Monthly Archives: February 2014

Day 3: The Ballad of Buddy

Miles Hiked: 7.7 miles
Miles Left: 2169.5
Ending Location: Gooch Mountain Shelter

Waking up when it’s in the mid 30’s is much preferable to waking up in the 20’s. On rising we were all greeted by the spectacle of the dog Moose trying to mate with a rock. Hey, it’s better than MTV. Buddy had skipped out of camp earlier following the first hiker who left.

The hike today can be summed up as mushy and muddy due to all of the melting snow. We also had our first serious climb out of Horse gap. Another notable event was we both got our first blisters so we tried to take it slow. When it comes down to it though, today really revolved around Buddy.

We met Buddy’s owner by the first road crossing we passed, and he was … off… He said his dog had slipped his leash yesterday and when we mentioned we saw his dog the owner began rationalizing that his dog would probably find a better home with the hikers than with him. Also we had a hard time getting his phone number to give him a call if we found Buddy. Now that I think about it he didn’t have a car or hiking gear. Long story short neither B or I had a good feeling about him.

A while afterwards we ran into Buddy wandering the trail so we gave him some food. We didn’t have cell coverage which ruled out calling his owner so we figured we’d hike to the next road crossing and try to give a call there or find someone who could give Buddy a ride into town. That plan failed miserably when Buddy ran off soon afterwards.

The next time we saw Buddy was when someone jogging the trail came by with him in tow. We gave the jogger the owner’s number and said goodby to him feeling that Buddy was going to be ok.

Low and behold at the last road crossing of the day who should come running up to us but a very muddy and distraught Buddy. We didn’t know what to do so we picked him up and put him in the back of a day hiker’s pickup truck and then left a note on their windshield explaining the situation. We figure since they had religious bumper stickers they’d understand. We left Buddy peering over the side barking up a storm, but that was really the best chance of him getting home. B and I didn’t want to stick around because we weren’t all that sure how someone would take a muddy dog and two muddy through hikers messing with their truck.

We ended the day at Gooch mountain shelter, (Designed and built by Virginia Tech students). As expected it was packed but we’re getting to know these people so it was fun.

My pack in the shelter. I liked how it lined up with the graffiti20140218-203830.jpg


Another Selfie20140218-204739.jpg

Day Two

Miles Hiked: 7.9
Miles Left: 2177.2
Ending Location: Hawk Mountain Shelter

Let me start out by saying, waking up when it is freezing sucks, but boy do you wake up fast.

Once packed up B and I headed out for Hawk Shelter. We had remembered this hike as easy and enjoyable from our last time in Georgia, but that was without snow. There was only about two inches of it on the ground but it made things difficult. The hike itself was fairly uneventful. At the end though we were going at a grueling pace as we wanted to beat a group of people to the shelter. That turned out to be a good plan since as the day went on more and more people showed up.

We arrived around 3, but we were both done for the day and the next shelter was way too far away. Also tenting in the snow would be a pain. It is still surprising how much time getting set up takes. Between unpacking, (and trust me you have to unpack because whatever you need is at the bottom of your bag), blowing up your air mattress, etc, time flies.

Notable events included the brave mouse who one of the hikers tried to pick up until we reminded her that it was a wild animal, (the brave mouse is now deceased via way of the shoe). Also we had two dogs at camp, Moose, (who’s name was very appropriate). and one that didn’t have an owner who I started calling Buddy. I totally see now how people come home with a new pet. Buddy was a consummate moocher and a real pain so he slept under the shelter.

The first of many selfies20140218-203555.jpg

Officially a Through Hiker

Miles Hiked: 9
Miles Left: 2185
Ending Location: Springer Shelter

We woke up at six, and amazingly enough B and I were both packed up and ready to go by seven. We then went to breakfast at the hotel for one last hot meal and to look for a ride down to the approach trail. Luckily this turned out to be easier than we expected as we came upon a nice family who had just seen their nineteen year old son off to hike the AT. They were very worried so B and I traded stories about the trail for a ride.

Once down at the visitors’ shelter we registered as through hikers, (we were #25 and 26 in the ledger). Then it was 600 stairs up the waterfall at the start of the approach trail. Both of us were very happy we left our packs up at the top of it, especially since we were joined by a couple other through hikers lugging their full gear with them.

After that we picked up our gear and we were hiking for real. It was a winter wonderland with the trees covered in snow and ice. Also it was warming up, getting into the high forties.

If you saw the problem with that last statement you are smarter than us. Partway through our hike ice started showering from the trees. At first it was cool but it soon turned into a string of cussing whenever the wind blew. Falling ice hurts! It got to the point where B and I would hear the wind and immediately bend over so our packs would protect us. We called it turtling up. Long story short, that was not the safest thing we’ve done.

Our hike lasted about two miles longer then we would have liked it. We rolled into the shelter as it was getting dark, only to find it packed. Luckily there was still room but basically we only had time to lay out our sleeping bags and cook dinner before everyone started turning in.

I would say that night was memorable but I have a feeling it’ll become normal shortly. The first time a mouse ran over my hat and down my neck I bolted upright and smacked my head into a wooden beam. Those mice and I got comfortable after a whole but I certainly cheered when someone else killed one of them. Other notable events was it snowing when I had to use the restroom, snow blowing in through the window onto me, and a massive rumbling of all the ice sliding off the roof that scared the bejedus out of all of us.

So that was day one on the trail.

At the start of the hike


Falling Ice Hurts!

One more day

It’s tough being a through hiker20140213-170343.jpg
Our shuttle driver called us this morning saying that today was a no-go and even Friday might be iffy. With nothing else to do we started preparing ourselves for another day hanging out in the hotel and making Waffle House runs. Around noon though Dave called back saying the roads might be good enough and asking us if we wanted to risk it, (and by risk it, if it got dicey he would turn around and we’d pay for his gas). We said yes and then started a mad dash to get all our stuff collected from the various nooks and crannies it had migrated to in our hotel room. About an hour and a half later we found ourselves at the foot of the approach trail.

Just posing, we’ll hike it for real tomorrow20140213-171619.jpg
We both had Dave stamp our AT passports and found out we were the first through hikers he’d shuttled this year, so we made a bit of a ceremony about it. Unfortunately the visitors center was closed so Dave had the good idea of taking us up to the Amicalola Falls lodge where we could spend the night. The plan is in the morning leave our packs and hitch a ride down to the visitors center, register as AT through hikers, and then hike the approach trail back up here. Then we can grab our packs and move on to Springer mountain, the true start of the AT.

Wow was that a good idea. I can’t recommend this lodge enough. The view is spectacular, we had a great fried chicken dinner, and I’m writing this post by the fireplace. Before dinner both B and I hiked down to the falls which was really neat with all the ice melting. I’m sure before this week is over I’m going to run out of words to describe the view.

Between spending the ice storm at the La Quinta and this fancy place I certainly did not envision how this adventure would start out. I’m sure tomorrow will be a jolt back to reality once we start hiking for real.

Survivor Dave’s trail shuttle20140213-194841.jpg

Surviving Icepocolypse

Turns out being an AT through hiker prepares you for all sorts of situations…

Making our way to the Waffle House20140212-133428.jpg
So we’re iced in at the La Quinta but I’m referring to it as our first zero day. Beyond checking Facebook, writing emails and watching American Pickers on the History channel both B and I are going fairly stir crazy. The highlight so far has been our excursion to Waffle House which has remained open, (the news service referred to them as honorary emergency workers). I certainly would rate them as such, and we had a really enjoyable lunch of chill and a grilled cheese sandwich.

Talking to our shuttle driver, Survivor Dave, it looks like we will have to take another zero day tomorrow. At this point with the sleet stopped the main issue is the road and not the trail. Here’s hoping things clear up before then.

Edit: The crackle of freezing rain outside our window does not bode well for us starting tomorrow.

If they predict snow, you will not be starting the AT today

After about 2 years of planning, myself an my friend Brian are finally in Georgia ready to hike the AT. This last week has been a sprint to get ready with the first full test packing of my final gear load-out only happening last night. It felt like some divine entity had their finger squarely on the fast forward button.

This feeling continued until we boarded our plane. We had originally arrived at the terminal early with the plan of spending some leisurely time with our better halves. When the Delta rep gave us the option to take an earlier flight my initial reaction was “No” until she informed us later flights would likely be canceled due to the ice storm barreling in towards Atlanta. I still had time to grab a quick breakfast with Liz, but it was too short.

Once on the plane everything seemed to slow down. Brian made a comment, which I agree with, about how surreal it was to take a one way plane trip with the intention of walking home. Bags and hiking poles made it through ok which was almost surprising. We then took the MARTA train to the end of the line and had an uneventful taxi ride to our hotel, (we have some crazy taxi stories from our dry run last year when we hiked the Georgia section). Due to the ice we’re looking at spending at least one more day holed up here before we can get dropped off at the approach trail. The plan then is to hike the approach trail, (roughly 6 miles), and spend the night at a lodge near the top of it. If all goes well we should then hit Springer mountain and the official start of the AT early Thursday.

As much as I’d like to have spent tomorrow’s zero day back in New Hampshire, I’m glad we made it here. This trip has been casting its shadow on me for so long it’s good to finally be fully committed to it. Brian and I were just talking at dinner about how we can’t wait to start hiking. I had made an earlier joke about if I didn’t get on the trail soon my hiking pants would no longer fit, and the cheesy bread and cheesy lobster dip, (with a salad to make me feel slightly less gluttonous), certainly didn’t disprove that theory.

I plan on taking advantage of the lull tomorrow to catch up on my emails and get a few loose strings taken care of. There’s a slight chance we might actually start the trail too if this weather front passes us by so I better get some rest.

At the airport getting ready to leave20140211-225605.jpg

Fine dining for lunch

One week to go (okay more like five days)

Things are starting to get real. Next Tuesday at 11am I’ll be on a flight to Georgia. My to-do list is still ginormous but slowly shrinking, and I’m now technically homeless as I moved out of my place and put all of my stuff into storage last weekend.

Some random thoughts:
* I now know why so many people drop out of doing the trail right before going on it. The last two weeks have been brutal. One piece of advice I have is tell everyone you’re hiking the AT so there’s no way you can back out of it. Trust me, no matter how excited you are you’ll have second thoughts

* Get all of your hiking stuff out of the apartment before you move. The movers packed my hiking boots and I was about in tears when I found out. I wish I was exaggerating.

* I’m very glad the actual day my lease is up is after my last day of work. That will make taxes next year much easier. You laugh about this but after finishing my taxes, (certainly not going to be able to do that on the trail), things like that are fresh on my mind. Also WTF Massachusetts?! You don’t accept electronic taxes till mid February?! It’s not like this doesn’t happen every year

* I’m having to accept the fact that a lot of things I wanted to have done, will not get done.

* Make sure you focus on the important things

The important things

The important thingsliz_snow_angel_2