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Appalachian Trail with Gnar Gnar and Knick Knack

Saturday, May 30, 2015

       A month later and here I am. With two bridal showers, a lovely bachelorette weekend at the lake, a graduation party at the good old Withlacoochie River with awesome folk, a maiden voyage on the kayaks with Dana, a weekend full of visitors, and an Appalachian Trail experience under my belt. 

                 

       For now, I shall share about the latter on the list. I somehow convinced Dylan to go on a grand hiking adventure to the Appalachian trail last weekend. With our only preparations being a couple of Florida hikes and daily beach walks, we didn't know what was in store. We started the weekend staying with Dylan's welcoming friends in Atlanta. 
       After fueling up with a unique breakfast at The Flying Biscuit, we made our way to Amicalola Falls State Park. We left the car and shuttled to our starting point about 40 miles north at Neel's Gap. The first instance (of only a couple) bad planning was thinking that getting a shuttle two hours in advance wouldn't be a problem. Most were booked, some were expensive, and others didn't exist anymore. We finally found a loyal driver to take us on up.   
Off we went on the trail that would teach us so many things. 
      By the end of the first day, Blood Mountain was a quick reality check for us. Mountains! We were hiking up real mountains! We conquered seven miles the first day, making it to Lance Creek. The campsite was full but we made an unofficial spot anyway. We ended the night with a bonfire, amazement by the stories of a well-traveled hiker, and learning about farming from some Georgians. Second on the small list of bad planning was no bear protection. The fellow campers stringing up their food far away from the tents made us a tad nervous to be leaving ours right in our packs by our tents. But strangely, we still did just that. 
        Come sunrise, we weren't joining the typical hikers and hitting the trails. We didn't start our journey until 10am. We didn't get the best sleep this trip but we did get a lot. This was one of the prettiest hikes, with one mountaintop view, the brightest greens, colorful bursts of flowers in the trees, and perfect breezes. A more unexpected and perplexing sight was that of a car peculiarly placed in a field with the sun perfectly hitting it. We marveled at how it could've gotten there for a bit before continuing our trek. We came to the anticlimactic explanation of the car mystery with a nearby road. 
       Our overeager goal of 16 miles was humbled when we had just reached the 10th mile and it was already 4:00pm. So instead, we settled down for a relaxing night at Justus Creek, a campsite on a slanting hill leading down to the water. Laying in the tent under the the shadow-changing trees and an iPod picking all the right Appalachian songs was just what we needed. 
       On day three, I packed my bag, cleaned the water filter, and did an hour of hillside yoga before Sleepy Head woke up. We refilled the agua and headed out with 12 miles in mind.
        My "Man this is the best I've felt all weekend! It must've been the yoga!" feeling lasted about 30 minutes before it quickly went downhill uphill. This. Day. Was. Rough. By 12pm, halfway to our destination, our minds were telling us we couldn't do it. I nearly went back to my five-year-old self on my first skiing trip in Colorado, wanting to sit down and say "I'm not going any farther." We stopped for lunch and commiserated with some fellow struggling hikers until regaining some strength. They even shared some homemade jerky!
        A waterfall pitstop was an appreciated break for our aching bodies. We enjoyed the cold water on our feet, water refills, and resting on the cool rocks before carrying on. Our final stretch turned from 6 miles to 8, as we missed our intended campsite. One possible reason being a little section that looked a little less traveled, with a more difficult log crossing, and no Papa Guidance (the trail markings that were generally trusty). But Dylan persuaded Skeptical Me to keep walking instead of turning back. We did wind up back on track but learned from some hikers that we'd missed our campsite. We're still not sure if that was part of the trail and we just missed the camp, or if that led us away from it. 
       Though it was a pretty grueling day, we were glad for the directional mishap leaving us less miles to tackle on our last day. Other bonuses for this blooper were the most heavenly hot dogs and baked beans we'd ever eaten thanks to our camping neighbs, a mountain sunset, and a dreamy home for our tent on top of Springer Mountain. And a privy! I actually over rushed my privy time and ran up the trail to make it for the sunset. The wind, open starry sky, and feeling nestled into our own little oasis on the mountain was definitely a highlight of the trip; a perfect end to this doozie of a day. 
       Our last day started romantically, "walking through the clouds." It really was a beautiful hike with a more rocky trail, changing greenery, and not too much uphill-downhill, but by this time, our hiking ailments made for eagerness to be done. Had the waterfall not been directly on our route, we would've been content with missing it due to exhaustion and eagerness to be done. 
       We always answered truthfully when passing hikers asked their friendly "how are yous?" 
"My knee hurts, my belly aches, and I'm a little tired, " Dylan offered to the curious day hikers at Amicalola. "And we ran out of food, and our water was contaminated, and I got mad blisters, and my collar bone feels broken," we jokingly continued as we walked away. 
A couple more miles, misleading advice, 402 steps (downhill thankfully!), and a few wrong parking lots later, we made it! We finished our hike! We did it!
        On our way home, we over-stuffed our bellies with some locally recommended barbecue at Big D's BBQ. 
         Other things we learned this weekend: peanut butter and candy bars are essential and forgiven. Shorter trips might be better for enjoyment purposes. We were always so beat by the time we got to the campsites that they weren't enjoyed as much as possible. The beautiful starry night on Springer Mountain got an upside-down peak out of the warm tent with an "ooh pretty."  A sleeping pad is necessary. Our makeshift bed from a single Walmart pad and sleeping bag underneath made for some uncomfortable nights. Always offer a struggling hiker some food if I find myself on the casual picnicking side of the scenario.
 






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