I continued to hike through Georgia I thought I would never make it to the boarder. I was slowly making head way. I could feel my legs had gain some strength from when I started out. I wouldn’t tire as easily as before. I was really curious as to how different the woods were going to change. I couldn’t wait to see the trees in full bloom too. Many hours later I finally made it across the boarder. I finally made it further than the 20% of the people who try this. In my opinion this is one of the many great accomplishments along the AT. Hiking this far with all the difficulties I had to deal with and encounter. It definitely changed the way I tackle things and my approach to challenges the trail gives you.
I continued on hiking as the evening started to come near. I few hikers that were hiking along with me ended up staying at Muskrat Creek Shelter. I decided to goto the next shelter up. I got about halfway there when I passed some hikers coming the opposite way. I asked them if they knew how much further the shelter was. They said it was up a ways but it was going to be crowded. I thought nothing of it. I have my tent after all. I proceeded forward. About an hour later I was almost to the shelter but I was getting tired not to mention the sun was starting to setting. So, I found a camp site a mile outside of the shelter I was figured on staying at. I heard people talking about solo camping and I was about to get a taste of it.
I set my tent up on the flattest spot I could find. While I was setting up my tent I noticed a chipmunk on a dead tree about 15ft/4.5m checking me out as to what I was doing. I paid no attention to the little guy. I got everything set up and I crawled in the tent and sat there, thinking. What do I do now? Normally there are people to talk to but there is no one. I quickly got in my sleeping bag before my mind started playing tricks on me which I was already too late. I laid there waiting to goto sleep. Knowing I couldn’t goto sleep because my guard was up and I was getting stressed out. I smoked some weed hoping that would help me relax. One thing I have learned in my meditation is that deep breathing can relax you very quickly. I guess that’s why they tell people with high anxiety to breath deep so they can calm down. So I started deep breathing. I slowly started to feel by body relax. I heard the wind outside blowing and the leaves rustling. I tried to block it from my mind but I couldn’t seem to. I was getting more relaxed yet I kept hearing noises outside the tent. Paranoia starting to toy with me. Thinking that there was a large animal outside my tent. I kept hearing the leaves move around quickly then stop then go again then stop. I didn’t know what was out there but I kept my eyes closed and tried to focus on my breathing. I had the childlike mentality, out of site out of mind. The leaves got louder and louder. I knew something was coming up to my tent and fast. I just laid there frozen not knowing what I should do. Then all of a sudden something hit the tent behind my head. I quickly hit the tent wall behind my head and stayed there. Frozen with paranoia. My blood started pumping and my heart started racing. I started to try and rationalize what happened and what the hell hit the tent wall. Was my mind making it all up? As I laid there thinking as to what it could have been I started doing some deep breathing to calm me down and get me to think clearer. In my amazement I ended up thinking it was that chipmunk that was checking me out. Not sure what to make of the tent he was probably cautiously coming to the tent. When he his the tent I scared him by hitting the wall back. I didn’t hear any more noises other than what the wind was doing to the leaves.
I woke up with the shining of a somewhat full moon. I wasn’t sure what time it was since it was cold and my phone wasn’t working right. Lithium batteries hate cold wether. I laid there for a few minutes mentally preparing myself for the day. I was going to get my first 100m/160km and there was going to be a really steep incline I would have to overcome too, Mt. Albert. I got out of my sleeping bag and made some oatmeal. I quickly ate that and started packing everything up. I got out of the tent and the woods looked tremendous. The moon was bright enough to cast a shadow over the trees. I heard an owl hooting as I started getting my tent all packed away. I got back on the path and then a funny thought came to my mind. What if I only slept a few hours and because of the situation the few hours prior to sleeping, I woke up because of nerves or if it was a few hours before sunrise. I stood there thinking. Was my mind making that all up or is the sun really about to come up? I said they hell with it. If it is 22:00 and only got a few hours sleep then I guess this is going to be one long day. I started hiking again and trying to figure out the time cause it was really messing with my mind. After about an hour of hiking I started seeing some light in the distance. I was glad to see the sun. I was looking forward to warmer weather.
The more I hiked the more it seemed like I kept going up. When would this madness stop? I spoke to soon. Blood Mountain was the first difficult obstacle on the AT. Mt. Albert (5,250ft/1,600m) was the steepest incline the trail has thrown me. Forget using trekking poles. This is more hands on but a bit more difficult seeing my backpack has my balance off. Nevertheless I conquered it took a much needed break afterwards.
I ended up hiking 17.2m/27.6km that day and stopped at Long Branch Shelter. I started a fire and slowly hikers started walking in. They all could smell the smoke of the fire. There was some rain coming in that didn’t hit until later that night. I didn’t care. I was dry and warm in my sleeping bag. Some hikers and I saw that the rain was going to stop around noon so we just stayed there waiting it out. When the rain stopped we were the only ones that were not wet. Everybody else had hiked in the rain. We were almost to Wallace Gap where there was a shuttle that would take us to Franklin NC. We were very much looking forward to a buffet.
Excited about the day and my journey. I was fully rested and was fully resupplied. I started hiking up and over Rocky Mountain. Up and down the whole day went. I finished up my 17m/27km hike around 15:00 when I got to Dick’s Creek Gap. I came out to the road a few minutes after this other hiker from Czech got to the road. He said there was a hostel down the road about 1m/1.6km. I was tired and didn’t feel like hiking up hill anymore so I followed him to the hostel. I wasn’t sure what a hostel in the US much less on the Appalachian trail looked like. I’ve only seen a few hostels when I traveled overseas to Germany and France. So, part of me went cause I was tired and the other part was curious. When I got there a few ladies were inside. I was told to leave my backpack, trekking poles and shoes on the porch. When I came back inside one of the ladies when over the cost and rules around there. Most of the rules at these hostels are pretty much the same. No loud noise by 22:00. Breakfast is at this time, if they serve breakfast. Washing your clothes costs this much. Some hostels had a little resupply shop. This one I stayed at did. Seeing I already resupplied I didn’t need to even look at what they had.
I paid them the money to stay and I went to the building where I’ll be staying. When I entered there were several hikers sitting at the table eating and talking about their trip so far. Some of them knew me and we exchanged greetings. The first room to the right I took. It had three bunk beds. I took the top one in the back. They even had hooks where you could hang your backpack. I started getting a few things out and ready. I pulled out my sleeping bag and got my toiletries situated for night time. I walked back in the kitchen with my food bag where the other hikers were talking. I pulled out a few things. Realizing I had mostly junk food and nothing really substantial I started to pay attention to what other people were eating and getting when they resupplied. As I took a few mental notes I started boiling water and I started cooking a few things in my food bag. I had some chocolate peanut butter flapjacks and some brown sugar oatmeal. The flapjack’s were in a cup and you just had to add warm water. After I did that it looked pretty watery so I added some brown sugar oatmeal. What a game changer that was! It was amazing and it didn’t last for very long. After I inhaled that I was hungry for more but just snacked on a few Kind bars before I stopped. As the sun started to set I was getting tired. So I crawled in my sleeping bag and passed out.
The next morning I woke around five. It seemed everybody was still sleeping. I wanted to take a shower so I could start the day off fresh. I grabbed my contacts and the towel the hostel gave me. As I was showering I was thinking that other people would start waking up. By the time I got out of the shower it was still the same. Nothing but farting and snoring from other hikers. I crawled back in bed and started looking back at some of the pictures I took. The sun came up and slowly did the hikers. By eight I was starting to get hungry. I wanted to see what kind of cereal we had to choose from and get some coffee. I walked in and grabbed my breakfast. I sat down and started talking with the ladies that ran the hostel. Some other hikers walked in and grabbed some food. We were seeing what everybody was planning for that day. Some hikers had to stay due to injuries. I was planning on heading out that morning. My hike started later than I wanted it to but I also was wanting a nice hot cup of coffee in the morning. I was getting closer to crossing the boarder to North Carolina and getting my first 100m/160km.
As of March 31 I’ve stopped hiking the AT due to Uncle Sam saying I owe them more money which means that that is going to be taking over half my money I had planned for the hike. I’m in the process of getting another blog ready plus I’m moving forward in my plans and moving back to Colorado. I do plan on completing the whole AT however I need to work on getting my photography off the ground.
I learned a lot of lessons while I was hiking. One of those lessons I learned is no matter what the trail throws at you just take it as it is and keep moving forward. That’s what I plan to do with my photography. If you want to see my photography I recommend you check out my Instagram account, hikingviking1331. It’s the only social media I deal with other than my blog. I look forward to this new chapter in my life. I hope to have my first art show later this year. Stay tuned for more AT blog posts in the future.
The man introduced himself. I’m going to call him Mark. *Before I continue I just want you to know that I am horrible when it comes to names. I haven’t remember hardly anybody’s name while hiking. Mark started telling to me about the area and growing up in Canada. The area was beautiful. Lots of farm fields and open hilly land. As I started getting closer to Hiawassee, I noticed a few big lakes. Later I learned they were all connected in that area near the town. The water levels looked pretty low at least 10’/3m low. Some of the boats that were out in the water were almost touching the bottom of the lake. I started to wonder if they were in a drought. About a half an hour later we get into town. He drops me off at a hotel at the beginning of town. Mark told me he has a hotel in Franklin, NC and shuttle’s hikers into town over there as well on certain days of the week.
When I got to town food was the main thing on my mind. Once I got some food and resupplied I knew I could relax later on. So, I told Mark that I was going to walk up the street to get something to eat. I tried to hitch a ride to the closest grocery store but no luck. I walked a few blocks before I found something. I walked over to the Hardee’s and grabbed something to eat. I sent out a few messages to family and friends letting them know I’m ok. After I ate I went over to the grocery store which wasn’t far from Hardee’s. Not really sure what I was going to be getting for food on the trail but decided I’ll figure something out. While I was in there I ran into some other hikers from the night before. We chatted a bit and they were just there to resupply then they were heading back on the trail. So I started getting random stuff not really sure what I needed to get. I just knew that the only cooking that needed to be done was with water. So, I looked for easy to make food with water. I grabbed a few snacks, instant mashed potatoes and a few things I could eat at the hotel later on in the day. In the morning I never really made breakfast. I just would eat snacks cause usually my fingers were too cold to work right. I left the store with a somewhat full belly and about 3-4 bags of goodies. Feeling somewhat better I made my way back to the hotel that Mark dropped me off at. I got a room and as soon as I got in I dropped my backpack on the bed and laid down on the other bed. My shoulders and lower back were killing me. My body was still not use to all this extra weight I was carrying. I did some stretching and massaged my shoulders and legs. I took a nice warm shower and when I got out I felt tremendous. I turned the heater on and pulled up two chairs that were in the room. I started to unpack my backpack since it was wet and putting all the dry things in one pile and the wet stuff was put on the chair or hung on the chair to dry near the heater. I started to eat some of the food I bought and turned on the tv to check the weather for the next few days. The up coming days looked nice for the most part but there were a few days with rain and nights were still pretty cold. Most of the nights were close to freezing. I turned the tv off and meditated for about fifteen minutes.
When I got out of my meditative state I felt a lot better. I started to jot down the events on the last few days on a piece of paper. I thought to myself, if this happened the first week of hiking the AT then I can’t wait to see what adventures await me next. I relaxed the rest of the day massaging my legs and feet while the rest of my stuff was drying near the heater. I watched a little bit of tv but mostly read a pdf I had on my phone. Day turned to night and I planned the next few days out. Seems like there is a hostal at the other side of Hiawassee. As I plotted the next day I realized that it was going to be a 17m/27km hike to the other side of town. Later I debated if I was going to stay there or just try to get to the shelter after the gap. I guess I’ll wait and see how I feel when I get to that situation.
The next day I woke up around five that morning and started getting my stuff situated before I headed out for the day. I snacked on a few things. I put my jacket on and backpack and was out the door. No one was in the office so I though I could just drop the key in a slot or something. No slot to be found. I looked all over for a place to put the key. Nothing. I just placed the key at the office door and hoped no one would do any damage in my room. I left and across the street was a gas station. There was a truck there and I’m guessing the owner went to go pay for gas. As I crossed the street I saw him come out and get in his truck. I hurried across the street to see if he could give me a ride. I got all the way to his truck and he was looking at a receipt paying no attention to me. I waved my hands near his truck trying not to startle him then he looked up and saw me. I asked if I could get a ride to the trail and he said sure. So I hopped in and away we went. We got to the gap and he wished me luck as I thanked him for the ride and started my 17m/27km hike.
The next morning I woke up and hit the alarm. I wasn’t ready to hike in the rain. Perhaps it’ll stop in an hour. An hour later the buzzing begins. I hit the alarm again and stretch. I get out of bed and get my socks and pants on. I can’t wait to have a big breakfast before my hike starts. I get in the kitchen and start cooking the bacon. About eight strips total. Later I use the bacon grease for cooking the eggs. I’m sure I’ll have this all burned off me within a day or two. As the food is cooking I’m slowly getting other things packed up and ready to go. Fifteen minutes later breakfast is served. As I eat I hear the rain outside. It’s a light rain. I didn’t mind hiking in that. I finish my food and wash the dishes. I clean up as much as possible. Packed the last bit of stuff. Got my rain jacket on and headed out the door. I went up to the main office to see the weather for the day and the next few days. Looks like I have a big rain storm coming in fast. I check my book to see how far I’m planning on hiking. Rain is going to be coming in around 11 that morning. I need to get to Low Gap shelter before then. One thing I have noticed while hiking the AT is that once I get in my head how far I’m going to go, that’s all I think about. Getting there as quickly as possible. I left the porch with the WiFi and I hit the trail. With my headlamp on and my rain jacket over top half of my body I started out into the rainy darkness.
Watching each step cause I didn’t want to slip. It takes me a second to figure out where the trail goes next but once I do it doesn’t take long to get back in the swing of things. The rain comes and goes as does the fog. My mind starts playing with me as my paranoia starts to kick in. As I’m hiking I’m thinking that there is some big animal out there just stalking me. Waiting for the best time to jump out and kill me. When in reality, there is nothing out there I really need to worry.
I come to a road that I need to cross. This road looks like your typical road in the mountains. Parking lot across the street with a sign of different paths along the way. I see a hiker in the fog waiting for a car to hitch a ride. I chat with him for a few minutes. Found out he hiked the AT before and now he just does sections. He tells me it’s not much further to the next shelter, Low Gap. The shelter I’m hurrying to get to. I check the time. It’s 10 o’clock and I have to get there quick. I try to get a good pace going but it’s hard to when the terrain keeps changing from up to down hill. Before I knew it it started raining. The first big rain storm of my hike. It’s fun but horrible at the same time. As the rain comes down so does the temperature. I try and keep a decent pace regardless of how hard the rain comes down. By 12:30 I’m drenched. I quickly get in the shelter and start finding warmer things to put on. One of the things I put on is Columbia’s Omni heat thermals . The way this works is it reflects your body heat back on you. I put on my other set of clothes. Not long after I do this then four other hikers come up seeking shelter from the rain. They do the same thing shedding the wet clothes for some dry ones and start getting ready for the night. About an hour later of talking about their hiking experience a few more hikers pile in. Then a few more and then a few more. Before I knew it we had over ten tents set up and a full shelter. The hikers than came in shortly after I did, put up a tarp at the main opening of the shelter. Since it was windy and we had wet cloths we didn’t want to freeze during the night and hoped our clothes would dry off. I knew at that moment there wasn’t going to be any time
I couldn’t dry my clothes with the cold weather we’ve been having. I looked in my AT thru hiker book and saw there was a shuttle that would take you in town, Hiawassee.
The next morning most of the people in the shelter started packing their stuff. I woke up from hearing all the commotion. Since I didn’t get much sleep that night. I decided to do the same thing. It was a lot colder than my sleeping bag was rated (40f/4.4C) plus I had my new sleeping liner in there, a Rumpl blanket and my thermals on which helped the lower part of my body. The top half kept getting cold. No need to lay here freezing. Might as well get back to hiking. At least that way I can get my blood flowing again and warm up that way. With a few wet bags of clothes and my wet backpack I started hiking to Low Gap. I knew I could make it there by noon. A town was near by so I could resupply, dry my cloths, backpack and take a shower. At this point they all sounded amazing. After about an hour of hiking the sun started to rise up in the distance. The sky had a few clouds which helped reflect the light hitting it. I wish I had an awesome view where trees weren’t blocking the sun so I could get a few pictures. It was tremendous with all the colors of orange, dark blue, light blue, red and to top it all off I saw some pretty huge lakes in the distances from where I was walking. I didn’t even know they were there. I must have gone 2-3 miles/4.83 km and started feeling a lot better. I’m not sure if it was what I was looking forward to in a few hours, the sunrise or that I was finally warming up then again it perhaps it was all three.
I started going down hill quite a ways before I realized that I was near the road to go into town. As I kept ascending down I noticed a old van with a guy in it just sitting there. I start to think that this is either the shuttle or someone waiting for a church group. As I crossed the street the large man came out of the van. I asked him if I could get a ride in town. The other hikers I was with decided to keep moving forward. I’d figured I would catch up with them tomorrow. For now a nice shower and food was calling my name. So I dropped my bag off in the back of the van and sat in the front. I was off to Hiawassee.
The next day was the worst. I felt like I had one hell of a leg day at the gym. It hurt all over my back and legs. I didn’t do much moving around at first. Then I started going over in my head as to what I needed to do on my zero day. Dry my tent out from the first night, meditate and stretch. I almost forgot I had some other hikers coming by that morning for breakfast. Shortly after I got ready the other hikers came over for breakfast. We talked about the previous day, the weather and the upcoming days. As we heard each other’s plans I started cooking. One of the hikers mentioned I should get a sleeping bag liner. It would make it warmer in my sleeping bag on those cold nights. I decided to check it out later that day. Nothing like eggs and bacon for breakfast. I wish I had some grits that would make it perfect.
After they left I got my tent and draped it over the stair rail and on one of the ceiling beams so it could dry. Still super exhausted from the previous day I decided to just lay in bed to regain my strength. I drifted in and out of sleep until 15:00 then got out of bed. I felt a little better. I went back up to the hiker store to see check it out.
As you go through the front door they had shirts and touristy stuff on the right and hiker gear on the left. As I looked at all the shirts and touristy things I must admit I like some of the shirts and wish I could get them but it would mean more weight and it’s a bit challenging for me now. I saw how they had a shake down. Shake down is when hikers bring their gear in. They place it on the ground so it’s not in the way of other costumer’s and take everything out of the backpack. One of the employees then starts looking at what you brought to see if they can shed some weight off for you. Usually hikers bring in way more than they need on the first thru hike. So, when they are done with your gear you can mail it back home. Some people keep a few items some mail what they took out without question.
It was pretty interesting seeing how they would go through and pick out stuff. It’s crazy what stuff people bring thinking it’s going to help them when it just weighs you down and they don’t use it nearly as much or at all. The food they had was pricey. I got a bunch of sweets, beef jerky and a Mountain house meal. I wanted to ask someone about my backpack and if I was doing something wrong since my shoulders hurt so much. He showed me a few things as I started getting a better understanding of all the straps when it comes to hiking up and down hill. I felt better and a bit more confident now. Then I asked them what did they have for sleep liners. They didn’t have much. He showed me a few different ones and recommended a fleece one. However it was really bulky and my backpack was pretty stuff already. So, I ended up going for the more expensive one cause of space. I also found an inflatable travel pillow. I was just using my jacket as a pillow and this was super small and light. Why not? I left excited because I couldn’t wait until the next day when I try them out. I came back to the cabin and finished off the pizza. I went up to the main cabin to use the WiFi so I could check some things out and let people know I’m ok. When I got up there a group of hikers was already there talking about their adventure. I smelled the pizza cooking and a nice comfy couch calling my name. I ask the lady that worked there if my clothes were ready. They wash your clothes for free. She pointed where they were at and I grabbed them. I did some web surfing (mainly looking at the weather figuring out my next few days) and talked with a few hikers. After an hour I left and went back to the cabin. Got my clothes packed up and checked my tent to see if it was dry yet. I packed everything up that I wouldn’t need for that day and the next morning. I was planning another early morning hike. I got in bed and turned the light off.
**forgot to mention. While in Stover Creek one hiker mentioned that there was a big rain storm coming and it would be best to get to the first town. Heavy rains and semi high winds I was told.
About an hour after the first guy left and a group of three people left I headed out on my first fifteen mile hike. One reason I left early is cause when I got to Stover Creek shelter it was starting to get dark. So, I wanted to make sure I had enough daylight to get there plus I was lower on food than expected since I ate some the first night. I did rather well for a while. Got some good time on flat spots until I got to Blood Mountain.
Blood Mountain the first hard mountain to conquer on the Appalachian trail. I’m not sure if going up was harder than going down. Some of the angles going up we’re about 60-70° with stairs that some were as high as 1ft/30cm. Going down was a little different. Some spots the angle was the same
however the drops were much more. Some were from 1ft/30cm to 2ft/61cm.
After getting over this monstrosity and I saw the first shop we came to I was excited. More or less because I could take my backpack off and give my shoulders and back a nice break. I heard there were some mountain rentals available and filling fast so someone let me use their phone so I could call and reserve before I lost out. Once I got the reservation, I decided to go down there so I could drop my things and rest.
When I walked up to where the office was at I noticed it was the basement of this mountain house and it looked a lot like an old country store. A lot like the country stores in the mountains of North Carolina. The people who ran the place lived above the office.
I told the lady at the counter that I was there for two nights. Since that storm was coming I didn’t mind taking a zero day (zero day meaning no hiking) after all I was so sore from Blood Mountain. Got the keys, some pizza they made there and some eggs and bacon for breakfast the following day. Walking back to the cabin I was hurting. However I was excited. I had a whole pizza and cabin. The pain didn’t feel like it was there.
The cabins were small. When you walked in the stairs were close to the front door and to the left was a bedroom. A very small bedroom with barely enough room for a queen sized bed, night stand and dresser. In fact looking at it from the family room they just added the wall and roof to make the room. The upstairs had the same stuff but looked like it had a bit more room. The rest of the house had plenty of room to move around. It looks like a nice little get-away house.
I put the pizza down, took my shoes off and sat on the couch. I started devouring it. Two slices down and my body is still highly stressed out from the backpack so I decide to take a shower. There is something about taking a shower and afterwards feeling like a million dollars. Boy oh boy did I feel like a million dollars. I went and ate three more slices. I started to feel full and also realized I didn’t have anything to eat for my zero day other than breakfast so I saved the rest.