I’ve decided to go back through and show photos that I never got around to posting, recap some of the sections and discuss in more detail various sections of the trail. Plus, I like reminiscing and I’m a little sad that we’re pushing on two weeks off the trail.
So, I will start with the beginning, Georgia.
Reference posts from that time:
On Top of Springer
Dinner at Stover Creek
Skip the Approach Trail
Neels Gap (yes another one)
Blue Mountain Shelter
GA/NC in the Forest
And off we went. I look back now and realize just how overweight we were. Looking at us now someone might not have guessed. We had a few people think that we’d started the trail this way, people imagining that to walk 2,000 miles you must be fit. Not really. Tons of people start off in varying weights and fitness levels. Some quit, some continue. All you need is ambition and the mental toughness to keep going when the going gets tough.
I remember climbing the stairs up Amicalola Falls and thinking to myself that I was insane. It was difficult, I was out of breath and I was hoping above all hopes that the whole 8 miles on the Approach Trail wasn’t going to be like that. It wasn’t, but it wasn’t easy either. We met two guys on the side of the Approach Trail who had ginormous packs. The kind of packs you imagine from A Walk in the Woods. We never saw them again after that day. After awhile the sun went away and it started trying to rain just after we’d finished our lunch. Eventually it started sleeting somewhere just a few miles from Springer. In my head I was just thinking that we were really in for it. I’d read so much about the Smokies and all the snow, I just *knew* that it was going to be horrible the whole way.
Of course it wasn’t horrible! Somehow we made it to the top of Springer. It isn’t as monumental as getting to the top of Katahdin, but it was still exciting since this was the official beginning of the trail.
The ridge runner at the top of Springer near the Springer Mtn Shelter. We hung out at the shelter for a few minutes until we realized we’d be much warmer walking so we kept on going to Stover Creek shelter.
Those first few days the trail is so crowded. You skip and jump in front of people all day long, they pass you and you pass them. For awhile it is a bit nerve wracking, this contest of sorts to keep up. Eventually it gets to the point along the trail where you just don’t care, though sometimes I did like to keep a mental “I’m ahead” list of people that we’d passed and were behind us. People who are typically faster hikers than us, but because they took time in town I just liked to know that we were ahead of them.
The further north we got the less we were in National Forests. I personally liked being in National Forests because they weren’t so picky about stealth camping. Some areas in the NE were very picky about where and where not you could camp.
Going up Blood Mountain. We were the only ones who stayed on top of the mountain that night. When we crossed Jarrard Gap there was a fierce wind blowing through, extremely chilly. Many folks went to the Woods Hole shelter just past that, but we kept on going, passed the Slaughter Creek campsite and then on up to Blood Mtn. It was such a surreal experience in all the snow and ice.
Of course then you get to Neel’s Gap and Mountain Crossings and you think you’ve come *so* far when you’ve only gone 30.7 miles. Most people we knew stayed at the hostel. Later on we heard not such great things about the hostel which made me thankful we kept on going and camped on Cowrock.
Another good campsite was at Sassafras Gap, one of the bazillion SG’s there are. The people who named Gaps, Mtns, passes, and other things on the trail were not very imaginative. You’d mention Sassafras Gap on the trail and someone would say “Which one?”
On the day we hiked over Tray Mountain there was still snow on a lot of the mountain. I thought that was a pretty fun climb, whereas other didn’t enjoy it so much. We had a good bit of hiking after that, a nice ‘flat’ stretch where we could cruise, but my mental time still hadn’t gotten calibrated yet and I would always think we’d gone further or faster than we really had. I kept looking for the Swag of the Blue Ridge and when it finally came, miles after I’d expected it, I knew we were close to our campsite.
When it is a town day the trail seems to go incredibly slow. Our first stay in town was at Hiawassee and the Blueberry Patch hostel. We got to the road by lunch but we first had a thousand foot climb over Kelly Knob and like most of the trail once you go down you have to go back up to go down again. The book is famous for leaving out little ups, thinking that you will have a mostly flat section, but instead you go up and down and up and down until you finally reach that spot you thought was going to be flat.
And here we are at Dicks Creek Gap being dropped off by Gary the owner of the Blueberry Patch. I’m glad we left on that sunshine day because the next day brought rain and snow and leaving town would have been a mental impossibility for me! Starting to hike when you are already out in the elements is one thing, but going out when you can be cozy indoors is quite another thing!
Here are a few people we met in those first few days that we never saw again, but they are still out on the trail!
RafiC: We always thought he’d pass us after we left him in Neel’s Gap because he was very fit and did marathons and such, but the only time he passed us was when we took our time off at home and then we passed him when he got off for treating his Lyme.
Red Lobster: another girl that I thought would pass us but we never saw her after Neel’s Gap.
Klarity: Ditto to above
Gearbomb: we heard her for several hundred yards because she had a metal cup clanking on the outside of her pack.
Llano: I actually started reading her journal before we left and was surprised to meet her at the Low Gap Shelter after Neel’s Gap.
Shelters we stayed at
Stover Creek Shelter: Good water source, but it was crowded with thru-hikers and a scout group. Camped.
Gooch Mtn Shelter: Again, super duper crowded! Camped.
Blood Mtn Shelter: Not a soul in sight and we camped. Very dirty shelter.
Cowrock Mtn: Take a shower at Neels Gap, eat something and keep hiking to this awesome spot.
Blue Mtn Shelter: Very chilly, not too crowded and we camped.
Sassafras Gap: Water was a bit far but it was well worth it to camp here.
Hiawassee, GA: Blueberry Patch hostel is still one of my favorites for the just plain down-homeness and sweet folks who run the place. Hiawassee is an excellent resupply point.
Stay tuned for the southern NC post! It’s going to take me decades to get this done!