Monday, March 28, 2011

Springer Mtn, GA to Hiawassee, GA

We've made it the first 67 miles! We hiked 4 short miles early this morning and are taking the rest of the day off to rest, regroup and explore the lovely town of Hiawassee, GA.  We're staying at the Blueberry Patch Hostel tonight run by a former thru hiker and his wife and it's rumored to have the best breakfast on the trail- can't wait for the morning!
 The last six days have brought all kinds of adventures. We started out with beautiful weather the first few days which gave us wonderful views of the Georgia mountains.  We were lucky enough to have GramCracker hike with us until Neels Gap (30 miles in) , so we learned lots of tricks and and gained so much knowledge from her.  Saturday brought heavy rain and cold temperatures-not my favorite weather for hiking, and our hike this morning was through a steady rain as well. We're hoping the upcoming forecast is wrong as it's calling for rain/t-storms the majority of this week...we'll see.  A quick note to add related to weather is that a few of the shelters we've been in, for whatever reason do not have a roof over the privy!  So imagine going to use the privy and as you get there realizing there is no roof, you get to go in the pouring rain. So whoever came up with that idea, I don't like it. Apparently a roof over your head while using the bathroom is not a given, so everyone at home-enjoy the roof over your toilet!
 We're both already experiencing the hiker hunger...something that shouldn't be in full swing for another week or two, however we've been eating obscene amounts of food-all the time. We just left an all you can eat lunch buffet, will be on our way to Dairy Queen as soon as I finish typing this, followed by another all you can eat tonight for dinner-CAN'T WAIT! I am however a little nervous about the volumes we'll be eating when we hit towns after a few more weeks..
  We had the very exciting experience of our first trail magic a few days ago(for those of you unfamiliar with Trail magic, it is when someone leaves food, drinks etc for hikers, mostly @ road crossings).  Someone had left sodas and Little Debbie Fudge cakes-nothing beats those when you're hiking!
 We've met so many great people so far-everyone out here has been so kind, easy going and fun to talk with.  There is a great energy each night at the shelters as everyone chats while cooking and setting up camp.  I'm so excited for the upcoming weeks.  Tomorrow we'll be on to NC- one state down, thirteen to go!
 A quick last note- we both have trail names! Mine is Jetpack, given to me by Gram for the way I seem to fly up and over the mountains, and Dan's is I'll-eat-it. Just have a meal with him and you'll understand why.
  We can't seem to upload pictures @ this library for some reason-still working on it, but if not we'll get them up the next town we're in.
 Happy Trails!

First Post from the Trail!

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.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A few hours Kaitlin

I'm still getting used to how this blog thing works, but I wanted to write something before we head off tomorrow.  In a few short hours we will be on our way to the airport, headed to Atlanta and will be on the top of Springer by tomorrow afternoon! It's hard to believe it's already here, we have been planning this for so long.  So much has happened in the last few days it has been a whirlwind of last minute packing, buying, organizing and planning.   Many thanks to my mom and Courtney for helping so much with our packing, mail drops and organizing food.  So now it's goodbye to the real world and all the common luxuries we enjoy everyday.  Off to get a few hours sleep-thanks for reading and happy hiking!


This time tomorrow...

So here we are, the day before we start the biggest adventure of our lives thus far. It has been a crazy last few days. I finished working on Friday while Kaitlin drove home overnight from North Carolina. Saturday was spent cleaning and preparing, followed by an amazing dinner out with the Allen clan at Flatbread Company in Amesbury (always so incredibly delicious). That is our staple spot when someone is leaving for a while because the atmosphere is fantastic and the food even better. Sunday morning was spent the same and included some last-minute shopping for little things. Then my parent's threw a send-off party for us which brought friends and family together to give us their well-wishes. A big thank you to everyone who came, it really meant so much to us! Kaitlin and I set up some of our gear as a little expo:

Teri and Courtney (Kaitlin's mom and sister, respectively) have been invaluable in helping us get ready by helping to dehydrate foods, make granola, separate bulk foods, etc. Our dear friend Paula (aka GramCracker, AT thru hike class of 2010 - see previous post on pemigewasset wilderness) is also a saint for us on this trip. She will be picking us up at Atlanta airport tomorrow morning, driving us to Neels Gap, taking the shuttle with us to Springer, and hiking back to Neels Gap with us. Did I mention that she drove up from Florida to do this? Our first trail magic (random acts of kindness on the trail).

Well, I need to go actually pack my backpack and pray that I don't forget anything or that it doesn't weigh too much. But again, a huge thank you EVERYONE who has offered us kind words, monetary, emotional, logistical, and any other kinds of support. We could not be more excited to embark on this adventure and we couldn't have been so ready without all of it. We sincerely hope that you enjoy this blog during our travels and that you will contact us along the way! Please also make sure to check out our links to the right to see where we are on a map, and more importantly, to read about how we are making this hike not just about adventure, but about supporting people who are less fortunate.

Peace Out and see you on the trail!