Saturday, April 30, 2016

Day 8: Franklin

Miles: 0

So what happens when you start hiking with a person and then not so much? A whole lot of gear and logistic scrambling, at least for an over researching, anxious person like me. So another day off to catch up on sleep and figure out the next few stops not forgetting the ever important post office hours, estimated arrival times and daily predicted rain in the near future.

This trail is really all about the cats, how does no one else realize this?

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Day 7: Albert Mountain

4/27: Mile 95.3- Winding Stair Gap
Mile 95.3 - 109.8 (14.5 miles)

The day started out great with a beautiful sunrise and even a view point so we could escape the rhododendron long enough to actually see it (i.e. 5 ft).

More views as our climb began in earnest. There were blooming flowers and even some rocky cliff edge walking.

And then the toughest bit of climbing so far. The last 500 or so feet up to the Albert Mountain Fire tower were filled with rocky scrambling, not to mention hot and steep.

But pretty darn cool at the top, plus we made friends with other hikers enjoying the view

Looking out, the haze might be from some of the nearby fires. It's been a dry year with a tad too much arson for my taste. HoT Springs and the Shenandoah are on fire and will hopefully reopen soon.

Do panoramas work on this blog? It was quite the view.

This may not be my first time but what hike isn't complete with awkward smiles at the 100 mile mark?

You could climb almost all the way up... Then back to hiking.

Magical streams

Lots of little wildlife

And so many almost views. We pushed on to Winding Stair Gap and had our hitch to Franklin before Rest Stop even sat down.

Relaxing, hiding from the heat and then hiding from the pouring rain and thunder. Not a bad day.

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Day 6: Another One Bites the Dust

4/26: mile 70.7 - 95.3
Miles: 24.6

It was a perfect warm morning that quickly got a little hot. But the climbing was a nice gentle grade and it was so very green. Plus 8 or so miles in we officially finished Georgia and crossed into North Carolina. Woohoo first state!

But seriously California took 3 months and this one was less than a week? These east coast states are tiny! I think this officially means only 13 states to go.

And then honestly a whole lot of really emotional stuff happened that I may go into greater detail about at some other point when I have a little more perspective. Needless to say hiking with partners is hard and I will shortly be trying this adventure solo.

So yes there were views and more of the excessive signage that helps make the AT what it is. Which I love! I haven't gotten lost once yet, that certainly wasn't true on my last trail. Lost was a daily occurrence on the continental divide. But I had blinders on to details so enjoy some photos.

I love rhododendron tunnels! How did I not know these were a thing?

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Day 5: Back at it

4/25: Unicoi Gap - campsite at mile 70.7
Miles:52.9-70.7 (17.8 miles)

It's quite the crowd waiting to get back on trail at the motel in the morning. By 9 we've squeezed 13 people into the van and at least 2 more hitch back to the gap. We all dawdle in the parking lot before finally climbing.

As usual the day was all ups and downs, flat is pretty rare out here. But there were a few longer climbs thrown in and as the hottest day so far on trail I was definitely feeling overheated by the end.

We leapfrogged the folks from the shuttle all day, chatting making the day pass.

Water was a little bit off trail today and we took some nice breaks but it's the first night I've felt pretty beat. Guess all the climbing is sinking in. Either way we've got a good breeze through our campsite and tomorrow we cross the Georgia/North Carolina border.

Ferns uncurling

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Day 4: Zeroing in Hiawasse

4/24: Hiawasee, Georgia
Miles: 0

We both figured knees and feet probably wouldn't hate the full day off so a zero it is. I honestly don't feel ready for a day off, I'm still so excited about hiking. But then again I'm positive it won't hurt and for the first time I'm actually hiking with another person. So here it goes, hiking with partners is all about compromise right? Besides this bed is awfully soft and there's a store with fresh produce right down the road.

Relaxing at the inn, what you can't see are the other 15 or so hikers...

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Day 3: Neel's Gap

4/22: Priest Rock - Tesnatee Gap
Miles: 22.1 - 37.7 (15.6 miles)

The rain was still pattering away but much lighter and thankfully the giant puddles hadn't seeped into the tent. Slacking just a bit we finally packed up the tent protected by umbrellas in a sea of fog and drizzle. More misty than full on rain we passed people huddled in tents and a scarce few out hiking.

As we climbed up the much hyped Blood Mountain the rain came down in a full on downpour. The climb wasn't bad at all, more entertaining was the constant rotation of my umbrella as I climbed switchbacks, that rain was determined to come at me sideways.

The views from blood mountain...

We chatted with another hiker at the shelter on top then down to Neels Gap. A rocky descent with the trail a bit of a creek, but not slick like I was worried it would be. Then it was a nice break at Mountain Crossings, a full on gear store that the trail physically walks through.

The trail goes right through the corridor

Shoe tree, people who quit or just change their shoes?

I try to be social but there's one guy over talking everyone and other than allowing me to say hi I'm quickly shut down. Having absolutely no desire for that type of conversation I'm happy enough avoiding his entourage. One of folks we knew on the CDT works at Neels Gap, bummer for us he's not working but it's fun to talk to the former thruhikers working there and we score a hot shower.

Instead of people I spend my time with a resident cat

Isn't he (or she?) handsome

We dry our gear a bit, cobble a little extra food together and we're back on trail a few hours later.

Leaving we find more and more views. A few spots of rain and looming clouds threaten. There aren't great camping options so we push on. Tonight we aren't as lucky as the night before, by the time we got to Testanee Gap its pouring. We scramble across the road and find a shelter hidden spot and get the tent up. Thunder and flashes of lightning lull us to sleep.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Day 2: the real start

4/21: Springer Mtn - Priest Rock
Mile: 0-22.1, 22.1 miles

Jet lag and camping for the first time in months make for some nice and broken sleep. Poor Rest Stop was up at 4:30 wide awake. I managed to make it a bit later and got to enjoy sunrise from the tent, I am so excited to be out here. Springer is the official start to the AT, so today is our first full day and our first day on the actual trail.

The whole day was rolling climbs and seeing other hikers. Lots of small springs and streams and a whole lot of green. It's beyond pretty with a patchwork of deciduous trees and evergreens filling the hillsides with colors. Throw in the songbirds, flowering dogwoods and wildflower and I'm one happy camper.

For fun we counted the number of people we passed today, anyone was fair game as long as they were hiking. The grand total was 42, yikes! And that didn't include anyone at shelters since they were slightly off trail and we decided to skip the extras. So far it seems that there are shelters with privies every 6-8 miles which is a nice option. We met a lot of folks today who are carrying some wickedly heavy packs and pretty much everyone looked fairly beaten down. Climbing up and down all day is a whole different story with a 65 pound pack and a 20 pound pack. I'm feeling pretty good, and so very glad my pack is light. It's making everything seem so doable and instead of suffering I'm enjoying the views and the foliage.

The afternoon offered more ups and down with increasing peeks at mountains through the trees. We picked up another hiker for a few hours and with forbidding clouds gathering and the wind picking up it was perfect weather for hiking. Rockier terrain and more ledges left me even happier as we climbed. We grabbed water from a bubbling spring and headed just a bit farther to find a campsite and a view. Getting tired and hungry I stuffed my face as we kicked back and enjoyed the end of the day. A few raindrops started and within 5 minutes it was a downpour. Good thing this tent is a quick setup. I'll admit I had some not so good flashbacks of the tent filling with water on a hard packed trail back on the CDT. Luckily as the rain continued its downpour we stayed dry and warm. For now the rain has stopped but word is showers all day tomorrow but it's also a fake town day because the trail passes through Neels Gap which a gear store with some services so we'll probably spend most of the day there. Woohoo 9.6 miles to new food.

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