Making it to the top of Springer Mountain to start my thru hike on the AT was one of the more surreal moments of my life. Was I really here? Am I about to walk close to 2200 miles from Georgia to Maine? Can I really make it? So many thoughts run through your head it gives you a migraine, but soon enough the steps begin. I took my first on March 21st on a beautiful 65 degree day....
Off I went. 10 or more people clapped and wished me luck as I headed to Maine. It was a pretty incredible way to get this started. It was an uplifting beginning to say the least. Only a couple small challenges up and down to Hawk Mountain Shelter on a strong first day.
I filtered my water for the first time and set up a tent on the camp grounds. Cooked some dinner on my mini stove and started introducing myself to fellow thru hikers.
Sleep starts early on the AT. You crawl into your sleeping bag by 8pm and fast asleep soon after. Much like an early sleep time it leads to an early wake up. I was up by 6am, breakfast, camp breakdown and on the trail by 8am.
Day 2 gave me an early introduction to a little combination of difficult climbs with iffy weather conditions. Sassafras Mountain and Justus Mountain gave a good back to back climb that tested the quads, hamstrings and calves. The beer gut wasn't the biggest fan as well. On top of this it was low 40's with some rain off and on.
By the time I reached Gooch Mountain Shelter I knew it was gonna take some time to get my hiker lungs and hiker legs.
Through it all I wasn't discouraged. I found this to be a huge positive if I was gonna get to Maine. Did it hurt? Yes.. Did it set in the realization, even on a small scale, of what this hike will present? Yes.... But should I have expected anything less? This is what I signed up for. For every reason I have thought of during months of preparation I wanted this more than anything else in life.
I cooked my dinner in the shelter and set my sleeping bag down. With the rain I was lucky enough to get a spot and not need to set up my tent on the grounds.
A bunch of us sat around talking about the day. Uplifted by the news there would be trail magic breakfast 2 miles down the trail in the am. Sleeping in the shelter with 15 other people brings on all kinds of noises we don't need to mention. I'm sure I'll sleep in many more throughout the hike but I can see myself setting up tent more times than not.
I was up early in out on the trail on day 3. Looking forward to breakfast and hoping to catch a group of guys I had been seeing most throughout my hikes. They were camping down where the breakfast was being served.
Lucky enough I caught them just as they were headed out. They gave me the logistics of their hike and invited me to join up at camp. I was pretty pumped to see a group forming early on and more importantly being part of it.
Meeting them came a lot sooner than I thought! 4 miles in and more trail magic! Chili, soda, cookies and more! Woody Gap provided some great lunch and warm sun. We dried out our clothes from the previous day's rain and enjoyed the sugar high and full bellies.
One by one we set out to Lance Creek to set camp for the night. A nice little challenge but with good weather quite the hike. Though it was a 9 mile day it felt a lot easier than the day before. The ups and downs of the AT. I'm looking forward to plenty more which at times will be on a much bigger scale.
The boys found a great camp area. A fire was already built as I arrived. Cooking dinner, getting to know one another, creating trail names and keeping warm by the fire. Of the many reasons I wanted to hike the AT was to come together with a few like minded hikers and to form a bond that could help all of us get to Maine.
We talked of goals, how we weren't going to quit and how at the end of each day we would plan our next location to hike to.
The odds are against us to all finish the AT and even more so to do it together but this type of bond is an important part of your thru hike. The support of each other and feeling part of a clan all with the same goal is enough to light an extra fire inside of you to reach mama K (Mount Katahdin)....
Moring came early. Griff was out the gates. He's a flyer and sets the pace. Myself, 1 liter and Dylan were out soon after. Still Brain and Buddy Two Stick finished up breakfast and made their way to the meeting ground. Today we were climbing Blood Mountain and meeting at the famous Neals Gap.
Blood Mountain is the highest point in Georgia. We had a good climb ahead of us. As you seem to find often on the trail everyone spaces out quickly. You find yourself alone most of the hike. Different paces, older bodies, different body reactions to the demands of day after day hikes. The list goes on. You learn things early on and you accept all the best you can.
Well early on for me I was feeling great, doing some visualization and boom! Turned ankle. In my running days I did this numerous times so I did what I did then. Instead of running it off I hiked it off. With the steady climb to Blood it soon seem to fade. I was in a zone making my way to the top. I took very little breaks and kept my head down the last mile driving to the end. It was worth the extra effort. With the sun blazing and perfect conditions the views were breath taking. This was the first real view in our 4 day hike.
A few of us including Mountain Dew, Lean too, Kangaroo and North and South hung at the top enjoying food and photos. There was no reason to rush to the bottom.
Finally we were off to what we heard was a steep difficult down hike to Neals Gap. As soon as I hit the first slope I felt it in my ankle. The downhills didn't agree with the twist. By the halfway point it was throbbing and I finally limped into Neals Gap with a bit of pain.
You just can't stop in these situations. If it was something more serious of course but with a slight strain you have to find your way to the end. I did. I bought some Advil, an ace bandage, a Butterfinger and a Cherry Coke (you crave some weird shit after long hikes) and threw some ice on it.
The hostel and store provided us with all kinds of food and good conversation. The mountain crossings put our photo on Instagram. We heard of trail angles providing dinner (pork sandwiches and sweet tea) yet again and a few of us split a price of 60 dollars for a cabin. This came with several beds, a bathroom (a shower!) and they did your laundry! Man it was a treat after 4 days on the trail.
As I lay here now with more ice on my ankle and meantally preparing for an 11 mile day tomorrow (ankle is feeling better. I will wrap it up good and pop some Advil before for the hike.) I remember what Andy of The Dusty Camel told me when we met not too long ago. "Day 3 is the hardest. If you can get through it you can get through them all."
Today I finished day 4. I can't wait to see what day 5 brings us...
Thanks for checking in. The love and support never goes unnoticed. Til next time happy hiking... Even for you folk up north still dealing with wintery conditions. 😉
Jesse AKA The Moscow Mule