Hunkered down for a few days

After Blood Mtn, I was itching to get back on the trail unfortunately Mother Nature wasn’t cooperating. Sub zero temperatures over two days and two days of heavy thunderstorms has me hunkered down. Plan now is to get back on trail in a couple days.

Current weather forecast is 1-3 inches of rain today – from northern Georgia and southern North Carolina. Nice and dry inside my cabin. Saw a mouse in here this morning 😳. I’m sure last night I felt something on me. I do not like mice – ask John lol.

One story from the trail earlier this year. A hiker placed their hiking shoes outside of the the tent for the night. Woke up the next morning to find a mouse gave birth overnight and the shoe was filled with babies. If that had of happened to me, I would have been booking my flight back to Canada.

Day 6 on the AT

Neel Gap to Hogpen Gap (6.88 mi)

Miles hiked this far: 38.2 miles

Up at 4:30 this morning, anxious to get on trail. Little bit of housekeeping here at the cabin before I head off. My morning ritual: coffee, Carnation breakfast drink, 500ml electrolytes and an energy bar. That should keep my going for a bit until I start dipping into my snacks. As I’m not much of a lunch eater, I carry mostly snacks between breakfast and dinner. Snacks include energy bars, beef jerky (best rest of them all as it replenishes lost sodium from sweating), Rick Krispy square (another fave!), packages of nuts and life savers.

After last nights storm, first part of the hike was cool, windy and extremely foggy. that means a lot of layers to begin with, then having to stop and take off my pack to shed layers. Shed layers means a heavier pack.

Today’s hike was brutal. Four mountains to climb – up and down, up and down. My body was feeling it. My plan for the day was to hike 6 miles, but managed to add almost an extra mile.

I was running low on water, so I decided to make camp off the trail at Hogpen Gap. It’s a short walk down to a creek that has enough of a trickle to fill my water containers

All water from creeks and rivers needs to be out through a water filter. The process starts with filling a 2L bladder. I then attach a water filter to the filter and finally screw on a water bottle. I will go through this process once in the morning, 1-2x during the day and once more when I arrive at camp.

It’s a noisy campsite where I pitched my tent. I’m about 200 yards below a highway. Tons of motorcycles and fast cars. Hope I can sleep tonight. It’ll be a bit scary sleeping at a site by myself. Up to now, I’ve been in campsites with other hikers. For me to be with other hikers tonight would have meant another 4 miles. My knees and back were saying no way.

So not a bad day considering 4 mountains in 7 hours. For me, I’m still trying to get my “trail legs.” I’m very wobbly on the descents and my feet a bit as well. I hope tomorrow might be a bit easier on the feet. Things could be worse – I could be back home with the snow.

Woke up shivering this morning, even with base layers, fleece and toque. Combined this with my sore knees, I’m folding. Done.

I’m in awe of those who complete this trail. I only hiked 38 miles of it and I’m beat. I don’t know how I could have trained better. I was convinced my treadmill training would have been enough. But sore knees, negative thoughts and lack of training on mountains did me in.

Again, like in 2019 I let myself and others following me down. Yesterday’s 4 mountain climb just wore me down enough to realize I’m not a thru-hiker.

I’m back in Atlanta preparing to head back to Canada. I feel slightly defeated, but excited to go home

Thanks for following along

Yep…back on the trail

March 30th, 2021

If you are reading this, I’m currently on the Appalachian Trail (AT), attempting to hike from Georgia to Maine. I hope to provide a weekly update where I am, and how I’m doing. For my own personal safety, I’ll be having a lag in posting new updates to protect myself while on trail. Not that I’m worried, but better to be safe.

As I write this post, it is exactly two weeks before I hit the trail. It is March 30th, and sitting at home in front of a nice fire. Still winter here, and will be for weeks. We are seeing the first signs of Spring with some grassy patches here and there, but the lake is still frozen and at least a foot of snow and ice everywhere.

Next Tuesday, John and I will be travelling to Ottawa. The following day, I have a Covid test at Shoppers Drug Mart. A negative test is required to be able to board my flight and enter the U.S. We will stay in Ottawa for a few days before I have a 6am flight Saturday. It’ll be a long day – Ottawa-Toronto-Chicago-Atlanta. Arrival in Atlanta is expected around 2pm.

What will be fun this time, is I made a new friend on Facebook. She has always wanted to hike the AT. We’ll be flying out together, sharing a room in Atlanta and Amicalola State Park. Then we’ll hit the trail together on April 14. How long we hike together will be anybody’s guess, but it’ll be nice to be with someone I know.

So…I’m sure the questions are many…like why are you hiking, and is it safe with Covid-19?

The first question – why am I attempting the AT again- has gnawed at me from the moment I left the trail in 2019. It has weighed on me so much that I knew I’d be back, but hadn’t counted on Covid ruining my attempt last year. Last year, we didn’t know what we know now.

There is something about the AT that brings me back. I got a taste of it, and until I complete the trail, I will keep trying and trying. When I ponder what took me off trail last time, I like to think I’ve conquered those concerns.

Biggest issue was I wasn’t mentally prepared. I buckled too easily, and in hindsight, I should have gotten off trail, rested and come back. That long drive back to Canada made me want to turn around and get back on trail.

Second issue was my technique hiking downhill. Brutal mountains killed my knees and hips. I knew I hadn’t trained enough prior to getting on trail, but my downhill method of using hiking poles was all wrong. That pain was too much to much.

I also know, I was super dehydrated – a rookie hiker mistake. I realize now that dehydration leads to sore muscles and cramps. When I hike now, I make sure I’m drinking between .5 to 1 litre water per hour.

One thing that has given me leg strength this winter when I can’t hike much outdoors: indoor recumbent bike. This nifty non-electric bike has been perfect as it is far better on back and knees relative to regular exercise bikes. Every day I hop on and bike 20 miles.

So I’m feeling really good about the trail. I feel a bit wiser, mentally and physically stronger. Overall, much better position than my first attempt.

So what about Covid-19 while hiking? Firstly, being outdoors and on trail is fairly safe. There is some interaction with other hikers, but I’ll be wearing my mask both on trail and in towns on resupply. Secondly, the U.S. has done a very good job of vaccinating the public.

Hardest part I believe is missing John and our little homestead. I know I’ll get homesick, but keeping in contact with John every few days will help.

So that’s it for now

Tuesday, April 6

And away we go. 6:30am, packing the car and beginning our 8+ hour drive from our home in the bush to Ottawa. We awoke pretty early so we could run the generator and charge our solar batteries just in case. Our fridge and chest freezer need to be running 24/7, so hopefully we’ll see continued sunshine for next couple weeks.

Tomorrow morning I have a Covid nasal swab test. Not going to lie, that nasal swab freaks me out. John says it’s a quick in and out. I, being the irrational one, picture a hockey stick being jammed up there. Thursday and Friday will be chilling time, visiting friends and maybe get in a short hike.

Sunday, April 11th

Wow, 10 hours slept last night. Was so tired after a long day of travel that I went to bed at 8pm.

The day started in Ottawa, getting up at 3am. John drove me to the airport, said our goodbyes as I headed towards security. First flight was at 6am. This was a short flight to Toronto, arriving an hour later. Then it was onto Chicago and finally arriving in Atlanta around 2pm.

Weather was overcast, but didn’t matter as it was nice to see all the green everywhere. Back home, we still have snow and ice. Once checked in, I decided I had enough time to visit the AT&T store to get a US SIM card. Was super smooth process, now I have a US phone number for next few months.

Capped of the day by eating at Chipotle for the first time. Wow, the chicken burrito was amazing. I had read good things about this place and was disappointed.

Back at the room, chilled for a few hours then off to bed. Tomorrow I’ll be going to REI for a few items and then Walmart for food resupply.

Monday, April 12th

I’m an hour I’ll be departing Atlanta to Amicalola State Park. Ron’s Shuttle is picking me up around noonish.

Had a few errands to run this morning: mail some stuff back to Canada and a last minute trip to REI. Funny, the greeter at REI said “hey Nina, back again.” Funny she remembered my name from yesterday. Even had time for breakfast.

Interesting thing that I noticed leaving Canada for the United States. I was a bit worried about people wearing masks versus no masks and pleasantly surprised at Chicago airport. Never saw one person without a mask. In Atlanta, it didn’t matter if we went to Walmart or REI or US post office, restaurants and hotels – everybody wears a mask. So I was pleasantly surprised by that.

View west – Appalachian Mountains

Tuesday, April 13th

Today, I hiked from the lodge to the visitors centre. Approximately 5 miles – uphills, downhill, switchbacks tested me. Whew!

At the visitor centre I weighed my pack – 26 pounds! Guaranteed I’m at least 10 pounds lighter than I was in 2019. One hiker I was chatting with, his pack was 52 pounds!!!!

Once back at the room, rather than just sit back and relax, I went into recovery mode. That is something that I didn’t do last time out. So my recovery plan when I finish a day is as follows: two ibuprofen, energy bar, electrolyte recovery drink and finally lots of stretching. I have to say, and I know it was only 5 miles, but I feel great!

Let’s Get At It!!!!

The day has finally arrived. So excited to be back on the Appalachian Trail. It’s been a long two years getting back here. The wait has been hard made worse by shoulder injury and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my last try. I feel a lot more confident. I may not be in better shape, but mentally I’m stronger.

So enough of the past…let’s look forward. 👍

Day 1 on the AT

Springer Mountain to Hawk Mountain Campsite 8.4 miles.

Ron the shuttle guy picked me up at Amicalola Lodge nice and early. After a bumpy one hour drive we arrived at a parking lot US Forestry Road 42. Ron snapped a picture, and then he was gone.
The hike began by hiking one mile south to Springer Mountain. The climb was rocky, but not steep. Once atop Springer Mtn. I signed the guestbook and had quick rest before beginning the hike back down.

My objective for the day was Hawk Mountain Campsite – 6.4 miles further. The hike had a decent amount of flat sections, a few river crossings and a whole lot of rests. Took an extended break at 3 Forks Gap for a snack.
Along the way, met hikers from Colorado, New Jersey, Ohio and Washington. Everyone is so nice.
Finally arrived at Hawk Campsite around 3pm. First task was finding a campsite, setting up my tent and finally – after hike routine: electrolytes, ibuprofen (known as Vitamin I on the trail) and some stretching.
For dinner I decided on a Knorr’s Rice side dish for dinner. It was horrible. Not only was the rice hard, but it was soupy. I maybe ate 3 spoonfuls.
I climbed into my sleeping bag around 8:30 and fell asleep. Then the rain began. Not a downpour, but a constant rain for a few hours. Good news, my tent held up well.

Day 2 on the AT

Hawk Mountain Campsite to Gooch Shelter 8.3 miles

I awoke this morning tired and hungry. I couldn’t stomach food. I tried eating a PopTart, but could eat barely one bite. Coffee was no problem, just couldn’t eat anything. I tried an energy bar – nope.
Took down my tent, packed up all my gear and was on the trail just after 8. It was tough slogging for me. Negative thoughts entered my head on every ascent. Every time I was about to climb a mountain, I looked up and just felt dejected. I dreaded every step. And I knew from my last hike in 2019 that Sassafras Mtn. lay ahead.
Starting the ascent, my mind wandered. I wasn’t having fun. I missed John and home. Thoughts of quitting entered my head. I knew halfway up I had enough. All I had to do was finish this mountain and quit.
Arriving Cooper Gap I knew that was it. Exactly the same as in 2019, I was done. I called a shuttle into Dahlonega. It is where I am at the moment, sitting on the bed at Holiday Inn.
For the past 3 days I’ve been chatting with John, grappling with my feelings and fears. I’ve Googled articles why hikers quit. Then something hit me: I must continue my hike to overcome my quitting things too easily.
So, I called a shuttle and am heading back to Cooper Gap Sunday and getting back on the trail.
I have a bit of smile going on as I feel for the first time in a long time, I’ve overcome my love of quitting. I may not make it to the end, but I feel I’ve finally said enough is enough. Tomorrow is a new day.

Day 3 on the AT

Cooper Gap to Gooch Shelter 3.4 miles

A lot of appreciation and thanks goes out to a few people who’ve encouraged me. Top of the list is John. John has been there for me from the very moment I got excited about the AT. He has been there with me as I go through mental battles daily. While he left the decision to me to decide whether to quit or carry on, he has been so encouraging.
I went to an outdoor store in Dahlonega and chatted with the proprietor. She sectioned hike the entire trail and offered me words of wisdom regarding my constant hate and fear of uphills climbs. Her advice was simple: take small steps and don’t look up. I will definitely remember her tomorrow and then the following days nasty hike up Blood Mountain.

So I got picked up by Mama’s taxi at the Holiday Inn around 8 o’clock We arrived at Cooper’s gap around 8:30 AM. It was really cold at the top of Cooper gap so I had to get my convertible pant legs back on and a sweater and toque .

Just arrived at Justus Creek, so been out about an hour. I hiked 1.7 miles in about an hour. It was a wonderful walk.

Arrived at Gooch Shelter just after 11am. Only took two hours to hike the 3.4 miles After some stretching, I set up my tent and organized my gear inside.

What it looks like inside my tent
Gooch Shelter – one of the hundreds of shelters along the AT. I will avoid as best as I can because of mice

Met a couple really nice guys – one from Boston and other from Maryland. A really nice guy from Virginia is setup right next to me.

Plan for today is a nap, then filter some water and an early dinner.

Hung out in the shelter for an hour, met a lot of great hikers from all over Decent dinner – lasagna with meat Quite tasty and finally ate the whole meal

7:30 now, most hikers are in their tents and hammocks Can feel it getting a bit cold…hoping my base layers and toque will be enough.

A hiker showed up with a six month old kitten on his backpack. Cute little guy.

Day 4 on the AT

Gooch Gap to Lance Creek Restoration Area 8.5 miles

Had a decent sleep except for a sore hip that chased me to toss and turn a lot. Discovered a giant rock under my mattress. Doh!

I’ve been sleeping extremely well, usually 10 hours a night. Getting up in the morning well rested is key. Breakfast is pretty simple right now as I don’t have much of an appetite. One cup of coffee, a Carnation chocolate breakfast and an energy bar. Once I’m on the trail, I snack about every hour. In my hip pocket of my backpack, I carry about 8 snacks and some candy. Candy was recommended as a tip for when you’re making steep climbs. Gets your mind off what is ahead.

It was a long day. Even though it was yesterday, it’s a blur what happened. Lot of up and down climbs. I think I hiked for about 7 hours arriving at camp around 2:30.

First thing I do when I arrive is stretching before my muscles seize up. Then it’s a couple ibuprofen, electrolytes and finally setting up camp.

Had a decent dinner – some sort of pasta and beef dish. Sat around with a couple hikers from Tampa and Houston. Also met an interesting guy who 7 years ago suffered a stroke. His past career was both policeman and firefighter. Lights out and 7:30

Day 5 on the AT

Lance Creek to Neel Gap 7.4 miles

Total miles hiked: 31.4

This was a day I dreaded because the hike involved a huge climb up and down Blood Mountain. My muscles must be getting better because the climb up wasn’t too bad, but the climb down was awful.

Starting at Lance Creek which as 2,869 feet up to 4,442 feet at top of Blood Mountain. Blood Mtn is the highest peak in Georgia. So the climb itself was just over 5 miles, but not straight up. When you hike the AT, the trail goes up a bit, then left or right, then up and then sideways. These are called switchbacks.
Below is from my AT Guide. Far left screen you’ll see a little brown icon. That was my campsite where I started the day. Follow all the way up from there to the top of the mountain and back down again to a purple icon. That’s where I ended the day. Gives you an idea of the elevation changes

View from Blood Mountain – Elevation 4,442 feet
Hard to believe there is a shelter up here

The view from Blood Mountain was incredible. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I knew the remaining 2.4 miles all downhill would be a challenge. Rocks almost the entire way with the odd root. It took longer to climb down than up.

Finally arrived at Neel Gap at 2. There is a famous AT landmark here – Mountain Crossings. It’s a hiking store for the most part, but for hikers, it’s usually a day off from the trail. Having hiked 31 miles, I called up a local business that has cabins.

As I type this, I’m sitting in the themed cabin “Wild Boar. First thing when I got in was take a shower. Oh my god was that good! No time to waste as I had to quickly gather all my hiking clothing and get it back to the main office. They wash our clothes for free.

Wild Boar Cabin – Blood Mtn Cabins

Tonight I’m having frozen pizza. It’ll taste so good as I’ve only been eating snacks and freeze dried meals.

These are not excuses, but next couple days look iffy. First, there is a combined wind and forest fire warning for all of North Georgia including Chatahoochee Forest that I’m in. And to make things even tougher, Friday night calls for sub-zero temperatures over night around 28F. Saturday, heavy thunderstorms and expecting 30mm rain. Might be spending a couple extra days here.

Winter is upon us

Winter for most people is the often dreaded of the four seasons. Shovelling snow, bitter cold and ice aren’t fun for most. Where we live, you had better like winter or plan to move further south.

Winter north of Highway 11 in Ontario is long. We’ve had snow as early as mid-October and last until late May. The lake we live on usually breaks up late May. We joke that we only have two seasons here – winter and bug. I don’t know if we’ve really experienced spring season because as soon as the snow melts and the ground thaws, we’re already into middle to late June.

So far, this winter seems less harsh compared to two years ago. We have snow, but barely a foot. Couple years ago we had three times that amount by December 1st. Even the temperatures are below what we’re used to. Typical days are between 0C to -5C. No doubt that my writing this, we’ll soon plunge into a deep freeze lol.

Things are pretty quiet around here. For exercise, I’ve had a few walks along the road towards our other property, but the roads are a bit icy. Soon I’ll need to wear crampons. Last year I used to drive 25km to the nearest town and get a bit of exercise on the treadmill. Unfortunately, doing that more than a couple times a week isn’t worth the risk driving in bad conditions and wasting unnecessary gas. Purchased an indoor, non-electric recumbent bike. It’s been fantastic for “riding” 15 miles a day, yet I don’t use any of our valuable solar power.

We’re in the tough part of the year with regards to solar. From early November to late December, the sky is grey. Not ideal for generating solar power. Come January, while temperatures plunge into the -20 to -40 range, we’ll have blue skies. We should be able to get 5 to 6 hour days of sunlight. Far cry from summer when we had days of 15 hours of sunlight. Living this far north, the sun rises earlier and sets late…as late as 9:30pm in the summer.

It’s nice and cozy indoors as we have the wood-stove running 24/7. I laboured many hours this past summer building up our wood supply. We’ll use approximately 10 cords here at the house, and John will use another 6-8 cords at our other property.

Been doing a lot more baking as of late. In the past couple weeks, have made blueberry, cherry and apple pies. Today made a rice pudding. This past summer was really productive as I pressured canned about 70 jars of prepared meals – spaghetti sauces, chicken cacciatore, split pea soup and stews.

Yesterday decided to give the propane stove a break and made a pork stew on the wood stove. I like to call this cooking my “slow cooker” method. I’ll put all the ingredients into a cast iron dutch oven and set it on the wood stove. The house is buzzing with the aroma of the stew. Took about 6 hours or so…about the same time as a slow cooker.

Other than that, just sitting back and reading a lot. Soon the lake will be frozen over enough that I can safely snowshoe across. John is busy up at the other property with his hobbies, woodworking and fixing stuff. We are both well and healthy. As John jokes, it’s not hard for us to social distance – we have no neighbours for miles.

August 2020

Feels like fall today as it is the first day since spring where wool socks, slippers and a light sweater are needed. The overnight temperature last night was 12C, a far cry from the 30C+ we had been enjoying/hating. I dislike hot and humid sooooo much, and loved having the duvet quilt on the bed last night.

North end of our lake

Heard Canada geese flying overhead this morning, and the loons are still on the lake, but won’t be long before the only birds here are the ravens, chickadees and gray/blue jays.

South end of the lake

We’ve had a very busy summer tweaking a few things. For starters, our former propane fridge went kaput and replaced with a brand new solar fridge. What’s great, the old propane fridge used about one pound of propane per day while the solar fridge uses zero. The only thing using propane now is the stove. Happy that our propane fill up will only occur once maybe every second year.

Line running to a pump in the lake

Another big step for us is that we get our water to the house in a more efficient way. We have submerged a pump in the middle of the lake. No longer will we have to auger a hole in the ice, drag a pump and hose and connect in winter. Nope, now we just have to plug in a cord to the generator to melt any snow within the new hose, and within minutes, water can run from the lake directly the house.

Disappointing that this year, I didn’t get the greenhouse up. It was to be setup to the right of the house. We cleared some trees, got the ground prepared for the greenhouse, but then one thing led to another and it just didn’t happen. Next year lol.

View to the west

We did clear a lot of trees this year…trees that had the potential to fall on our solar panels. Unfortunate we had to cut down 60 foot trees, but we learned that lesson last year when a tree crashed down on our panels and caused $2,000 damage. We depend on solar for electricity…so it’s a big deal. And, big benefit of clearing a few dozen trees is we get more sunlight hitting our panels.

We’re coming up on our third winter and still loving it. I’d love to be more remote, and continue to look at other properties, but for the time being this feels like home. Last year we were lucky to put in a low bid on another property 600 metres north of us. I heard the previous owner accidentally burned his house down, and had just built a huge garage. Garage is about 1000 square feet, and has been the perfect getaway for John from me (haha) and storage.

John loves to tinker with stuff, repair & maintenance of vehicles, atv’s and tools. Garage will be perfect for storing our camper. The property also has another shed and lots of storage for firewood.

Now that the temperatures are cooling, I can get some canning done over the next month or two. Hunting season is coming up as well, and I have a lot of practice hikes. Before long, winter will be here, and I’ll need to make the drive to the closest town to use the treadmill at the local gym to keep in shape.

John and I will begin the drive to Georgia early March so I give the Appalachian Trail another try. We’re booked for a couple nights at a lodge at Amicalola State Park, then I’ll head out and John will begin the 1500 mile drive home. Fingers crossed no injuries this time.