Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Devil Went Down To Georgia

When I drove from Vermont to Colorado this winter, I did eighteen hours in the car on my first day and ended up in Iowa City, Iowa. That was a piece of cake compared to the seventeen and a half hours from Bethel to Georgia. We left Bethel at 8pm on Friday and after picking Alice up in Brattleboro, made it to Georgia by 1:30pm. Everyone took their turns driving, sleeping, eating, and keeping the music and car games going. We're staying in a timeshare in Helen, Georgia and it is a super cute town. Definitely touristy, but has a lot of charm, the Chattahoochee River, and is obviously a summer hot spot. I finally was able to meet Audrey when we picked her up from the bus stop tonight, and she is a total hoot! I cannot wait to get to know her better over the coming months.

Alice, Audrey, and myself have decided to "slack pack" the approach trail to the top of Springer Mountain - the official start of the AT. Slack-packing is a term used for hiking a (usually longer) distance without your pack. Generally someone will drop you off at a road crossing, you'll hike all day, and then get picked up at another road crossing at the end of the day. This allows for more miles per day, because you aren't schlepping 25-40lbs on your back. We will hike the approach trail from Amicalola Falls to the peak of Springer Mountain, the Southern Terminus of the AT. From there, we will hike a mere one mile to the first road crossing, get picked up by Dad and Stacey, and then spend one more night at our condo. This week will certainly be a nice and slow ease back into the backpacking life. We're all excited with the plan to keep it low key and make sure we get our legs underneath us and our gear perfected before attempting any high mile days.

Aside from all of that, the south sure is interesting. I had thought with  living in Houston that I had a good grasp on many of the feelings of the south. However, living in the fourth largest city in the country sure is different from exploring northern Georgia. The landscape is stunning; very similar to Vermont. We didn't see daylight today until some point in Virginia, and we were so surprised with how green everything is down here so early in the year.

I am so excited to get everything started. I need to get my feet on the trail, see the white blazes (trail markers) on the trail, and start a routine. While this week is going to be fun, relaxing, and smooth... At some point we need to bite the bullet and enter trail life completely. That will most likely come later this week when we say goodbye to Dad and Stacey. I'll really miss having them around.

So after being awake for nearly forty hours, it is most definitely time for bed. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

I'm all ready... I think?

I think I have actually, maybe, potentially... finalized all of my gear. I almost can't believe it!

As you've probably figured out, or already know, I will be thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from April to September-ish this summer. I have decided to take a 6 month hiatus from my job and ditch all of my physical possessions and the creature comforts of home to live in the woods. As one could imagine, and probably think on their own, I have received many inquiries in regards to my sanity while making this crazy decision. I can assure people that I am mostly sane at this point in my life, and did not make this choice to hike one of the three longest trails in America while under duress. It has been a long journey since I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, and the time has come to stop worrying about what I do/don't have or if I'm ready/not ready. It is time to drive to Georgia and start walking north to Maine. This journey started back in the Summer of 2014 when I completed the Long Trail in Vermont. Surprisingly, at the end of those 273mi I had NO intention of hiking the AT or any other long distance trail. But as time went on, my friend Alice (who I met hiking the LT) and I were seeing posts, photos, and blogs about the AT. After our knees stopped throbbing, and I could tolerate the taste of trail mix again, we decided that it was probably the smart decision to hike the AT. That was roughly a year and a half ago. Since then I have been doing tons of research, buying gear, working with a personal trainer, saving money, and generally obsessing over everything Appalachian Trail. Hiking with Alice and I will be Alice's coworker and friend from the Green Mountain Club, Audrey! Together, the three of us will tackle the ups and downs, mud puddles, black flies, and bears as we trek up the Eastern Seaboard. I am excited, nervous, and generally freaking out!

To save some time, I have decided to answer some of the questions that I get asked most.

  • What will you eat and how do you get your food?
    • The AT crosses lots of roads, and it is easy to get into town to buy supplies for the next few days on the trail. While on the LT I ended up eating essentially the same meals every day, which made it VERY hard for me to enjoy those meals during the last few weeks. This year, I intend to switch things up and eat different foods throughout the trail. Meals will mostly consist of pasta, dried fruits, protein sources, and other dry, light foods. 
  • How will you stay in touch with everyone?
    • I will have my phone (and a spare battery pack) but will try and use it as sparingly as possible. I plan to update this blog on a weekly basis, but that could change based on internet access and phone service. 
  • Will you stay in the woods the whole time?
    • While we will mostly be staying in shelters and tents, there will be times when we stay in a hotel or hostel. Mostly to sleep on a real bed, but also to do laundry, charge phones, and  eat HUGE amounts of food at all you can eat buffets. 
  • Are you afraid of bears?
    • Bears are certainly a concern, and have become more and more prevalent on the AT due to all of the foot traffic. We will be hanging all of our food from trees away from our campsites, and know the routine of what to do should we come upon a bear. Like most things on the AT, it all comes down to common sense. 
With the days leading up to my departure, I am finalizing all of my gear, packing, and trying to see as many friends as possible. I'm also still trying to pack on as many pounds as possible by consuming lots of great Vermont food and beer! I am very excited to get started, get my legs underneath me, and form a routine within trail life. I am eager to meet new friends on the trail and start what is called a trail family. On the other side of the excitement coin, is nervousness. I am nervous that my physical preparations won't hold up to the trail and my knees will irritate me and force me off the trail. I'm nervous that mentally I will become run down and will want to quit. I'm nervous that I will contract Lyme disease from a tick - a high possibility on the AT. Overall, I am very nervous and excited - but ready to start the trail. Now, to get myself to Georgia, put my best foot forward, and start walking. I hope to entertain you all with silly, endearing, and maybe even some sad stories from the trail. It's my hope to update often, post beautiful photos, and to keep things as real and honest as possible. 

Hope you all enjoy!