We were blessed with some trail magic twice today! One section-hikers finish was our gain. He restocked our food supply & Lex got the hot chocolate she was craving! Second came at the end of the day when a former southbound thru-hiker had two beers waiting for us at the top of our final climb of the day, Wayah Bald. Pure bliss after our longest (distance speaking) day of hiking yet. If that didn’t explain what trail magic is, it is basically when something unexpected but wonderful happens to a hiker. More often than not, it’s food related!
As we move through the 14 states that the Appalachian Trail passes through we thought it best to reflect on the highlights of each as best we can. No particular order, and highlight doesn’t necessarily mean positive, just memorable.
Thank you for making the walking stick we carry with us and entrusting us to take it all the way to Katahdin!
2. Mole skin, Bengay, and Aleve
You’ve kept parts of our bodies moving long after they were ready to quit.
3. Long Creek Falls
Thanks for being one of the prettiest pit stops we made in our first miles, it just sparked the curiosity of the beauty that lay ahead.
4. Blood Mountain
You were way worse going down than coming up, but your views sure made up for it.
5. Mr. Know-It-All & The Annoying Girl
Thank you for pairing up at Neels Gap so when we pass you we know we’re putting both of you behind us.
You made our rainy Easter so much better by welcoming us with beer, peeps, and chocolate at Unicoi Gap. Thank you for supporting your fellow Thru-Hikers, we hope to do the same once we’re alumni!
7. Old Tent/New Tent
The first time I used my old tent was when Brent & I drove up to Northern Minnesota the summer before I left for college. So, when our first night of rain on the AT hit, both of us were disappointed to wake up damp. It was time to retire it, or perhaps just repair, but the AT keeps calling so replaced for now it is! We miss it, our new digs are even cozier than before…
8. Hiawassee Budget Inn
You guys have it all figured out and are a thru-hikers best bet. Free shuttle, laundry, pharmacy, restaurants nearby, and a gear store on site. All at the right price too!
9. $7.95 All-You-Can-Eat in Hiawassee
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, chocolate pudding, and a salad bar with FRESH vegetables. Need I say more? Believe it or not, the salad bar is equally as satisfying as everything else. They have yet to pack lettuce into a hiker-friendly meal.
10. Actually Hiking the AT
After weeks of planning and talking about hiking the Appalachian Trail, we’re doing it. We’ve set a goal and chosen a way of life for the next couple months and we’re reminded everyday. Happily reminded.
We are currently feasting at a cafe in Hiawassee, GA and having no troubles joining the clean plate club. The first of our resupply box shipments is what initially brought us off the trail at Dicks Creek Gap, with intentions of getting right back on. We sent dog food and meals for ourselves ahead to locations that hold them for Thru-Hikers, estimating about every 8 days, that being the amount of food the dogs can hold with full packs. So, when we arrived to our first resupply stop with 2.5 days worth of dog food yet to be eaten and a tent in need of replacement/repair, we decided it best to come into town. We found the most affordable dog/hiker friendly place in town that even picks you up & takes you back the 7 miles to the trail so hitch hiking wasn’t necessary.
I’ll let Brent take over from here – he’s more of a bullet point kinda guy.
Here is a list of what we’ve learned, witnessed, and decided after our first days of hiking:
- There is a whole lot more to Georgia than Atlanta. Our 2 hour ride north with Ron showed us quickly how beautiful this part of the country really is.
- We have been quite fortunate with weather. Talking to other hikers that started a day or two before us it sounds like we just missed the cold and snow. We only saw snow and cold for the first few hours of hiking is all. Two days of rain, which our tent didn’t do the best in, but other than that no complaints.
- Proud to report we’ve cranked out 70 miles in 6 days in some tough terrain. Steep climbs and descents are one after another for the entire stretch of Georgia’s portion of the AT.
- Overall we’re feeling good, but like most, it’s about this point in the hike our bodies are really feeling the rigorous work we’ve been doing day after day. Both of our heels have taken a hit, and mole skin is helping, but nothing is as good as rest at this point. Alexis has been a trooper dealing, in addition to her worn heels, with a stubborn cold from the beginning (voiceless the first two days, which was kinda nice…haha), and also a sore/swollen knee. I give her props for keeping up with us boys who like to set the world on fire, but I don’t want it going to her head either.
- Dogs are doing so great besides being a bit too vocal towards select hikers. We’re slowly getting them off the leash more and they certainly keep our pace moving, and having been staying on trail surprisingly well. Health wise both are great except Lewis got a couple sores from his pack rubbing, so Jack & Momma took his load yesterday to let him heal. Sure enough, after every hard day of hiking when we get to camp, take off their packs, they usually have another hour of running and playing left in them. This has been stick heaven for Lewis and its his life mission to have Jack chase him in pursuit of the perfect stick. It has become obvious that we’re hiking with puppies who haven’t quite matured into dogs they’ll become. Can’t learn any younger and 2000+ miles of training lay ahead, right? Once in the tent they have no trouble settling in for the night, except when Jack is busy keeping the bears away with a bark here and there. It’s funny after raising them separately their first year how they’ve swapped loyalty – Lewis is now my shadow and Jack won’t let Alexis out of his sight.
- Hanging the ‘bear bags’ in the evening has become my entertainment and by end I’ll be pro. We have to hang two separate ropes because of the dog food, making it extra challenging.
- Lex doesn’t like what I call all the locations we pass. ‘Cheese Factory Site’ obviously is the same as ‘Cheesecake Factory’ I say, but she thinks I’m stupid when I say that in front of others.
Tomorrow, when we pick up on the trail where we left off we’ll be a mere 9 miles from the North Carolina border. That has us both thinking ahead about having to leave these boys while we pass through The Great Smokies National Park. (Dogs aren’t permitted in the park so they’ll be staying at a nice place on the north end of the park for the 8 days it will take us to pass through.) It’s tough to say who will miss each other more!
And finally, from us both – thank you for reading and cheering us on. We appreciate all the emails and comments greatly. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, share advice, or tell us how crazy we are – we welcome it all!
It was possible foreshadowing of our hiking pace to come: We left New Ulm, Minnesota around 5pm Wednesday last week and arrived to Panama City Beach, Florida a mere 24 hours later. We were met by my generous Aunt Lola & Uncle Tom and had 3.5 days of beach, sunshine, and lots of food. Not just any food either – we’re talking homemade goodies & southern pound cake! It was a great mini vacation before all the hard work started this Wednesday. Before we even get to the details of the AT thus far there are some very important people that we must thank. Kelly & Gary Anderson, aka ‘The Event Center’ – thank you a million for hosting our final hoorah with our families before we took off! You both are far to generous and tolerant of our crazy gang. Thank you to our parents – Jeff & Betty/Lee & Rhonda. Thanks for loving us enough to advise us against following through on our crazy ideas but loving us and supporting us when we go and do it anyways. We thank you in advance for all you’ll do for us in the upcoming months as well! Our siblings, Braden thank you for the gear you contributed. It has all been a tremendous help, and Brent says thank you for helping to shave Jack into a lion. Crystal & Trevor and Connie & Jeff – thank you for coming out to send us off, can’t wait for the follow up party at the end! You have your work cut out as well these upcoming months, Brent wants Lawson & Ronin catching and throwing by the time he’s back! Taylor, thank you for cutting my hair so short and manageable, and for coming out to groom Jack into looking like a lion in the same day – you rock! Thank you to my family who insisted on celebrating my May birthday early – got to have cupcakes twice before we left! Grandma Bonnie, it’s wonderful to know we have you to turn to if we decide against this all. No shame, right? Thanks to everyone at Fredin Bros, for a fun send off, we’re interested to hear if everyone placed their bets on how far we’ll make it. Last and certainly not least, Avery, thank you for voluntarily getting in the car with us and our dogs from Enterprise, AL to Atlanta, GA and making sure my car got back safely.
Now, for the trail update. We’ve been at it three days now, a wonderful guy by the name of Ron Brown (check out his Facebook page for a photo of Jack: Ron’s Appalachian Trail Shuttle) picked us up at 6am on Wednesday in Atlanta. We traveled two hours to Big Stamp Gap where we were a mile away from the start of the AT, Springer Mountain. That whole morning the goal we had set for ourselves weighed heavy on our minds and although adrenaline was high, the car ride was often silent. We started our AT thru-hike at 9:23 am from a snow covered Springer Mountain. One of the first people we met was a 70 year old woman from Chattanooga, TN. She has been hiking the AT since 1977, did 800 miles of it last year, and hoping to do the whole thing this year post knee surgery. Talk about inspiration. Georgia being one of the toughest stretches (everyone has their own definition of tough) we didn’t know exactly what to expect of ourselves. The terrain is a constant battle of up and down, and when you’re adjusting to carrying a full pack it can be quite daunting. That first night we set up camp at Horse Gap (10.5 miles!) so exhausted from the previous nights of preparation we slept on a downhill slope and called it a night by 7pm. Alexis started off the trek voiceless too, and it’s been slowly coming back. Day two we couldn’t have asked for better weather! That was our motivation the whole day through to keep going-we gotten bits of the weather forecast that lay ahead and we know some days we won’t be so lucky. We set up camp near Dockery Lake Trail (23.8 miles, 13.5 for the day!). Perfect spot – we made green chile chicken & rice burritos that hit the spot as we watched the sun set. Today our goal was to get through the Jarrard Gap to Neels Gap stretch because no camping without a bear canister is permitted. That stretch includes quite the climb to Blood Mountain, which is worth it alone for the views. Heavy hiking traffic throughout – both long term backpackers and just those out for a day hike. The boys get quite the attention in crowds, but they’re still getting used to their surroundings. They think those hiking/trekking poles used by some are pretty scary. When we approached Neels Gap we were met by traffic, a gang of motorcycles, a hostel, showers, laundry, pop machines, and an outdoor store. Quite the contrast from the trail, and we both took advantage of what is now a luxury of going to the bathroom in a toilet and continued on our way. Tonight, we just enjoyed a rehydrated meal of bow tie pasta, beans, and ground turkey known as ‘Cowboy Pasta’, then crawled into the tent just as it started to sprinkle outside. The bear bags are hung – we have to hang one for our things and another for the dogs packs. We hope this update finds everyone well! Happy Trails.