1: Tellico Gap to Wayah 

The morning started out rough. My alarm was set to silent, so Dad woke me up five minutes before we were supposed to leave. I rushed to get ready, then weighed my pack. It’s either 40lbs and I’ve gained no weight over Christmas or it’s 30lbs and I’ve gained some weight over Christmas. It’s hard to tell. It was 5am and I had to do math.

We hit the road and made our way to Springer Mountain. The entire drive was just time for me to question myself. Was I really prepared for this hike? Probably not. I’d forgotten my watch at home and that really bothered me. What else had I forgotten? As soon as we hit the forest service road and started climbing up, though, I caught a glimpse of the mountains. I grinned. I’d figure it all out; this was where I wanted to be.

We left my car, threw my bag and poles in Dad’s car, and headed off to North Carolina.

 


It was about 2.5 hours to Tellico Gap, and once we got there, Dad hiked a good bit of the trail with me.

 


We had a great overlook at Rocky Bald, then hiked a little bit further, almost to Copper Ridge. Dad hiked almost 3 miles with me.



When he turned around to leave, though, it was that same feeling I got when he dropped me off at military camp when I was 15. Funny how things don’t really change. I turned around and kept walking.

And kept walking. About a mile and a half from the shelter is when I started to wonder what I’d gotten myself into. There’s always that moment. I had it when I went back to school for engineering. But you have to weigh what it would cost to undo the decision, and at that point, I had either 1.4 miles to the shelter or 7.2 miles to a road where there probably wouldn’t be any cars, so I figured it was easier to just hike for 11 days at this point.

I haven’t cried yet, but y’all know how much I love to cry, so I’ll keep you posted on when it happens.
MVP of the day: Snickers

Mouse count: 1 dead one

NYE Gear Test

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The Backyard Sleepingbag Selfie

In preparation for the Big Hike, I took my new Big Sky Soul solo tent on the back porch with my NeoAir xTherm pad and my new sleep system: a GoLite women’s down sleeping bag rated to 30*F and an Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt from their Garage Sale. As I sat on the couch at Rock Island checking the weather for the hike, I got to thinking about how cold it would be, and how cold of a sleeper I am, and I decided I just might as well carry two bags. And then, in shoulder season when it’s not 20*F, I can use my GoLite bag and someone else in the family can use the new Enlightened Equipment quilt and voila! We have doubled the number of quality sleeping systems available for backpacking, and I can now do deep winter backpacking comfortably.

And as last night’s test proves, I can do it VERY comfortably. I slept in my Nike Pro leggings and a light wicking hoody, nothing very warm, and one pair of Darn Tough socks. Usually I need at least two pair of leggings and three shirts plus my Patagonia puffy jacket and two or three pairs of wool socks. And then probably a nalgene of hot water, and I’ll still wake up cold at 3:30am (like clockwork, I tell you).

But the gear test went well. I woke up once to take off my jacket and use it as additional pillowing (my little Sea to Summit air pillow is great, but I’m never really sure if it goes on the pad or on the ground, so it tends to move around a lot).

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The tent setup went well, as expected. The Big Sky Soul is a great 1P tent, weighing in at around a pound and a half. It’s freestanding, which makes set-up a snap, although I did have to stake it to a patio chair until I actually got in it last night. NYE was windy! My new headlamp, the well-praised Black Diamond Spot, worked well. I feel confident that any night hiking or set-up I have to do will be fine with this headlamp. It’s pretty ridiculously bright.

All in all, I’m ready! Now I just need to finish buying a few supplies and food and then pack. Itinerary and gear list to come.