Yes Mom, I am still alive
To answer the 500 texts I received while service-less in the woods: YES I AM ALIVE, AND YES I SURVIVED THE FIRST COUPLE DAYS OF MY THRU-HIKE.
This experience has honestly been better than I ever could have dreamed, and right now I am loving every second of the hike. I am just so freaking happy and excited to be hiking this trail.
Everyday I see something new and amazing, and everyday I get to test my body to its physical and mental limits. I have literally never been happier.
A lot has happened in the past few days, so here is a quick breakdown to catch you all up to speed:
My dad and I left PA around 11:30pm on May 8th to drive 15 hours and cover almost 800 miles in order to reach Dawsonville, Georgia. From there, we returned the rental car and got a taxi ride up to Amicalola State Park in Georgia to stay at the lodge for the night.
I received my first pack shakedown from an awesome women named Kathy who works at the lodge and was able to shed more than a few pounds off my pack before even stepping foot on the trail, which was awesome.
Day 1: We completed the 8.8 mile approach trail and finally reached the start of the AT on Springer Mountain. The trail was challenging at some points since you literally climb up the side of a mountain, but overall we felt pretty good after the trek. We considered staying at the shelter on top of the mountain, but decided to push on another 2.8 miles to the Stover Creek Shelter. We both ended the day with aching feet and sore muscles after a 11.6 mile day. The shelter was at a really nice location by a creek and surrounded by the beautiful Georgia woods. It was a really windy and noisy night, which resulted in a pretty poor night of sleep.
Day 2: I officially came to the conclusion that going down a mountain is WAY WORSE than climbing up it. We hiked from Stover Creek all the way to the Justce Creek campsite. It was a rough 12.4 mile day as we tackled 3 different mountains, with lots of climbs and descends in between. I hurt my knee pretty bad while going down the second mountain, making the rest of the day somewhat of a struggle. Thanks to a knee brace and some Vitamin- I (that’s ibuprofen for you non hikers out there) I was able to finish out the day and rest up at camp that night. The campsite was right next to beautiful Justce Creek and we fell asleep to the sound of rushing water and crickets singing.
Day 3: It took an entire sheet of mole skin and 9 band aids for my feet to be able to hike today. With that in mind and the condition of my knee, we decided to keep it short and hike from Justce Creek to Woody Gap, which was only about 6.4 miles. The hike was nice and had a couple overlooks of the monster mountains we climbed the day before. Once we reached Woody Gap, we decided to call a hostel in Suches, Georgia and spend the night. We were able to resupply, rest our feet, (and most importantly) TAKE MY FIRST SHOWER AFTER 3 DAYS OF NONSTOP SWEATING. It felt great to no longer smell like a locker room, but truth be told I really missed sleeping in my cozy little tent. In just three days, I grew really accustomed to falling asleep when the sun goes down, and waking up when it rises, and I missed hearing all the owls, coyotes, and crickets at night. Looks like the next five months of sleeping outside shouldn’t be a problem….
Day 4: We got driven back to Woody Gap in the morning and began our hike through the Blood Mountain Wilderness. We heard a bunch of horror stories about how hard the stretch between Jarrard Gap and Neels Gap. A bear canister is required for camping in between the two, so since we didn’t have one (like most other thru-hikers) we had to hike the whole thing straight though. The section was described to us as rough and extremely difficult, and since Blood Mountain is one of the highest peaks in the state, all of this would make sense. We felt GREAT during and after the climb though. The climb was long, but we were able to hike strongly straight up the mountain. The view from the top was UNBELIEVABLE. You could see as far as Tennessee according to one of the locals. The climb down was a little more hairy due to the 15 blisters on my feet and my knee. We finished the 11.4 miles though so that we could spent the night camping at Neels Gap with some new trail friends and shivering due to the low 40 degree temperatures that night.
Day 5: We got a late start since we visited Mountain Crossing at Neels Gap first thing in the morning. I got myself new insoles for my boots which I am hoping will help with the foot/blister problems and even possibly my knee pain. After that we hiked 12.7 miles from Neels Gap to Low Gap Shelter. The hike was full of a bunch of great views and some fun climbs. After a somewhat rough part of the trail, we were greeted with trail magic at Tennsenate Gap in the form of a cold beer. It definitely lifted our spirits and made the climb up to Wildcat mountain a whole lot better. As we rolled into camp, the wind really picked up and the temperature dropped for the second night in a row. The low of 32 made for another chilly night.
Day 6: Since I reached a count of 17 blisters, we decided that it was about time to take a zero (a day with no miles hiked). Since we were still a little bit away from the closest trailhead or town, we hiked a short 7.3 miles from Low Gap to Blue Mountain Shelter. This put us in the perfect place to take a zero on Monday since we camped pretty close to a trailhead. We arrived at the shelter early, which was a first for us. We usually are the last ones to roll into camp, so being early and having our pick of places to set up the tent was a really nice change. We were able to leisurely make dinner, set up a fire, and talk about the plan for while we were in town. The shelter was on top of Blue Mountain, so watching the sunset over the valleys through the trees was the perfect was to end the day.
Day 7: So now here we are, sitting in a comfy hotel bed and taking a zero in town to resupply and get some much needed rest for our bodies. This first week has gone much quicker than expected, but at the same time it feels as though I have been away from society for weeks already.
I am really getting the hang of this whole thru hiking thing and am loving every second of this adventure. I am so excited to see what this next week has in store!
Total miles hiked: 52.9 (+ the 8.8 mile approach trail)
Miles to go: 2136.3
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