Day 5, Neels Gap to Low Gap Shelter

First, thanks to everyone who is following my blog.  I like the comments, so keep them coming!

Today: 11.5 miles.  Total: 43.2 miles.
   (Footnote: to keep things simple, I am not adding the 8 miles I did on the approach trail.  With those miles added, I broke 50 miles today!)

Left the hostel knowing it was supposed to rain today, and it did! Words for the day: mud, rain, wind, and more mud. Hardest part was going down hill and trying not to fall in the slippery conditions. 

Trail Magic. What inspires a group of people to go out on a miserable day, set up a canopy on the side of a road that intersects the AT, and feed hungry hikers for a few hours? Many of us hikers were treated to hamburgers, hot dogs, fruit and  drinks, all we could eat! Wonderful! And… I received two blessings for a safe journey.  Thanks so much to the Echo Ministries for the food and fellowship. Your kindness is greatly appreciated!

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AT days 3&4

Day 3. Justus Creek to Lance Creek. Today: 9.9 miles.  Total: 24.3 miles. 

Day 4. Lance Creek to Neel Gap. Today: 7.4. Total: 31.7.

An interesting couple of days.  Yesterday was about meeting nice people, and taking time to learn what they are about. 

Today was physically challenging.  I hiked Blood Mountain, at 4461′, the highest peak to date.  Then add in a continuous rain, wind and cold… Great fun!

The good news is that I have a bunk at the AT famous Hiker Hostel. For $17, you get a bunk (1 of 16), a shower and a towel.  For another $3, you get to wash your clothes. Perfect!

I also had my first experience of “Trail Magic”. A group of folks from the Spring Valley Church of Springville, Alabama drove 4 hours and spent a few days locally giving away food to hikers.  Tonight, they put on a free spaghetti dinner for us, complete with salad and dessert. Some music and a little fellowship was appreciated! Thanks to Pastor Barry Britt for this special event.

Tomorrow is another rain day, but that’s life on the trail!

Day 2 Stover Creek

Today’s Miles: 11.6 Total: 14.4

Overnight was COLD! Temps in the low teens, and windy.  My teeth chattered all night, and I only got a couple of hours sleep. 

It was hard crawling out of bed.  We got up at 7:30, packed up, and I got going eating a bar on the go. I took a coffee break, when I finally warmed up. 

The rest of the day was gorgeous, but the temps stayed in the low 40s.

My initial goal was 13 miles to Gooch Mountain Shelter, but I was tired by 4pm, stopped too often on the uphills, and wanted to be done! Got here at 6pm, time to set up my hammock, and have a freeze-dried dinner! Yum! 4 other hikers here. Had a nice chat by a fire.  One couple is on their honeymoon! Neat to have a 6 month honeymoon?! Another is a lawyer who is unhappy with his career.  Then there is Corn Flake, who is moving slowly with his dog.  Quite the mix!

Tomorrow’s goal is another 10 miles, to Lance Creek. 

Day 1 on the AT

Day 1. Approach Trail (from parking lot) 7.3 miles, then Springer Mt to Stover Creek Shelter, 2.8 miles.  Today’s total: 10.1 miles. 
Being seranaded by Mica with friend Pearl. 
I decided to stay in a nice hut, as it is very cold and windy.  At least I am out of the wind!

About 12-15 people here., with 2 girls.  Quite a mix! Evenly split between 20s, 40s, and me.  2 Germans, one is Bernd.  40ish computer programer. 

Animal carries a heavy bucket to save money.  Jay served 5 years in the Navy, then college, and hiking before going to work. 

Gear is fine so far.  I have a small pull on my backpack strap, so will be watching it. 

Too cold for much else…

The Lodge at Amicalola Falls

I am spending three days here at the lodge with my wife, before I begin my hike.  I am glad we took the time to enjoy the beauty of the park, instead of just beginning my hike. 
image

Today was Springer Mountain day.  We drove about 90 minutes to a parking area one mile NORTH of the beginning of the AT.  We then hiked south to the top of Springer, and took pictures of us and the plaque of the beginning of my 2185.3 mile journey.  Janet got to see the beautiful vistas and experience first hand what hiking the AT is all about, as we walked the one mile north back to the car. 

Tomorrow, we will spend time in the park.  The first mile of the approach trail is magnificent and challenging, with 604 steps along the falls for which the park is named.  We will hike this together.  The rest of the day will be spent doing nothing concerned with hiking!

Tuesday morning I begin my quest with the 8 mile approach trail. I will be on my way!

Support and a Party

From my readings of successful through hikers, most give credit to a strong support system. There are typically parents, a wife, significant other, or close friend to help with logistics. This expands to family and friends who follow the hiker and offer moral support, encouragement, and perhaps even meet up with us at points along the way. I’ve mentioned it before, but it needs repeating.

I experienced one of many such events yesterday, two weeks BEFORE I leave on my hike. First, months ago, I received the encouragement of my wife, Janet, to tackle this dream. If you are in a relationship, you understand how significant this is, for as difficult as my hike will be, my wife takes on the burden of everyday living for six months by herself.

Then, she throws a wonderful going away party of friends and family, so that they can also feel a strong connection to this quest. This is just the beginning, but so important. Thank you, Janet! Thanks to all who came to say goodbye and wish me well. Thanks for the words of encouragement, even if you can’t fathom doing something like this yourself. I feel truly blessed; I WILL complete my hike of the Appalachian Trail!

Five Ounces

Five ounces. 5/16 of a pound, less than a third. I spent $35 for those 5 ounces, and very happy for it! What is that, $7 per ounce?!

To a long distance hiker, every ounce is at a premium. The less weight I have to carry, the more comfortable I will be. It’s then reasonable to assume that I will enjoy the hike just that little bit more. Each of my 5 MILLION steps will carry 5 ounces less than previously planned; for $35, that’s not a bad deal at all.

I’ve alluded to the weight tradeoff equation before. For a particular function, saving weight is a good thing, as long as it does not compromise quality or usefulness. Example: I have heavy, rugged boots that weigh 3 pounds, and could last the entire hike. To save weight, and be more comfortable, I will take trail runners, at 1.5 pounds. I may need 3 pair as they break down, but that is a reasonable compromise.

Money is also part of this equation. Technology permeates hiking as it does other sports. We have titanium cookware, ultra light nylon cloth for tarps and tents, new weaves of wool that reduce clothing weight substantially. It all depends how deep your pockets are, and what is “OK” if it’s a bit heavier.

My biggest compromise is my hammock, which weighs in at 3 pounds, plus another 8 ounces for a tarp. Many high tech tents now are just over 1 pound, complete (at $400 and up!). But, this hammock is rugged and comfortable, and I JUST LIKE IT. That’s the fun of this individualist sport: you get to choose what lights you up, as long as you accept your choices.

So… what was my big purchase? Camp shoes! At the end of a long day of hiking, airing out tired feet is a luxury. Many of us bring Crocs, slides, or the equivalent: waterproof, light shoes. They are also useful for river crossings and in town, in the shower, whatever. Inexpensive, yes, but at 14 ounces for the pair, on the heavy side for the one or two hours a day they get used.

croc

Enter Vivobarefoot, the company, that sell a variety of minimalist running and hiking footwear. I came across a discussion of these on Whiteblaze.net, my primary source of information about all things hiking on the AT. I can’t wear many shoes as I have a wide foot and a bunion on my right foot, but I ordered a pair of their “Ultra Pure”, and at about 9 ounces, they are great! So… my Crocs will stay at home, and the Vivo’s will take to the trail!

vivobarefoot