Well hey ya'll! Here is my first post from the Trail! I'll try to keep it brief since a lot has happened in the last week!
Tuesday morning we got up at 4 to hop on a 7:15am flight. Our dear friend Gram Cracker picked us up in Atlanta at about 10:30 and drove us up to Neel's Gap where we took a shuttle to a trail head on the AT. We back-tracked up to the summit of Springer Mountain and obviously snapped a few pictures (soon to follow). We didn't get to start until about 3pm and then hiked 4 miles in to Stover Creek Shelter, a nice end to a LONG day.
Wednesday we put in about 12.3 miles hiking over to Gooch Mt Shelter where we really got a good feel for Georgia's terrain. Up and down and up and down. These mountains feel more like big hills where they don't really have big open peaks like in the White Mountains. We have seen plenty of wildflowers along the way and it is such a nice change from the winter still going on in the northeast! Our night at Gooch Mt Shelter had some great energy as we sat around cooking dinner with our peers.
Thursday brought our last full day with Gram Cracker as we cranked out 15 miles, including the arduous journey over Blood Mountain at the end of our day. Our reward: a night in a cabin at Blood Mt Cabins where we ate pizza and chili, showered, and did laundry!
Friday morning we did our "pack shakedowns" at Mountain Crossings Store in Neel's Gap where you dump out your pack for an employee and they sift through and tell you what you don't need and help you reorganize your pack. Between the two of us, we only sent home 4lbs worth of gear! YES! We then had to say 'bye' to Gram, but we have a feeling we will be seeing our Trail Angel again! We set out for Low Gap Shelter, pulling an 11 mile hike starting at 1:15pm. Our first night in a tent, which brought us into our first day of rain, lots of rain.
Saturday we trekked to Blue Mountain Shelter (7 miles), freezing and wet, and decided to carry on to the next shleter (8 more miles) to make the next day easier. at mile 10, a road crossing, we found some trail magic, and as we were enjoying the cookies, we were offered a ride into the town of Helen. Why not? We got off the trail and split a room with fellow hiker Squid. We stuffed our faces with garlic bread, mozzarella sticks, salad and beer, and a little Wendy's on the way back to the room. Another shower and more laundry. YES! We turned our room into a giant clothes line for wet gear
Sunday morning we did our first hitch-hike back to the trail head in Unicoi Gap where we hiked 13 miles to Deep Gap Shelter. A fun night around the fire with some new trail friends. We awoke at 1am to...MORE RAIN. We got up around 6:15 (it is still dark until about 7:30) and got on the trail at about 7:45 and hurried down 4 miles to the next road crossing where we got a ride to the Blueberry Patch Hostel where we will be staying tonight. WHAT A TREAT! Gary and Lenny Poteat are the nicest people in the world, doing our laundry, putting us in bunks, providing showers, towels, first aid, a breakfast in the morning with homemade blueberry syrup (We can't wait!) and even fresh baked chocolate chip cookies! We are in Hiawassee right now getting some things done.
Tomorrow we will cross the border into North Carolina!!! One state down and it's pretty surreal. We have been planning this trip for 3.5 years and we are already heading out of GA tomorrow. Our bodies are definitely taking a beating but we should be in prime shape in about another week. I'm having some serious pain in my left hip joint that comes and goes but loves to flare up while im sleeping, while poor Kaitlin is battling monstrous blisters. I also may be losing my first toenail soon, awful. We are definitely starting to feel like we are breaking in to the whole long-distance hiking thing.
It really has been such an adventure so far though, sharing shelters, hostels, and hotel rooms with different people every night, making friends with people with the same dreams as ours, to survive this hike all the way to Maine. The community out here is so strong and there are some REAL characters on the trail. I am starting to feel the freedom that comes with leaving a job behind and surrendering to the great outdoors, my only responsibility to get myself to the next resupply and to enjoy myself as much as possible while doing so. The miles can be long, and the nights cold, but so far I can't imagine ever giving up on this adventure. It is like nothing else I have ever done. My body seems to be getting stronger every day with the ability to push harder throughout the miles. It has only been about a week and I can already see the enormous potential for physical, mental, and emotional growth on a journey like this. To challenge yourself day in and day out, with a will to survive (stay warm, find shelter, to eat) and to continue on through cold, wetness, and fatigue. It's nice to start to see what I'm made of. So far a good start.