My first Appalachian Trail Hike Short Story

June 20  2012

This time tomorrow, I will be thinking about where to stop and cook my supper along the Appalachain Trail. Where you ask: anywhere I please 🙂 Toteing a hammock has it’s plus’s. I can camp just about anywhere along the trail I find a couple trees that will support me/hammock. Plan is to stop and cook and then mosey on down the trail a mile or so for our first over nite on the A T. I will be thinking of you all while I am taking in all of God’s beauty of the mountains.
June 21  2012
 
Today starts off with us leaving Chattanooga around 11 am, headed to Springer, to start our hike at FS 42.  Nikki, Greg, Nichole and myself. Nichole is not hiking with us, but will do the .9 mile backtrack to the starting point with us, then head home. She is later to be my saving grace 🙂
We pull into the parking lot and the first thing we notice is a car that has had it’s back window knocked out, figure it probably vandalism but you could also see, where a bear or two had also been inside it and wrecked havoc. We meet a guy who has two young boys with him and talk a bit, nice guy and we will see them later on up the trail. 
As we start our backtrack to the southern terminus, we meet another guy with two young girls, who we also meet up with later the next day.
The four of us backtrack to the start of the AT and take photo’s of course and then head back toward the parking lot as FS 42 but stop on the way back to check out my first AT shelter. Pretty cool, but I later learn, there are lot’s nicer shelters along the way. 
Got to see my first bear cables and how to hang your food from them. I find out later, it is much easier using the bear cables that are provided instead of bear bagging your food. This is probably easier, if you find a suitable tree before dark and get your food bag hung up (lessons learned).
AS we were making our way back toward the parking lot at FS42, we cross paths with the Benton Mackaye Trail, I think this is interesting and hope someday to do this trail also. We will cross it a few more times in the coming miles.
Back at the parking lot, we say our goodbyes to Nichole and head on out on the AT, our adventure has begun.
Were not long on the trail and we start meeting folks, heading south, of course we are headed north. I think we wound up meeting around 5 people headed south before we got to the next shelter, which is Stover Creek.
Stove Creek shelter is much nicer than the one on top of Springer and several folks are already there, including the guy with his two son’s settling in for the nite, kinda of crowed, so we decide to move on. We are hammock camping so no need for us to stay at a shelter, we can hang anywhere we find trees we like 🙂
We head down the mtn and cross a pretty stream and start back up but it’s an easy climb and level’s back out for a spell. Cross a few small bridges that are maintained by folks who are hikers and love giving back to the trail…..thank you trail maintainers 🙂
Finally we come to three forks and it is some kind of beautiful and as I found out, after taking my shoes off, just how dang cold these mtn streams really are. I mean, your feet hurt, after only soaking your feet a couple minutes. Thank goodness this creek has a nice bridge over it, I would hate to think I had to wade it so early into our trip.
I’m pretty whooped about now, so we decide to hike on about a mile or so and call it quits for the night. We cross over a nice gravel road and head back into the woods and it is only a slight upward slope but I can tell, I am running out of steam really fast and don’t think I will make it to the falls we had planned on camping at. No big deal, we have hammocks and don’t need a flat spot to pitch a tent. Greg scouts ahead, while I take a breather and comes back and tells Nikki and I that the site around the falls is packed with folks, so we start looking around for a decent place to hang, where we can all be close together (just in case a bear decides to drop by you see).
Hammocks and tarps hung, we walk away a couple hundred yards and break out our supper. I had carried my stove/fuel, planning on cooking each nite but found myself with no appetite, so ate some p/b with honey on a tortilla and we got the bear bag up in the dark and headed to bed.
The sky that nite was beautiful with an array of lighting flashes that kept me mesmerized until about 3 a.m. before I finally fell to sleep. Greg and Nikki were up and about before me of course, hard to get up when your in a hammock. Finally after some thought and what we needed to do the rest of the day, I got up and had a couple of pop-tarts (my last I mite add). I don’t think I will be doing many pop-tarts from now on. Took a few minutes to get them down, I still am not hungry in the least.
Start off with plans to stop at Hawk Mtn shelter, for a break then hot foot it on to Gootch Mtn shelter. So far, we have not had any big climbs but that doesn’t last long at all.
We only go about a mile and start up. It really was not bad at all, till I threw that 32 lbs on my back. I never would have thought it would have been that tough. I mean, during hunting season, I am climbing up and down in the mtns with no problems. I get tired or winded, I take a break and go again. I have got to get my pack weight down 😦
After topping out on this little rise, we continue on for a while and cross yet another gravel road, take yet another break (these breaks are starting to become a habit). Finally a downhill 🙂 Head down for spell and then, you guessed, uphill again. I’m starting to see a pattern here…. LOL Finally we make it to Hawk Mtn shelter and it is as nice as Stover Creek.  When we get there, the guy we saw the day before, who only left a few minutes before us and carrying a 80 lb pack is already there. He and those two girls made it there before dark the night before. We talk with them as they pack up, they are headed to Hawk Mtn shelter for that nite. My vote is to stay there for the night, even tho it is only noonish. I ain’t going to lie, my butt is whooped. I’m beginning to realize, that these GA mtns are no joke, coupled with me being out of shape and hauling around 32 lbs is not helping any.
Were not there long and in comes the guy with his two boys. We talk with them for a while and then I decide to hang my hammock and take a nap. Greg is starting to worry about me being so tired and not eating, he is making plans for a bailout point. Never got my nap tho. Instead, my hunger kicked in and I took the time to cook my supper that I didn’t eat from the nite before and then relax for a bit afterward.
The guy with the two boys, come’s over to talk with us and see what our plans are. I tell him, we may stay there tonite and head to Hawk the next day. He says they are going to Horse Creek Gap that he heard it’s a good place to camp and they mite stay there instead of going all the way to Gootch and we were welcome to join them. An hour or so later, they pack up and head out. It’s not long and a few folks start coming in and they look like they are here for the day/nite and they are kind of rowdy. It’s decided, that I can make a few more miles, it’s only 3 in the afternoon and it doesn’t get dark until after 8, so we pack up and get back on trail. Pretty rocky coming off Hawk Mtn but not too bad. Meet a guy coming up that looks tuckered and he is taking a break (I don’t blame him in the least). We hit the bottom of the mtn and you guessed it (your getting good at this now aren’t you) we cross yet another gravel road and its straight back up and up and up to the top of Hightower Mtn. This is the hardest climb so far and I am wishing I was younger and in lots better shape but we finally top out and it is easy going for the next mile or so on top and oh so beautiful.
Now it may sound like I am complaining here, but I am not in the least. These mtns are kicking my butt, but I am enjoying it none the less.
As we head off the top of Hightower, mite left foot starts getting a hot spot on the ball of my foot. I know I should stop and take care of it right then, but ignore it because we are going down hill at a much slower pace and it can’t be that bad getting down. If only it had stayed down hill all the way and not up/down/up/down a few more times, before finally getting to Horse Creek Gap.
We are almost at the bottom and the guy with the two young boys holler up to us and that we don’t have far to go, of course I have no idea, how much further it is, cause I can’t see him for all the leaf canopy. Regardless, there is no where to go but down so we continue on. 
Finally at the bottom, I take off my shoes/socks to let my fee cool down and notice the hot spot on my left foot….NOT GOOD. There is no where to camp in this gap, it’s only a small gap and a road which turns out to be FS 42 within 20 yards of where the AT crosses it. We don’t really want to camp so close to the road and neither do they. They head down the road a half mile to get water from a lake and Greg gets on the phone to Nichole for a pickup. He knows without me telling him, I’m whooped and he is somewhat worried about me making it to the next bail out point, which is a few miles away and over Sassafrass Mtn.
Plans are laid for Nichole to come pick us up, it’s now around 7 p.m.
The guys are not gone long to get their water and decide to hike on up and stay the nite on Sassafrass, which has a lovely spot to camp.
I realize if not for me, my daughter and son in law would be going on ahead with them and continue our plan to hike to Neels Gap at least. I’m grateful Greg has called for his sister to pick us up and at the same time, sad that it has ended so quickly. MUST GET IN BETTER SHAPE and lighten my load.
We don’t get picked up until midnight, Nichole has a hard time finding us in the middle of the forrest on the backroads, in the dark. She lets us know by cell phone, that she is low on gas and now we are worried about her, being lost and not being able to find us easily. Finally, around midnight, we see lights coming down the gravel road where we have hung our hammocks to wait on her arrival. Sure was glad to see she had not run out of gas after all and kept a clear head about her the whole time while trying to find us, for over 2 hrs, going left, then right and left again…Bless her heart, she’s a trooper.
Made it back home to Chattanooga around 4 a.m. and crashed……till next time 🙂

 

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