aside and kept on going with the miles. But mile after mile came more pain across my right foot and up my lower shin. Ignore, I kept saying, but when I came to the Gap, I had to make a decision. Push on for the next 2 miles to the shelter where I would be meeting a newfound hiker friend or stop. I stopped and got a shuttle into town and decided to take a Zero that next day to rest it. I said goodbye to my hiking buddy and got in the car, hoping that I would return. It was hard admitting that I needed to rest but once I did, with the helpful reminders from home that I’m in it for the long game and a plan for how to monitor and prevent the pain going forward, I returned back to Tellico Gap after my Zero, rested, with the Smokies on my mind.
Let me tell you, I was excited for the Smokies. I couldn’t wait for the climbs, the views, the potential encounters with bears, and the shelters. Well, I got 3 out of those 4 and mostly rain. Rain, stop, rain, stop, repeat. It was my first true test of rain and it’s impact on me mentally (and physically) and I came out winning. Did I get a view on Clingmans Dome? No, but that’s ok. I did get a good last day and a half with an epic lunch view on Charlie’s Bunion, my trail name on the last night in the Smokies, and the best side trail view at Mt. Cammerer. I dropped the other half of my permit in the AT thru hiker box and said goodbye to the Smokies and hello fairy tale world that lies within Standing Bear Hostel.
Week 3: Standing Bear Hostel to Stan Murray Shelter (Mile 241.5-384.2)
What a vortex of a place, Standing Bear was, and when I woke up from a story book of a dream, I put my shoes back on and continued north. I must have felt good that day coming out of the hostel, because I climbed over Snowbird, Max Patch, and Bluff Mountain in one day. I did manage to slow down enough to take a moment to frolic and sing on Max Patch as if I were Julie Andrews in the “Sound of Music.” The next day I sprinted into Hot Springs with breakfast on my mind. Pancakes, French toast, omelet, hash browns, biscuit, check. Then a soak in the magic mineral water tub. My Nero day at Laughing Heart Hostel was a treat. And then came the humidity and the weight of a resupply combined.
Wake up and hike. Oh, I didn’t want to get up the next morning, the warmth of my quilt felt good and there were no sun or birds to wake me, but I was excited for the next stretch of hiking ahead and the weather for the next 3-ish days looked promising. I stealth camped by myself for the first time on trail and can happily say I’d do it again! Next up, Roan Mountain. I’d heard of its beauty and the Balds to follow. And did they deliver. I’ve been hiking alone since I said goodbye to my short lived hiking partner back in Tellico Gap, and I love being able to enjoy the pace and freedom that hiking alone gives me, but I sometimes crave human interactions during the day. Luckily I found a great human with great conversation to get us up and over Roan Mountain. We then parted ways and I galloped through to the Balds only to stop every 10 feet because every view seemed to have changed from the last and I wanted to soak them all in.
I saw my first rattlesnake–probably got too close, but it wasn’t rattling so maybe it liked me. Then the next day was a day of outrunning a storm, or at least attempting to. Watch out though, because I saw my second rattlesnake, nearly stepping on its head. Remember in Jurassic Park when they were being hunted by velociraptors? Well, that was me, but with rattlesnakes. I was alone a lot that day, to my own devices, and when the storm finally caught up to me, I let it win and called it a night in a shelter that happened to be 0.5 miles away from roaring thunder and lightning. The next day, I still had 27 miles left to Uncle Johnny’s Hostel. I could do that and so I did. I grinded through the fog and peaks of sun wanting to break through until I stumbled out onto the porch of the hostel. Resupply, shower, eat, sleep.
Curled in a ball in my hammock at 5,000ft I reflect on these last 3 weeks on trail, which now have been the longest time I’ve been out consecutively on trail, with my previous longest stretch being my 2-week thru hike of the Long Trail. Tomorrow, I reach mile 400, and tomorrow brings more memories I shall tuck away to share with you next time…
Oh and hey, do you see the resemblance?! Spidy! My new trail name. 🙂 Ironically, I dislike spiders AND seem to carry some superhero complex that can get me into trouble. Time to maybe change both of those perspectives a bit?
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You make a better spiderman!
I am so proud of you..keep it up spidy.