It all started with a walk in the woods back in November 2014. I told my friend Jenny that I wanted to hike a section of the AT (Appalachian Trail) from the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) to Springer Mtn, GA (South Terminus). At that point, I had never set foot on the trail until that day but this adventure was now on my list. I figured if I could run 100 miles through the woods, surely I could walk 137 miles in 10 days or so.
Almost a year later (December 2015), we took a day trip up to Springer Mtn, GA to scope out the end of the trail using a backroad less traveled which allowed us to avoid the 8 mile approach trail to the AT from Amicalola. The dream was now set into motion and in July 2016, I completed my first ever backpacking trip covering 88 miles in 8 days with Jessa, Mary, Callie, and Kathy. It was also the beginning of my trail fever.
Trail fever is a real thing. Just ask anyone who has ever gone backpacking on the AT for at least a couple of days. It was so real that prior to my birthday trip, I hiked ~18 miles in one day because I was in the area and wanted to fit in another section (Wayah Bald to the NOC). This time bunny came along for the ride and we made it back before dark when the bears come out for dinner. ;-)
Of course, the day hike was not enough to cure the trail fever and plans were hatched immediately to come back to the AT for the section from Neels Gap to Springer Mtn (~32 miles) just prior to my actual birthday. The goal would be complete - 137 miles from Springer Mtn to the NOC.
#BlogLikeCrazy while Hiking.
11/16/16 - Made it to Neels Gap at 9 ish. Met Gumby Bear and 4 other thru-hikers staying at the hostel. They had to be shuttled to safety because of the wildfires but still managed to hike more than 2,000 miles this season. I am cold and tired so I am about to hit the sack.
11/17/16 - Crazy long day - 15 hilly miles (in my tent by 7:40 pm). We got started at 9:30 am then spent a fair amount of time on Blood Mountain looking at the incredible views and eating a snack after the tough climb. It was crazy hot but the smoke (from arson) stayed away until late afternoon. We met up with a bunch of SOBO's (southbound thru-hikers - Everest, Walker, Baby Bear, Thumper, Beast, Ash, TBD, and friends) who are going to be finishing up on Saturday. Of course, there was a wild party at the Gooch Gap shelter where everyone bombed a beer to celebrate my birthday. I feel like hiker trash even if only for a section. I hope my hiking partner makes it tomorrow.
11/18/16 - I didn't miss social media for a second while hiking the AT. It was an amazing journey that got started today at 6:30 am. I slept ok last night except for the intermittent coughing and sliding around in my sleeping bag. I was also amazed to see how bright it was outside because of the supermoon. But away from the moon, I could see the beautiful stars only visible in darkness minus artificial light. Well, we got underway hiking at 8:00am struggling up 4 plus mountains before noon with more than 20lbs on our backs . Then it was downhill for 3 plus miles and we needed the reprieve from the heat. The last 4 miles were the longest ever but I was determined to make it to the southernmost terminus of the AT. Good thing we dropped our bags at the jeep so that the last 2 miles of our 17-mile journey were bearable.
The view from the Terminus was extra special at the end of a couple of days of strenuous hiking. The entire trip was filled with beautiful overlooks, a wide array of changing leaves, conifer trees, flowing creeks, birds, chipmunks, squirrels, butterflies, sunrises and sunsets, and best of all cool people. I loved every minute of the trip even when I was suffering. At least I knew that I was still alive. This is truly why I chose to celebrate my birthday outside. To feel alive.