10: hawk mountain to springer mountain to Gainesville, Ga

This is the post I don’t want to write. This is the one that ends the hiking. But before I get to that, here’s the rest of the night at hawk mountain.

It was cold. It was really freaking cold. All of our water froze in minutes. If we’d been thinking ahead we would have poured some in our cups to melt in the morning, but we didn’t. Neither Gonzo nor I slept particularly well. We both woke up in pain at different parts of the night,  knees for me, back for him. I couldn’t stop shivering at one point. Gonzo fell asleep so quickly once that I was worried he’d fallen asleep too quickly.

But we both woke up in the morning, even if it did take both of us a long time to decide to get out of our sleeping bags. The air was just too frigid.

We scrounged around in our food bags to see what we had left for the day. It was slim pickings without any water, but we managed. I packed up and headed out around 10:30 or 11, and Gonzo wasn’t too far behind me.

We both decided to hike the last 8 miles alone today. We started our adventures alone and wanted the time to reflect on it. Gonzo wanted to see how quickly he could get there, and maybe I did too.

When I left my co-op at Roper Corp., the factory where I worked on stoves, my factory mom Sheree made me promise that I would never stop going on adventures. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot since I left there. It’s easy to get sucked into the school and work and school and work and home to see the family groove. But I wanted more for myself when I was younger; I want more for myself now.
This trip was keeping that promise to Sheree. It was to put myself someplace that made me a little uncomfortable, to test my body and my mind and my instincts. In some ways they had failed (see: both knees). In some ways they had surprised me (see: both knees).

In my eight miles to springer, I thought about the mountains I’d walked up and the people I’d met and Stewart and Ginny coming out to hike with me. The mice and the cold and the creepy people and the rain– none of that matters. It’s playing cards at a hostel and hiking 21 miles when you thought 20 would kill you. It’s resetting what you believe you’re capable of. It’s getting good at hanging your food and learning to trust yourself and playing I Spy in the woods when everything is brown and gray and green.

I supposed, when I set off, that I would be alone in the woods the entire time. I knew I would pass some NOBOs and maybe share a shelter, but didn’t suppose I’d make new friends. I didn’t know I’d  have some of the best laughs of my life on this trip.

I hiked along and enjoyed the day. I didn’t chat with anyone I passed, really. Most of the hike was beautiful and sunny. And the thought of it ending, of leaving these quick few days in the woods, that was the first time I had to fight back tears.

I lightened my load when I got to my car a mile from Springer. The trail was rockier and icier, but the sun was in front of me and I enjoyed the journey.

Shortly before I reached the top, I ran in to Gonzo. He had reached Springer 45 minutes before me, it turns out. I asked if he wanted to walk back up with me. He asked if I was sure I didn’t want to go alone. Oh no, I said. I’m embracing the way this adventure has changed itself despite my planning it in the depths of winter.

We walked together to Springer.

It felt…anti-climactic, if I’m being honest. There was a NOBO hiker there, so we chatted with her for a bit (speed stick, a triple crowner). Gonzo showed me the log where he’d signed it, and where friends of his he’d told me about had signed as well, mentioning him and others. As a section hiker, it made me happy for him and sad and jealous for me. I only got a small piece of that feeling and those relationships.

And then we left.

Can you see gonzo up there? That’s how I remember hiking with him. His long, easy steps, one pole that he hardly uses, and a stumble every now and then because he doesn’t have to concentrate on each step. Also because his shoes had no tread left by the time I met him.

We walked back to the car and, to add insult to injury, I slipped on some ice and I think that’s when something in my hip went numb. Maybe it was numb before. Who even knows at this point. 29 never felt so old.

At the car, Gonzo and I stuffed in our bags and then I made the most grievous discovery: the shelter mice had moved into my car. There was a nice comfy nest in the floor of the passenger seat, and a north face jacket I’d left there had a hole chewed through the sleeve. I saw the mouse run around the nest and then, I hoped, out the car. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry but laughing seemed easier so I chose that.

Gonzo was eager to drive and I was eager to let him, so he navigated the six miles of gravel and potholes and then figured out how to get to Amicalola Falls State Park, where we’d be picking up Carpenter. My original plan had been to drive home alone, as you might imagine. But fate meant that Carpenter and Gonzo had a train to catch on the same day I was planning on finishing my hike, so I might as well drive them (or let them drive themselves in my car) there. It meant another little bit of adventure, after all.

We only had to stop and ask one man on a tractor for directions. Gonzo’s well-ingrained sense of southiness (to be expected after 2000 miles of walking south) had served us well and we were headed in the right direction.

When we drove up and found Carpenter, hugging him wasn’t like hugging someone I barely knew. I had missed him, and wondered about him, and rejoiced in him finishing his hike. I was happy to see him again.

Gonzo signed the thru-hiker register, and then we drove up to visit Lyric and Heather. Lyric was a friend of theirs who had left the trail; Heather, his wife, worked at the park. We stood around and talked and they called another friend to let them know that Carpenter and Gonzo had finished. I saw pictures and heard stories and enjoyed the general bonhomie. 

Carpenter, Gonzo, and I got in the car and drove to Gainesville, Ga. We had dinner at Chik-fil-a (or Chicken-fil-a as my poor Yankee friends kept calling it) and I got my first real “hiker trash” stare. I guess maybe we did look and smell a little colorful, but I was wearing Nike Pros and Patagonia! I’m a pretty fashionable transient.

We drove to the train station, and I waited with C and G until their train came. It was hard to say goodbye.

I drove home, talking to my friends on the phone and stopping for more food in maybe the sketchiest exit on I-20. Survive the trail, get scared while pumping gas. Go figure!

I made it home at 11:30pm. My mom gave me the quickest hug ever, even quicker than when she’s mad at me. I didn’t think I smelled that bad, but my little sister wouldn’t even come close.

MVP: everything (actually I think I promised Gonzo he could be MVP for driving AND getting me to do a 21 mile day) so actually Gonzo

LVP: mice

Until the next adventure, my friends! I love you all and am so pleased you joined me on this one. It meant the world to me!!


9: blood mountain to hawk mountain 

We woke up slowly in the morning, none of us eager to walk on the cold stone floor. Stewart and Ginny went out first, reporting that it had snowed. The weather report Otis had given us the day before had been correct! Gonzo and I had dismissed his call for snow, but maybe Otis had the way of it after all.

Eventually (very, very eventually), Stewart, Ginny, and I headed out for the hike. Gonzo would catch up with us later.

We had a nice time walking in the cold, talking about hikes and catching up. We ran into lots of day hikers and several NOBOs heading out. I wondered if they knew it would be cold in the Smokies. When we stopped for a break, Gonzo walked up.
Gonzo read us “Song of the Open Road,” by Whitman.

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,

Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,

Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,

Strong and content I travel the open road.

The earth, that is sufficient,

I do not want the constellations any nearer,

I know they are very well where they are,

I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

We left Gonzo to fill his water. As we walked on, we each quoted a different line, spontaneously.
Stewart: I myself am good fortune
Ginny: done with indoor complaints
Me: I whimper no more
We each took something different from the poem, but they are all very similar ideas. Get out there and do it; quit talking about this adventure you want and go take it for yourself. It was perfect for a day of walking in the snowy woods with old friends and new, on big adventures and little adventures.
The four of us continued on until we got to Woody Gap, where we said goodbye to Stewart and Ginny.


Then Gonzo and I decided today would be a 21 mile day and we would hike to Hawk Mountain shelter.

I was lucky to be hiking with Gonzo. He offered to switch packs with me, so I could carry his lighter pack and we could hopefully go a little faster. He set the pace and I still struggled to keep up. It was hard, and my knees and feet hurt.

I would have made it to Gooch mountain, the shelter I’d intended to stay at, before dark. I would have been fine alone. But the challenge of 21 miles was invigorating and scary and there were moments I wanted to cry a little (but I didn’t).

We ran into two section hikers doing a little night hiking. They stopped to congratulate Gonzo on finishing his thru, and also offered us both a little trail magic– an airplane bottle of whiskey they’d meant to leave at the shelter we were headed to, and a shot of whiskey out of their hydration bladder. We took both, said thanks, and I walked on feeling a little warmer. Not by much, but a little.

The trees were creaking in the wind. Things were getting colder and creepier yet again, but I was (once again) thankful I wasn’t doing this night hike alone. Another experience I was glad to have but wouldn’t have gotten if I’d stuck with my original plan. Open to adventure, though- that was one thing I’d wanted to get out of this.

We hit a forest service road and didn’t immediately see where the trail picked up again. Headlights came towards us and we could hear the engine and gravel crunching under the tires of a pickup.

There are few places where I haven’t felt comfortable on this trip, and besides the first few minutes with Otis, those times have always been where the trail crosses roads. I stayed in the hostel when I did because I ran across a guy at the trailhead who made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to camp so close to the road where it was easy to get to me; shelters close to the road, forest service roads, roads crossings, all those places where town people (locals) can get to easily are the places that make me nervous. And having a pickup drive up like that made us both nervous, I think. I followed Gonzo’s lead, as usual.

We heard a man ask a question about how to get to some place.

“Sorry man, I have absolutely no idea where that is,” Gonzo replied in a firm voice, not turning around. We picked a direction and walked, headlamps off. We waited for the truck to leave, got out my GPS app to find the trail, then took off again.

I had to consider what I would have done, had I been alone. I’d seen the headlights, so I probably would have stayed hidden on the trail until they left.

We knew the water for the shelter was another .1 or .2 miles past the shelter. Something neither of us wanted to do, but we would divvy up chores once we got there and make quick work of setting up camp. We’d already decided it was too cold to bother filtering water. What could possibly be alive at this point? And besides, Giardia takes 2 weeks to set it and I have health insurance. We were comfortable with this risk.

Luckily, we came to a nice stream just before the shelter. We filled all four bottles and drank some there, too, making quick work of unfreezing stuck lids and putting bottles back in the packs. It was nice to have someone there to help with that. Hiking alone can be a huge pain in the butt.

We got to the shelter at 9 pm. The temperatures must have been in the 20s and dropping. We set up camp in the upper loft of the shelter, cooked and ate, then went to bed, both hoping we would survive and the mice wouldn’t.

8: low gap to blood mountain

Gonzo and I left the shelter with me in the lead, setting a pace that was comfortable for the 14 miles we had to go.

We took some beautiful pictures in the gorgeous weather:

We saved some poor day hikers who were looking for the Blood Mountain shelter in the wrong direction. As it turns out, they had a much easier hike than if they had actually gone to Blood Mountain, which was, of course, our destination.

We then hiked on to neel gap, where we took a break to charge phones, eat a philly cheese steak, buy some more food for the last two days, and also prepare for super cold weather. There was snow coming, and my last night at Gooch mountain was going to be in the teens. Again. I got another pair of gloves, since mine have holes in them now, and the store hooked me up with a free nalgene someone had left, so I’ll put hot water in that for my feet. The store closed at 5 so we filled our water bottles and headed to blood mountain to meet Stewart and Ginny.
The hike up was cold and wet and misty and windy. It started getting dark. The mountain was rocky and had lots of open rock faces to walk over in the rain. It was spooky, and the wind and rain lashing at us only added to the effect. Then, suddenly, a rock building rose out of the dark mist in front of us. I called hello and rushed inside. It was empty. I felt sure that Stewart and Ginny should have beaten us to the shelter and started to panic. I called Stewart’s phone; no answer.

Thirty minutes later I heard Gonzo greeting people. Stewart and Ginny had arrived! We hugged and shared journeys up the mountain, then started figuring out how we were going to sleep in the rocky, windy, freezing shelter.

And then we saw the biggest, fattest shelter rat I have ever seen in my life.

Stewart had some really creative food on this trip…

 Stewart and Ginny in the shelter

We cooked dinner and talked gear, then quickly scuttled into our bags. The wind was blowing the tarps held down by rocks over the two windows, making us constantly question what we were hearing. Water dripped in from the wooden beams in the ceiling and whipped around the blowing tarps. The night was long, but it was so nice to have friends to share it with.

7: tray mtn to low gap

Well I lost this post. This will be a pale shadow of what I originally wrote.

After I posted my last update, I stayed in my sleeping bag in the shelter. Carpenter was reading near me, and Luke and Gonzo were still by the fire. Eventually Luke came to the shelter too, and I asked Gonzo to sing a song. Surprisingly, he obliged with sea shanties in a pleasing baritone. It will remain one of my favorite memories.

After his serenade, gonzo came to the shelter too, and we stayed up late trading stories while Luke…slept? And Carpenter did…carpenter things (I think he was reading but I can’t overstate the force of carpenter’s personality. Even reading he’s…mysterious. He’s one of those people who, when you hear stories about him second-hand, you think nope, that can’t possibly be true. But first-hand, you don’t question it. Of course that happened  exactly the way he describes it. He’s the kind of person who you let enrich your life and are thankful for it. I enjoyed immensely every second of conversation with him. What a gentle man with a great smile and a wonderful way of telling stories.)

The next morning, I said goodbye to carpenter, who was off to finish his thru-hike. Then I said goodbye to Luke and gonzo, who I was pretty sure would be passing me at some point. I started my hike cold and wet.

 As you can see, beautiful views.

My reaction.

I hiked and hiked and eventually realized that this was a 15 mile day, not 13.8. Whoops. At this point, it doesn’t really matter. I like that I’m comfortable with those distances and don’t even feel like I have to get up early to make it. If I end up in the dark, well, I’ve already done that and it was fine. It’ll be fine again. I’ve really stretched my limitations.

I did run into Luke again, who invited me to lunch in town. I declined and told him goodbye. He was great fun, but I was ready to keep hiking. I hiked for a while with Gonzo, which is always good for 1. Making me go super fast and 2. Getting some good stories. He hiked on though, and I spent some time singing songs by myself and hiking.

In general, I can only sing “Army” (Ben Folds Five, verse 1 and 2), “I Could Have Danced All Night” (My Fair Lady), and “In My Own Little Corner” (Rogers and Hanmersteins Cinderella). Sometimes I sing the beginning of the French national anthem.

Gonzo found me while filtering water about 3 miles from the shelter. I was contemplating walking on to the next shelter, but it was a mile off the trail. We both decided that was excessive and headed in to Low Gap together.

While discussing colonialism, we found Otis at the shelter. We stood with our packs on while Gonzo chatted with him, figuring out what his deal was.

Here is Otis’s deal: he’s a 34 year old NOBO thru-hiker who had made it 43 miles since January 1. He had a 75lb pack. He was carrying 3 cans of propane, 48 packs of ramen, 3 tubs of protein powder, a $20 tent from Dick’s, two pairs of khakis, dress shoes, and, curiously, no rain jacket. He had been at the shelter for at least one night and didn’t intend to leave for another two or three because of the rain (it was not raining that hard).

Otis demanded a fire. “A real rager,” he said. Guess who gathered all the wood? That’s right; gonzo and I did. Guess who built the fire out of soaked firewood? Gonzo.

Thankfully, Gonzo carried the conversation with Otis. I was incapable. It was too ridiculous.

Eventually we went to sleep. All was well until Gonzo and I saw someone through the mist, hiking with a flashlight around midnight.

And then, in the middle of the night, Otis woke up and yelled “ARE THOSE M-Fing MICE IN HERE?!” He threw everything in his tent around, peed off the side of the shelter, then smoked an angry cigarette from his tent.

Reader, I had to fake cough to cover my laughter.
The morning came and Otis could not believe that Gonzo and I were going to 1. Hike 13 miles and 2. Hike in the rain. We did anyways.

And this ended our time at Low Gap with Otis. But not our time making fun of him.
MVP: Otis

LVP: fog

6: top of Georgia to tray mountain

Everything seems a little brighter today. Maybe because I’m not freezing or dirty , or maybe because I spent the night warm and even woke up with sweaty feet. Maybe because I left the car with a hug from Buttercup. All I know is, I’m hiking in a really, really good mood today.

Buttercup and Tumbles

Mike, the NOBO thru-hiker, let me use some of his tenacious tape to repair my rain jacket, so that’s fixed. I had a great breakfast joking around with Gonzo and Luke, talking politics with Carpenter, and eating 3 (yes, THREE) eggs and cereal and two pieces of toast.

I’ve been hesitant to give anyone my Redstar trail name. For one, it didn’t seem exactly legit. Last night I had two possible trail names: Gloss (I was slathering on Carmex) and Bullshit (1. Sorry mom and 2. I am really good at that game) but neither stuck. This morning, Mike asked if red was my favorite color, because of my bag and my hair. I said no, but that’s what my hiking buddy calls me, Red Star. And everyone approved and said that should be my trail name, so now it’s official. Buttercup loved it, too. I feel like…I don’t know, I guess like less of a fake hiker and more of a real hiker now. Acceptance has always been important to me. It’s good to know these things about yourself (this is tongue in cheek).

I cleaned out my food bag, replaced everything, and said my goodbyes (temporary to some, since all of the SOBO thru-hikers will be passing me at some point today, those speed demons). Buttercup and Tumbles drove me to the trailhead and I started walking.

I’m writing this sitting next to Carnes Cascade on a sweet little bench. I’m wrapped up in nostalgia and memories of friends from France and college and camp, those silly little moments you have with people you’ve just met. That’s what this feels like. I can see why people want to keep on doing this. The time alone keeps it from getting stale. The characters always change. People pop in and out of your life, and all the while you’re surrounded by a landscape that changes and grows and somehow stays a little bit the same.

 Hiking is supposed to be a little bit solitary, but the people you meet…well, ask Stewart about that guy we met in July who tried to take a wagon on the Cumberland trail. The stories you get make it even better.


I stopped for this beautiful view. I think that’s when Carpenter passed me. That’s all we can figure anyways.


Ever wondered what happens when you release balloons?

Yes, I’m carrying it out. Leave no trace, and if you take a picture of someone else’s trash, you should probably pack it out too.


 I have no swag, but the blue ridge does! (I’m so sorry)

I ran into Luke and Gonzo right as I finished peeing today (great timing!) and hiked with them for a bit. Gonzo left me and Luke in his dust and I figured that was the last I’d see of him, but when Luke and I made it to the shelter, Carpenter and Gonzo were both sitting there. It was a great surprise. We still had a lot of daylight to gather wood and eat dinner, and we’ve spent the evening around the fire sharing stories and laughing and eating. I’m in my sleeping bag now, carpenter is sitting at the side of the shelter on Facebook, and Luke and Gonzo are messing around by the fire. It’s nice and comfortable, considering I only met 2/3 of them yesterday.

Reheating my leftover pizza- stone fired pizza! How gourmet!

Today’s MVP: gonzo and carpenter. They’re going to have to bang out some miles to make the Monday train to New England, but they cut today short to stay at this shelter. That was nice.

LVP: both knees, right foot. I’m dreaming of my Birkenstocks but I think they’re in Tennessee.

Tomorrow is a 14 mile day. I think it’ll be rough.

5: Plumorchard to Top of Georgia Hostel

Well, important lessons were learned today.

1. Always put things back where they belong. Trust me, you do NOT want to be searching for your toilet paper while you’re sitting on the privy in 20*F weather.

2. 20 mile days are rough on the knees and feet. I have a billion new blisters.

3. Don’t leave trash in your rain jacket pocket. Thanks for the new ventilation in my rain jacket, mouse! I’ll be accessorizing with gorilla tape, I guess.

4. Sometimes 11 miles feels easy. Sometimes 5 miles feels insurmountable.

Here’s what I wrote on the trail today:

I only have 4 miles to the hostel but it just seems so impossible. My legs are tired. I’m supposed to love this, right? So why can’t I just get up and enjoy the journey instead of being so focused on the destination?
Because sometimes the journey is just hard.
Yesterday I was averaging just under 4mph. Today I’ll be lucky to do 2mph I think.
Of course, when I’m down I try to get signal and see if I’ve gotten a message from anyone or see what’s going on in the world (your likes and comments mean a lot to me!) and I got this reply to a text I sent my backpacking buddy Stewart:
Me: Now I have to walk into the woods to pee and it is so cold.

Me: Why do we do this again?

Stewart: Because we are strong and thrive on walking in the clouds and sleeping on mountains. We, for some reason, relish in looking daily upon our own insignificance in the face of nature.
It’s true. When I’m walking, I’m tiny and all I have are the problems of my body. Am I cold or hot or in pain or tired? Well, I either stop or go, or eat, or pee. There are simple solutions. And even sleeping on mountains and walking in clouds, as insignificant as I am, I am still part of it all. God’s eye is on the sparrow, and me, with my red backpack and my cold hands and tired feet.
But I made it, as you all know. And I went from this:

To this:

My feet… Well, there’s no dirt or tape, but the blisters are still there.

I’ve already eaten most of a digornio pizza. I’m about to head into town for more food and a resupply. I think I only need to carry 3 days worth of food, since Neel Gap is right on the trail.


This day at the hostel has been…incredible really. It feels like one of those days from study abroad, or teaching in France. A day where you make quick friends and meet interesting people, where you tell funny stories and do normal things that feel totally different. I went into town with Luke (Skywalker, a guy from Americus, GA, who’s just bumming around the trail but wasn’t prepared for the cold weather), Gonza (Gonzo?), the same thru-hiker from Carter Gap, and …someone else, who did not join us for dinner. The three of us went to an all-you-can eat buffet that was pretty good. I enjoyed that. Then we went for groceries where I had to call Dr Anna Foust for medical advice on how much Aleve I could take without doing kidney damage. Thanks for always being on call, Anna!!

We passed the night playing cards and telling stories. Hearing about the trail from the southbound thru-hikers, hearing from Mike, a northbounder who’s only getting started; it all made me want to do it, even as my feet are blistered and my calves are cramping. Maybe one day.

I won the card game (BS, which of course I’m really good at).

Tomorrow I’ll hike on to Tray Gap shelter.  Then Low Gap, then Stewart (Wolverine), my hiking buddy, will meet up with me at Blood Mountain the next night. I’m so excited to see him. Stewart is the one that got me in to all of this. It’s appropriate that he joins me for at least one night of my grand adventure, don’t you think?

The list of shelters seems so short now. I’ll be sad for this to end. It’s easy to say that, warm in bed, surrounded by snoring men, knowing Buttercup will cook me a huge hot breakfast in the morning…but even if I were cold and alone, the promise of one more encounter with a friendly bearded stranger named Pajamas (I met a friendly bearded guy named Pajamas) or hearing non-rhotic New Hampshire and Massachusetts accents from guys like Carpenter and Gonzo while they talk about their dogs, well, that might be enough. It’s fun. It’s something new every day. Even if it’s not people, it’s a view or a challenge or a stupid funny thing I do, like texting Stewart to ask what animal makes a gurgle (he didn’t know).

But everything has a season, and this one is short. I’ll just appreciate it while it’s here, and enjoy every minute of it that I can.

And now sleep, with no worry of mice or getting murdered or gurgling noises or frostbite or bears or anything else. Ptl!

3: rock gap to carter gap and 4: carter gap to plum orchard

So here’s the story on yesterday’s “In Transit” post: I’m writing this a day late because this day was TOO COLD. It started out cold and it kept on staying cold and then it got colder. I don’t mean oh I don’t want to take my gloves off to type I mean I spent most of the day with socks over my gloves (I called this handsocks). Actually probably all day. My water was frozen in my water bottle.

I went up to a nice Firetower. It was cold.

I ran into a few hikers, including one southbound thru hiker. We chatted briefly when he passed me, but then had plenty of opportunity to chat later because we ended up at the same shelter. He built a nice roaring fire, where I burnt my socks, and we talked about hiking and school and trees. I called upon some long- time knowledge from my days as the OMHS Envirothon forestry expert (state champs!) to identify an oak tree, but that was all I remembered.

We both slept a miserably cold night. I somehow got it in my head that tonight was the tent site night, so I decided I was going to sleep in a hostel bed. I was a day early. And that’s how I decided to hike 19.8 miles in one day.

Here’s the shelter I didn’t stay in. Looks creepy anyways.

I eventually made it in to Georgia. It was rough.

I pressed on and on and on. It got dark. I still had a ways to go before Plumorchard shelter. I wasn’t going to make it to the hostel, but my thru hiking buddy had been planning on staying here at the shelter. I walked on all day, thinking he would be here ahead of me, probably with a fire built. It was a tough day. Old right knee was really pulling through, with only a twinge of pain every now and then. But that didn’t make nearly 20 miles any easier. There were a lot of downhills, too, and let me tell y’all, that last mile from North Carolina into Georgia was ROUGH. NC evidently doesn’t believe in switchbacks at all. Just straight down.

I made it to the shelter after dark. I was miserable and cold and tired and had a billion new blisters. I set up my tent and started cooking dinner.
Ooooh it is below freezing and I have to walk out into the woods to pee and something is making very quiet rustling noises. This is…ugh.
Anyways. I finally made it to plum orchard after dark and the thru hiker was not here. That was rough. I guess he went on to hiawasee. Oh well. 5 more miles and I’ll be there tomorrow for my resupply.

I think there’s a mouse in here.
(Edit: there was a mouse and it chewed a hole in my rain jacket)

4: in transit

I’m 6.3 miles from the NC/GA border. I wasn’t supposed to hit Georgia today, astute readers who also look up AT maps might notice. But I got it in my head last night that I’d make it to Georgia and my resupply tonight and now…now I want to do it.

I guess that’s kind of typical for me. My dad said “hey, go back to school and study engineering” so I did. On my second (ever!) backpacking trip with Stewart I met a woman at a shelter who asked if I liked backpacking and I said yes. We talked about trips and she suggested I section hike Georgia southbound and…here I am.

So instead of 11 or 12 miles today I’m looking at 20something. It’ll be a new record, but then again, I’m breaking records every day now, aren’t I? Longest backpacking trip ever every night now.

I might stay at plum orchard shelter or I might stay at the hostel. Every part of me is covered in snot. In those historical (romance) novels I read they always talk about “natural odors” and how pleasant they are. Mine is not. Also I did not sleep well in 19*F weather. Not at all. The thru hiker I shared the shelter with slept like a rock, but I was awake most of the night.

We’ll see. For now, I’m looking forward to Georgia.

And literally taking a break on the trail.
current MVP: both knees!

Current LVP: the third verse to Ben folds’ Army. Can’t remember it.

Number of nails broken: 8

2: Wayah Bald to Rock Gap

14.8. That is a new mileage record for me! And believe me, I felt it in my body, mind, and spirit. But I wanted to make it to my shelter before the sun set and I did. That was an important goal for my morale, because I know I have some 15 mile days coming up, and I did it.

Last night was cold. Tonight is going to be worse, I think. I put up my tent inside the shelter as an extra wind block. I also rearranged my sleeping setup, so hopefully this works better.

Today was, overall, pretty nice. I had a great view at Wayah Bald Firetower early on. And I followed along the Bartram trail for a good bit. William Bartram is considered the first American naturalist and traveled from Georgia through North Carolina and up to Virginia. He’s a pretty big deal. His children, or maybe grandchildren, are also minor characters in the Outlander series.
 I passed several hikers today, mostly day hikers. That was nice too! I even got a salute from a guy who asked if I was going all the way to Springer. I’m not sure where he thought I started, but I suppose at this point all the way to springer is impressive no matter what. I’ll take it.

While I was walking 14.8 miles today I thought up all sorts of things to write about, but now it’s 7:30 and I really just want to go to sleep.
This shelter promised bear cables but there weren’t any. I’m pretty good at hanging my food without cables now, though. I am woman, watch me throw a rock over a limb.
There’s no service here, so this will be posted from someplace with service. With an addendum that includes just how freaking cold it did get last night.
**last night it got down to about 20F. I was VERY warm until about 5am.

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