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.
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
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.
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.