My First 8 Days on the Appalachian Trail

Day 1 – March 28

Arrived at Amicalola State Park and signed the hiker log. Hiker #1,070. The bag weighted 32 lbs including food and water not too bad.

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signing the hiker log

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decided to take the 600+ steps at Amicalola State Park as a pre-training exercise and it was very hard climbing with my 32 lb. backpack. At one point, I thought that my back was going to give out and this was not even the beginning of the trail, but as a purist had to carry my backpack up the stairs instead of driving the car to the Amicalola Lodge like many folks did. Along the way met several thru hikers that I met on Facebook via the Appalachian Trail: Women’s Group.  Decided to stay at the Lodge and begin the Approach trail the following day.

 

Day 2 – March 29

Miles Today – 7.25

Miles Total – 7.25

After having a nice breakfast with my husband, I started the Approach trail around 9am and it was a bit cold and going uphill. Since I climbed the stairs the prior day, I only had 7.25 miles to go today. The hardest part was saying good bye to my amazing and supportive husband. After hiking for about 1/2 a mile had to take my coat off because it was very hot. I was very slow going uphill. You see for the past 5 months I had not been very active, but dealing with a bit of depression after losing my job in Academia. I was the quintessential couch potato. I spent most of the day hiking by myself since I was very slow and was trying to adjust to the weight of my backpack. At some point during the hike, I started thinking about why I’m still grieving for my mother who passed away 5 years ago. I felt angry because she was not supposed to leave so soon at 66. Who dies of rheumatoid arthritis anyway? I need to work this out. The hardest part of this trail was the fact that these miles are not part of the AT. Why do it? Well, for me it was part of the ritual and as a purist I had to complete them to feel that I was truly hiking the AT and this was just the beginning.

Made it to Springer Mountain (3,782 ft. elevation) around 4pm and took in the amazing views at the top. After searching for a bit, I found the plaque/register at the Southern Terminus and signed it as Tin Cup my original trail name (later to be changed). By this point many hikers had already set up their tents and were settling in for the evening. Although there was space at the Springer Mountain Shelter, I decided to find a spot to pitch my tent and setting it up was not a problem. Cooked Ramen noodles for the first time in my life and then used the bear cables to hang the food. Lesson learned; next time pitch tent near water (had to make four trips using the Mini Sawyer which sucks big time). Will have to upgrade soon. Here I met Starbucks and Dolla Coin, two young ladies thru hiking by themselves as well.

Day 3- March 30

Miles Today – 8.1

Miles Total – 8.1

Woke up at 7am, made coffee and quickly dismantled camp. Started at 8:45am from Springer Mountain to Hawk Mountain Shelter. Hiked most of the day with Justin (Darkness) from Kansas City. This was not a bad trail, but certainly had some tough hills and I felt that my body and legs were starting to adjust. I was very surprised that by 11am, I had already hiked 5 miles (not bad). Got to the shelter around 2:15pm and decided to stay in the shelter since rain was predicted for the early part of the morning. Here I met Louis and Clark a young environmentalist couple from Virginia doing a flip flop. Last year they hiked from Maine to PA and this year they started in GA going to PA. Also met Steve (Mountain Goat) and older gentlemen and Steve, a young man from Waco Texas–very quiet and reserved (who was suffering from blisters and during this hike injured his back by falling). I got to experience my first trail magic. A group of four from the 12 tribes stop by and provided us with hot tea. I’m not a tea aficionado, but this tea was the best I had ever had. Perhaps it was the fact that it was extremely cold and windy by 7pm when they came around.

hawk mtn shelter 2

Hawk Mountain Shelter

Day 4 – March 31

Miles Today – 7.7

Miles Total – 15.8

Started my hike at 8:30am from Hawk Mountain Shelter to Gooch Mountain Shelter. Today, I had to use my rain gear for the first time. Thunderstorms were on the horizon and as predicted it started to rain throughout the day. Hiking in the rain was an exciting experience, but as the rain continued to pour my rain gear and backpack started to get really wet even though my backpack was covered. Towards the end of the hike I became frustrated because I started to get cold and the shelter was nowhere in sight (I swear that this hike felt more than 7.7 miles). I arrived at the shelter at 5:30pm where there must have been more than 50 people already there not including those who had set up their tents already. I was cold, tired, and wet. Quickly made my Lipton soup to get a little warm, but it was difficult since there was hardly any space available. I then found a space to pitch my tent and with the help of Darkness it went up, however it was completely wet; as a result, so was my sleeping pad and parts of my sleeping bag. It took an act of congress to get somewhat dried. It continued to rain throughout the night with heavy lightning and thunderstorms. I was so scared all night and couldn’t sleep at all and was feeling defeated by the rain. I did not come out of the tent after 6pm and had to improvise my bathroom trips, so decided to pee in a cup inside my tent (not to get my only dry clothes wet). I contemplated quitting all night long since the next day was also supposed to rain. If I had had phone reception, I may have left the trail for good. However, I decided that I needed to regroup and dry all my gear, so decided to hike to Woody Gap the next day and stay at the Hiker Hostel.

Day 5 – April 1

Miles Today – 5

Miles Total – 20.8

All my gear was soaking wet. I put everything in my backpack and headed out from Gooch Mountain Shelter to Woody Gap to recharge my batteries if you will. This hike was not bad although it was raining on and off throughout the day. Once I got to Woody Gap, I was welcomed by my second trail magic day (several of the 12 tribe members) were providing tea, hotdogs and lentil soup in their bus. Because I didn’t have phone connection (TMobile is not reliable), I asked to use the shuttle driver’s phone to call the Hiker Hostel. Well what do you know, the hostel was completely booked.  I became very frustrated and Murris the shuttle driver suggested staying at Two Wheels of Suches a Motorcycle Campground since they had private cabins and that was exactly what I needed at the moment. Luckily, there were cabins available and I was able to wash and dry all my clothes (including my tent). Here I received my third trail magic for the day….four cans of Budweiser beer. Once I settled down, I felt the energy and excitement of getting back to the trail, but there was one problem, I did not have a working phone. So, I decided to take a day zero at the Wolfpen Gap Country Store.

Day 6 – April 2

Miles Today – 0

Miles Total – 20.8

Took a day zero today at the Wolfpen Gap Country Store which has a hostel on the second floor not because I was tired but because I needed to get a new phone. I called Murris the shuttle driver again and he took me to the Verizon store (which apparently is the only provider that has access on the AT). Murris was very accommodating as he took me to the store and waited for me while I got the new phone.  Then we stopped at Walmart and I got a 4-pack of Merlot. Also upgraded my sleeping pad and got a water proof bag for my sleeping bag at the Outfitter store. Got back to the hostel and met some great hikers (Taylor, Cliff, Mike, Ethan and Rich (Heavy D) and that is how I got my new trail name “Veeno” since they were all drinking beer and I was drinking wine (it kind of stuck). Now let’s talk about the bed, made out of wood and the mattress was a piece of remnant carpet (hard as a rock) and not the cleanest hostel either. Worst sleep ever.

Day 7 – April 3

Miles Today – 3.5

Miles Total – 24.3

Left the hostel (Woody Gap) at 7:30am and headed to Lance Creek a campground right before Jarrard Gap and Neel Gap where bear canisters are mandatory if you plan to camp between those areas and/or stay at any of the shelters. The plan was to hike through the next day to Neel Gap and stay at the Mountain Crossing Hostel. This was an easy hike, I was at the campground by 11am; set-up my tent near the fire pit, had lunch and took a very nice nap from 12-2pm. As the day progressed, I was joined by Heavy D, Taylor, Cliff, Mike, and Ethan who were taking a day zero the next day. Taylor and I started the camp fire and we all gather around and talked for hours; laughing, making jokes. By this point, I was back on track with hiking from GA to ME and feeling GREAT!

 

lance creek_our tents

Lance Creek

lance creek_fire

 

Day 8 – April 4

Miles Today – 7.4

Miles Total – 31.7

Left Lance Creek at 8:45am….headed to Neel Gap to resupply. This trail proofed to be very challenging going up to Blood Mountain. It was all up hill. It took me 7 hrs. and 15 minutes to complete. However, although the last 2.5 miles were down hill; they were very difficult since they were many rocks and mini boulders throughout that stretch. Made it to Neel Gap at 4:05pm. Reserved a room at the Mountain Crossing Hostel where for $18 you got a bed, towel and soap and for an additional $5 you got to do your laundry. Here I upgraded my Mini Sawyer and ate pizza and soda for the first time in 8 days. This hostel was more comfortable even though the bed was made out of wood–it had a mattress. As more and more hikers came in there were talks about the weather changing in the next couple of days to include snow, rain and low temperatures at night. So, since I do not do well in the cold weather, I decided to get off the trail and head back home to New Jersey. The one thing that I am most concerned with is being cold and that is what can make me quit if I’m not careful. I’m aware that they will be rainy days and that is Ok, but being cold is another story. In addition, my daughter was moving to Florida and I wanted to be home to see her go.

up blood mtn

Up Blood Mountain

blood mtn

View from Blood Mountain

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