Journal Entry: February 26, Night, February 27

February 26, Night

Lying in bed at the hostel, I’m starting to think I might need to step off trail for a week to recover. I’ll be the first casualty of the 2017 NoBo class, but I really don’t think I can make it to Unicoi Gap, which would be where I could step off into another town. I’m pissed that I’ll have to, but if I don’t, I’ll be forced off later, likely permanently.

 

February 27

I had a bagel with honey for breakfast as I sit here and wait for my ride home.I kind of feel like a failure, but I know I’ll be back in a week or two. And since I can barely put my pack on at this point, I really need the time to heal.

Anyway, I changed out my shoes, and they are far more comfortable than the ones I started with. So now I’m in men’s Oboz, rather than women’s Solomen shoes. I like the width on these, and there’s more toe room, so hopefully I won’t lose a toenail as soon.

 

Ta for a week!

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Journal Entry: February 26

February 26

Union General Hospital 

Blairsville

Bleh. The good news is I only spent like five minutes in the waiting room, and I stole a wheelchair for my pack. But I’m in one of the little curtained off areas waiting to go back for an X-ray. You know it’s bad when the ER doctor looks at your injury and makes a noise of pain. But it started swelling up more, and now it’s painful even without pressure on it, so I need this, even though I’m going to complain about it a lot.
Anyway, another hiker gave me a ride down to the hospital, so I didn’t need to wait for a shuttle driver today.
Back from the X-rays. Why is it that the diagnostic procedure always hurts the area your looking at? The ultrasound for my gallbladder was painful, and the X-ray for my back made me lie on in, which hurts. Bleh. Sitting on the bed in the ER, reading and updating Facebook and Reddit while I wait. 
And had to go back for a CT scan for clarity. But there is an older lady on the other side of the curtain who’s being looked at, so I’ll probably be waiting for a bit.
So, turns out it was just a soft tissue bruise, so once I’m discharged, I’m free to keep on hiking. I might finish out today as a zero at Mountain Crossings today, though. I hiked from the hospital to the town square, and I’m just going to wait here for a shuttle driver to free up. 

5:15

Mountain Crossings Hostel

Neel Gap 
Got my pack shakedown done, and lost 13 pounds. Granted, my food weighs 16, and water is another six, so I’m still carrying 53 pounds when fully loaded, but I can send some more home later.
Other than that, nothing exciting happened today.

Journal Entry: February 24, After Dinner; February 25

February 24, after dinner.
I ate half the pizza in one sitting, I’m going to save the rest for breakfast, then find a shuttle driver to take me into town. Google says the clinic will be open, and I need to get a few things at Walmart. Mostly shampoo, as my soap didn’t get my hair too clean. I’m allowed to be finicky now.
I’m going to take another shower before bed, and probably veg on the couch here for a while first.
I’m kind of feeling bad, because I know Boots is over at Mountain Crossings tonight, and I do have the space here so she could stay, but I’m tired, sore, and cranky, and don’t want to talk to people right now. I’m worried that my back is going to force me off trail for a while. I just can’t deal with people tonight.
I’m enough of an introvert that meeting new people is draining, and not having my usual escapes is hard. I want to get a better pad so I can sleep in a shelter in bad weather, but I don’t want to socialize very much right now. And that’s because I’m hurting, and it all makes me feel worse.
My depression is also kicking up, because being cold, dirty, tired, and sore is never a help, so I’m tearing up at the slightest provocation. It’s much worse today, as coming down Blood Mountain has several points where the trail looks like it’s going over a cliff, and several points where I lost the trail for a bit. It was kind of anxiety inducing, to be honest, and that exhausted me more than the hike itself.
This hike is going to push me to the edge of my limits, and beyond, and I’m happy in my comfort zone. I honestly think my abrupt homesickness is from the anxiety and being so far from my usual stomping grounds. 
Anyway, as I was taking my first shower, I realized I have developed what is known as “monkey butt”, or more commonly: diaper rash. So I’m going to get treatment at Walmart, as well as a way of preventing it again.
Feb 25
So, went to the Walmart clinic, they couldn’t do anything, and told me to go to the ER for an X-ray. There is another walk in clinic, but they can’t do anything either. So tomorrow, I’m going to do my pack shakedown and then go to the ER. 
I really really don’t want to stay off trail much longer. I was only on trail for six days, and I’ve had one zero, that’s turning into a double zero. Fuuuuuuuuuu
Anyway, I got in a resupply, so I won’t need to stop in Hiawassee unless I really want to. According to AWOL, it will only take three days, but it was only supposed to take three from Springer to Neel Gap, so I’m planning on longer. And depending on what the ER says, I may need to get off trail for longer, which is pissing me off.
Anyway, one of the things that hikers hear a lot is that we “pack our fears”. For instance, someone afraid of freezing would bring extra clothes, someone afraid of starving would pack too much food, etc. Since my food bag weighs as much as the rest of my pack, you can tell where I fall.
To be honest, most of it is snack type foods, rather than meals. My diet right now is something quick for breakfast, like peanut butter on a tortilla, lunch is usually candy and some sausage with maybe another tortilla, and dinner is a real meal, usually pasta or mashed potatoes. I keep a snack baggie of Mike and Ike in my pocket as I walk, and I’ve finally transferred my trail mix into smaller bags to make it easier to get at, so I’ll start munching on that too.
I do need to get into the habit of actually stopping for lunch every day, rather than walking nonstop to the next shelter. I should be stopping, taking off my pack and shoes, probably changing my socks, and chilling for an hour or so. But I get hyper focused on the next shelter I forget, and then I’m too hungry to cook.
So, it’s quarter to ten, and I’m starting to think that my pack was putting pressure on it and keeping it from getting to bad, because I haven’t done anything today and it really hurts now. Bah.

Journal entry: February 24

February 24

6:48, Lance Creek
I’ve been up since about five, but it’s cold and I didn’t want to get up. My bruise on my back is now a small lump, which is probably not good. I’m going to Neel Gap today, and zeroing tomorrow, so if it’s still bad, I’ll get it looked at.
Not much else is happening this morning, so I’m going to pack up and head on out. Actually, I’m starting to actually be hungry, so that’s happening. Other than that, though, it’s just cold.
So, once I finished packing, I ran into Boots, Mama Bear, and Little Foot. They were in the same campsite I was at, but had arrived much later. So they’re trying to make it to Neel Gap today as well.
4:13

I have arrived at Neel Gap, and at the cabin I’m going to rent for tonight and tomorrow night. I’m staying in Woodchuck! It’s at Blood Mountain Cabins, just a bit down the road from Mountain Crossings. It’s pricier than the Mountain Crossings hostel ($99/night, vs $19/head), but they run a laundry service, a shuttle service, and it’s a small cabin all to myself, vs a bunk in a room full of other thru hikers. I think it’s worth it.
I’ve already had a shower, and feel loads better than when I first arrived. Blood Mountain is brutal on the north side, and that was the only way down. But the soles of my feet are bruised, I think I twisted an ankle, and the bruise on my back is swollen. It might be a bulging disc, so I’m going to rest tonight and all of tomorrow and hope it gets a bit better. If not, I’ll move over to the Mountain Crossings hostel, then take a shuttle to see a doctor on Monday.
I also got a package from my parents today. I got a bag of gummy bears, my meds, and a piece of labradorite, which is supposed to grant the bearer with protection and intuition.
Any way, there is a Walmart with a clinic near here, so I’ll get a shuttle over to see if they’re open on weekends. I’m sitting in the general store here, waiting on my pizza.

Journal entry:February 23

February 23Random middle of the night thoughts: it takes skills to sleep on your side in a hammock, and I got them. I did, however, set up my hammock lopsided, so, I’ve been slowly slipping toward the foot. It’s a fairly easy fix, but it’s cold and I don’t want to get up. And since it’s quarter til 6, I’m going back to sleep for a bit. I’m still really sore, and I’m about two days away from where I want to take a break.
Bleh. I’ll get up. It’s just after 6, the sun is still below the horizon, but I’m gonna get up. Right now, I have my pants shoved into my top quilt with me to warm them up a bit before I put them on. Then I’m going to make a visit to the privy and start packing up.
I’ve mentioned the privies, but haven’t actually talked about them, so I will now. The Georgia Appalachian Trail Conservancy builds and maintains all the shelters in Georgia. They made a transition to moldering privies a few years ago. Basically, it’s a small building with no door that is slightly elevated from the surrounding area. There is one toilet, and everyone uses it until the area under is full, then they move the seat to the other side. They maintain bacterial colonies in the storage areas to help break everything down. Hey, I think it’s kind of cool. 
Anyway, my pants warmed up, so I’m off to start my day.
So, heading out at 7:13. Not bad for someone who’s not a morning person.
3:55

Lance Creek
So, the plan was to make the next shelter, Woods Hole. I’m about 3.5 miles from it right now. I made the decision to stay here tonight, because people are reporting that the creek at Woods Hole is dry, and I’d like to camp near water whenever possible. So, it’s kind of chilly right now, but I’ve got a place where I’m near water and other hikers, just not right on top of anyone. It’s 7.4 miles from here to Neel Gap, and I’m hoping to get there before Mountain Crossings closes. If not, I’ll camp nearby and get a shakedown the next day. 
I’m also planning on staying at the hostel there at least one night, to take a shower and wash all my clothes. I’m also hoping to get a decent resupply so I won’t need to stop again until Haiawassee. 
Actually, looking into the hostel situation, there is another one just down the road with a better deal (for me). Mountain Crossings only has a bunkhouse, and I’d be renting a bed, but would still need my top quilt to sleep there, whereas the hostel down the road rents out cabins. Granted, it costs more, but I’m willing to pay it to have privacy and bedsheets.
Anyway, that’s tomorrow. It’s about seven miles, and the last four are Blood Mountain, the biggest mountain in the GA section. 
So, to talk about the not so fun parts of this: I was clipping my toenails, and one started oozing. That’s probably going to fall off soon. Truthfully, I’m probably going to lose most of my toenails (most people do, and everyone looses at least one). It’s also supposed to storm tomorrow night, and tonight might get below freezing. At least, that’s what one guy said, my weather source is saying lows around 49. Granted, by Saturday, it will be below freezing, but I’ll deal with that as it comes.
I may just zero on Saturday, update this, do my laundry, and rest. Part of me wants to anyway, as hiking six days and resting one is a good plan at the start, but the rest knows that doing so will just make it harder to go the next day. I’ll do a bit of soul searching on that while I walk tomorrow.
It’s presently 6:20, I’ve had dinner (a trail angel I ran into earlier gave me a Knorr pasta side, so I had that), my food is hanging from the bear cables, and I’m hanging around, waiting on the sun to set.
Oh! That reminds me! There has been trail magic all along the trail in the form of gallon jugs of fresh water, and at Woody Gap this afternoon I met a pair of trail angels. I got two dinners, some hot cocoa, and some snacks for my hike. They also offered to fill up my water, but I’d already topped off at a spring a ways back. So, yeah. If you live anywhere near the trail and want to meet a bunch of new friends, load up your car with cheap snacks, or beer, or soda, or whatever, and hang out at a road crossing. The hikers will come, and will be very appreciative.
Reading my entries to proofread them (cold fingers make mistakes), I’m noticing that I’m just writing what comes to mind as it does. I’m not going to apologize for it, I’m just noticing that I’m doing it.
Also, the pants thing: I’m sleeping in my long underwear, I just take off the pants I was hiking in at night. They’re dirty, plus, the pockets are uncomfortable.

Journal entry: February 22

February 22
Most of us woke up around 6, Hawkeye, Hannah, and Sean left with the dawn. The rest of us are slow in the mornings. That was also the most uncomfortable night I’ve had in a while. When I get to Neel Gap, I’m probably going to change out my pad for a thicker one. 
It’s kind of chilly and very foggy this morning, but I’m heading out to Gooch Mountain today. Talk later.
5pm
Made it to Gooch Mountain shelter around three. I was planning on just stopping for lunch, then moving on to Gooch Gap, but the 7.7 miles tired me out more than I thought they would. 
I filled up all my water, so if I just use the small bladder for cooking and cleaning, I’ll still have three liters in the morning. The next shelter is twelve miles out, and Neel Gap just 4 more (Gooch is mile marker 15.8, Neel Gap is 31.1)
I left Little Foot, Mama Bear, and Boots back at Hawk Mountain, haven’t seen them all day. Five-Oh camped a few miles back at Devil’s Kitchen, while Ethan, Hannah, and Sean are way ahead of me. Hawkeye is camped here, and so are several other hikers. I’m surprisingly tired of people, given I’d only seen like ten today, so I’m staying on one of the tent pads tonight. I have a pouch of mashed potatoes in my left hand as I write this, and I’m eating occasionally. Dinner will be instant mashed potatoes, and maybe some soup if I’m still hungry. I’ve almost hit hiker hunger, but not quite yet.
I really like the shelters I’ve seen so far. They all have a privy (not the most glamorous thing, but it beats a hole in the ground), a building with a raised sleeping platform (the last few also had a sleeping loft), and a nearby water source. The ATC encourages hikers to stay at the shelters, because it lowers the impact thru hikers have.
There are also unofficial campsites along the trail. My two favorites so far are a fire ring under a rock overhang overlooking the valley, and a small clearing on the side of a creek surrounded by greenery. I sadly didn’t get pictures of either, but I’ll try to remember for future campsites.
I hope to make Woods Hole shelter tomorrow, but that’s mile 27.9, and Gooch is 15.8. I don’t quite think I can pull off a 12.1 mile day just yet. I’m likely going to stop at Lance Creek restoration area. There’s a campsite there with water nearby. I do plan on taking a zero-mile day at Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap, so I can take a shower and do my laundry. I’ll also be able to finally post these online.
I truthfully don’t have many details on these, because my mind blanks out while hiking, and I’m not usually thinking of much beyond where I’m putting my feet next.

It’s now 7:30, the sun is mostly down, and the hills are echoing with the calls of coyotes. There were several owls having a sass off earlier, but they were shouted down by a group of crows. (Later edit, it was a pair of barred owls)
I was looking at the trail ahead, and I am not looking forward to climbing Blood Mountain. It’s the tallest peak on the AT in Georgia, and it’s really steep as well. Woods Hole shelter is at its base, so I’ll definitely stay the night there before climbing that beast.
Well, I’m snuggled down in my hammock, so I’m going to sleep shortly. I have noticed, though, that my sleep schedule has drastically changed, even in just a few days. Back at home, it was difficult for me to fall asleep before 1 AM. Out here, staying up past 8PM is difficult, although I do find myself waking up in the middle of the night for about an hour. I also used to have difficulty waking up before 10am but the past several days, I’m up around 5 or 6, though I don’t immediately start packing up to go. That’s going to change, though. This morning it took me about an hour and a half to get ready to go, but tonight, I have almost everything packed up as soon as it wasn’t needed anymore. I can’t pack my food until morning, as you are supposed to hang your food from a tree, or the cables provided at the shelters. The last two shelters had bear-proof chests to stick your food in, which is what I’m doing. The bear cables are loud, and I’m hoping to get an earlier start tomorrow. 

Journal entry: February 21

February 21
6 am
The nights are really really cold out here. I don’t think I said that before, but I’m gonna say it now. It’s really cold, and I really need to pee, but that means I have to get out of my cocoon of blankets, so I’ll be cold, and my blankets will be cold. It sucks.
Anyway, once the sun is up, I’m going to see if my clothes dried last night, and if so, I’m going on to Hawk Mountain shelter, if not, I’ll just take a zero day and chill here. Or just pack up my damp clothes and keep going. But right now, it’s about 45 degrees and windy, and I really don’t want to wear cold wet clothes (and I’d rather leave my other set for town, but that’s not likely to happen now)
5:30 pm
Sorry for the lack of updates. I wore the shirt, but packed up the damp pants and wore my others. My socks and underwear dried so those got packed. I walked to Hawk Mountain shelter. I met up with my “group” here, and we stayed for lunch.
And then it got cold, and we saw that they were forecasting rain, and we decided to sleep in the shelter, instead of hiking the 7.7 miles to the next shelter in the rain.
So lunch became an early dinner, and we’re all going to hunker down in the shelter until tomorrow. Right now, it’s me, Boots, Hannah, Sean, Ethan, Five-Oh, Mama Bear, Little Foot, and Hawkeye.
Little Foot is a hoot. He turned five last week, and Mama Bear is his mom. They are trying to complete a thru hike, too. As I’m writing this, I got to hear her ask where his other leg was. (He zipped off the legs of his pants.) But he’s a sweet kid, and full of energy. I really hope they make it. 
Dinner tonight was a foil pack of chicken with peanut butter, hot sauce, peas, and carrots. I had some as a wrap. It was pretty good, but I’m still not too hungry. I know it’s because my body is adjusting, and I am eating, I just don’t want to, mostly.
I’m sleeping in the shelter tonight mostly because it’s warmer in here (especially with the tarp on the entrance), and it’s supposed to rain tonight. Yeah, I can sleep dry in my hammock under my tarp, but I’ll have fewer wet things this way. I’ve an ultralight sleeping pad and my top quilt, so I’ll sleep warm, if mildly uncomfortable.
7 pm
It started raining. I can hear the sound of it on the tin roof of the shelter. Hawkeye is sleeping on the floor, while Hannah, Sean, and I are on the lower “bunk” area. Boots, Five-Oh, Mama Bear, and Little Foot are in the loft. Hawk Mountain is a smaller shelter, so it’s a little cramped, but no one is going to make someone sleep out in the rain. 
Little Foot got scared by a mouse earlier, so there was a bit where everyone got anything that might be chewed on out to the bear box (a metal chest set away from the shelter where we can set our food bags overnight). I tried to get a picture of the mouse, but they’re cautious. 
Ethan hiked on (I think, either that or he’s up top, too), but he’s only got a week on the trail. I kinda feel bad for section hikers, because they do have to keep to a stricter schedule, but I have loads of respect for them, too. They only have enough time to adjust to the trail, then they have to leave.
Most of us are planning on meeting up again at Gooch Mountain shelter tomorrow. I’m pretty sure this group is going to turn into a trail family (at least Boots, Mama Bear and Little Foot, Five-Oh, and me). Hawkeye might wind up joining us, and so might Hannah and Sean. That’ll be fun. Sean is from Canada, and Hawkeye is from Switzerland. Boots is from Baltimore, and Five-Oh is from Coco Beach. Hannah is from New Hampshire originally, but lives in Canada now.

Journal entry: February 20

February 20
Half past midnight counts, right? Just ate a granola bar. I was so exhausted when I set camp, I just hung my hammock and tarp, took my shoes of and went to sleep. Going back to sleep now that my stomach has been appeased. 
Okay. So, I woke up again at 4, then half past 6. Lay in my hammock and watched the wind mess up my tarp. About 7, I cleaned up my site, had a quick breakfast of peanut butter, Nutella, and honey on a tortilla and started hiking to the nearest spring. Ran into another female thru hiker, Boots, and we hiked together to Springer. We’ve stopped for lunch, and are going to hike out to Stover Creek shelter together. 

Lunch was some salami, summer sausage, and another tortilla like breakfast. We’ve made it to Stover creek (mile 2.8), and I picked up a trail name: Turtle . I’m gonna make dinner and set up my hammock.
I made too much food. Ramen with chicken, peas, carrots, and French onion soup mix. I’m slowly making my way through it (I need the nutrition, but I’m so not hungry), then I’m going to go to bed. I rinsed out all my dirty clothes (here’s hoping they’re all dry in the morning) in the creek just past the shelter. No cell service, so I can’t post anything, but nothing really happened.
There are four other thru hikers, and a section hiker and her kid. (Later edit: one I thought was a thru hiker is a section, the mother and son combo are thru hiking)
Its about quarter after 8, and everyone is in their tents (except for me, the sole hammock). So, 9 is considered “hiker midnight”, anything done after then you should try to do as quietly as possible. Right now, at least two people at this shelter are asleep, and I’m not particularly tired. So I’m going to lay here and read, and plan out my hikes for the next few days.  
So, my current plan is to hike to Hawk Mountain shelter (mile 8.1) for tomorrow night, then Gooch Mountain shelter (15.1). After that, I need to do some logistics planning with my food and such. I can either hit up the Hiker Hostel in Suches (they run a shuttle, and I can buy some gear and stay the night, plus get dinner and breakfast) or I could camp at Woody Gap (20.6). Woody Gap is the pick up spot for the hostel, about six miles down the road. Anyway, after leaving Woody Gap, I’d stay at Woods Hole shelter (27.9), and after that, Neel Gap (31.4), where I know I’m going to resupply and take a zero day.
Since Neel Gap is only 11miles past the pick up for the hiker hostel, I’m probably going to pass on that one.

Journal entry: February 19

February 19
Amicalola Falls, morning.
So, my back is getting better, just a bit sore. I’m going to charge my electronics while I eat breakfast and pack up camp. 
2pm,

I stopped at a creek to have lunch. I’m still about 7 miles or so from springer. I’m definitely going to be camping there tonight. I’ve jotted some thoughts down elsewhere, so I’ll consolidate notes later. 
Nimblewill gap, 7pm
I didn’t get to Springer. I didn’t even reach the shelter before Springer, Black Gap. I’m currently hanging just past Nimblewill Gap, mile marker 6 on the approach trail. To be honest, I broke about .7 miles back when I passed the sign for the Hike Inn. It was one mile away, but I checked the website and they didn’t have a free room. So I’m going to hang here tonight (I already passed three other groups camping on the approach, so I don’t feel too bad) 
Met and was passed by another thru hopeful, Neil from Ohio. 
Notes from before:

Shoulda done more cardio

Shoulda taken my full pack out on more hikes

Shoulda taken my pack to the gym

Shoulda taken my pack to REI for a shakedown

2.5 by accident to the visitors center, 8.8 to Springer
My toes are already bruised..
So, back to now: I’m too bloody tired to eat, which is gonna bite me later, I’m sure. I’m probably going to have dinner for breakfast, though. I didn’t hang my food, it’s in my pack under my hammock on a thick plastic sheet, so hopefully any critters will be discouraged. My feet are cramping, and I would kill for a back rub right now. I was planning on hiking to Black Gap tonight and then neroing to Springer, but since I didn’t make it that far, I’m going to sleep here and do the last 2.8 miles tomorrow. 
To be honest, I only stopped because I looked at the trail past here and started crying. It’s back to going uphill.
I’m still going to nero at Springer, but I might move on to the next shelter, stover Creek.
Goodnight for now

Journal entry: February 18

Night zero February 18, 

Amicalola Falls State Park campground 
My parents were nice enough to drive me up here, and stick around while I set up my hammock for tonight. Lying in it now, I’ve just realized I need to loosen the sag a bit. 
The good news, that’s an easy fix. 
Back, and more comfortable. So, my parents drove me up, and paid for lunch on the way (Olive Garden, how I adore your endless soup, salads, and breadsticks). I’ve settled in fairly early, it’s only barely 8, but the battery on my headlamp died. (And now I’ve put it somewhere and can’t find it). Ah well, my hammock’s party lights still work fine, and both my phone and tablet have flashlight functions. 
So far, I’ve already learned a bit about my gear I didn’t know. My filter is amazing (the water at my campsite came out of the pump brown, filters clear), my coldish weather gear is very warm, my shoes don’t have traction on slick surfaces. 
Actually, I knew that one already. I was wearing those shoes when I slipped in the cooler. This time, however, I slipped and smacked the small of my back on a railroad tie. I’ve got a pretty bruise there now. It hurts a bit sitting up and lying down, but it shouldn’t bother me too much (and the author in me is expecting me to start the next entry with how much my back hurts). 
The family camped next to me was very nice and let me use their fire (it’s raining and I couldn’t start one of my own. I am ashamed) to make s’mores. The older couple is RVing across the country as their retirement, and were impressed when I told them my plans. 
I can’t think of any more to add to this, so I’m going to start a book. Either writing or reading, I haven’t decided. 
Goodnight!
Addendum:
It is foggy and drizzling, current 44 degrees, should get down to about 40 tonight. And, I found my headlamp when I grabbed my jacket, so that’s good. I am snuggled down with my down underquilt, my down top quilt, and my down puffy jacket. I’ve got on one set of my long underwear and a camisole top, and my thick camp socks on. I’ve got my Buff on as a hat, though I can pull on my beanie if the temperature drops too much. I started with the toe warmer caps on too, but my toes got hot. 
Dinner! I had two cups of hot cocoa with a Mountain House beef stew, which was pretty good. Would have been better if it wasn’t drizzling on me while I tried to eat it, though. 
So, I’m going to try to write at least every night, and document who I meet, where I was, what I ate, etc. I’ll also post a group of updates in each town I hit. First up should be Suches or Neel Gap, depending on when I want to stop (they’re like a day hike apart.) 
And the Ladies Night Out group on my other side and the crying baby somewhere have reminded me of my earplugs.