Lucky and Happy are thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.
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Hiked 7.3 miles to Blue Mountain Shelter at mile 50.1. Beautiful cool and sunny day. Below freezing to tonight at our campsight. Only about three other thru-hikers here besides us.
Happy’s notes about our first five days of hiking on the Appalachian Trail:
Sunday, March 10 2019 - Day 1
Stunning start. Misty on and off. The fog settled in the valleys with mountain tops poking out just gorgeous. Great day of hiking. Bad cramping in the legs that night.
Monday, March 11 - Day 2
Overcast with spitting rain in the AM. Harder rain in the PM. Got somewhat wet. Sassafras Mountain was a beast.
Tuesday, March 12 - Day 3
Cold night but bearable. Cold morning with good sunshine. A hiking group took our picture and said they would eventually post it at http://hikingsouth.com/2019hikes/2019hike06.html
It’s not posted there yet. We hitched a ride to a hostel but the supplies were unappealing. While we were sitting in the chairs outside the hostel, Happy realized she was sitting on a chair! Lucky was trying to call for a ride when someone asked if we wanted a ride. So we took the ride to another hotel for the night. We ended up in a Holiday Inn and walked around to pick up supplies; including magnesium and potassium for the awful cramps in our legs. It has been difficult to walk because the calves are so tight on Happy’s legs.
Wednesday, March 13 - Day 4
Late start this morning. Went to Walmart to replace electronic items which were forgotten or lost. Met a 74-year-old man who was making a second attempt to through hike. On his first attempt he was taken off the mountain with hypothermia confusion, losing his stuff (tent poles). People rigged his tent for him. He said his fingers and toes turned brown and looked like plastic. We named him Ice Cube.
We met a man who said Happy was famous on the trail, which puzzled us. He said he heard of us and seems Happy’s sunglasses are unique enough for others to use as a description of us. The sunglasses have a story of their own.
Happy found the glasses at a gas station after we ran down to 2 miles of gas while driving our car to storage. Happy happened to look at the dashboard while Lucky was driving and saw the alert light. The exit was close by, but the first two gas stations we found were closed. Then we waited for the longest red light ever! While Lucky gassed-up, Happy looked around in the gas station, found the glasses to be hilarious and had to have them.
Hiked to Woods Hollow shelter thinking we might be the only people there since bear canisters were required. Ken, another hiker, was there. We could have stayed in the shelter but the wind made us decide to stay in the tent. It was windy. It was cold. It rained and was wet. Our night gear kept us warm; however Happy did have her sleeping bag get wet.
Thursday, March 14 - Day 5
Got a late start - was a wet morning. Hiked up Blood Mountain which was a beast but down was much worse. Down was rock scramble; big rocks; little rocks; lots of rocks. We had fog all day. There were no views, but it was still a beautiful site. On one bald top the clouds blew past us or through us.
Parts of the trail for the last few days has been lined with Rhododendron and Mountain Laurels, which in a few weeks will be an awesome sight to see. Even without the blooms they were gorgeous; a green tunnel. We took very few pictures today because of the cold water which was coming in drizzles and drops when the wind blew the water off the trees. We kept moving. Neel Gap was our destination. Staying the night in Neel Gap and taking a zero day tomorrow due to predicted thunderstorms. We hear the thunder now. We had a pack shake down and lost 11 pounds between Happy and Lucky’s packs. They were so much easier to heave onto our backs with the lost weight. Good news! Neither Happy nor Lucky have gotten blisters on their feet.
More later... http://onin.com/AT
Day 4 - 13 March - We spent the morning finishing supply shopping, then hiked 7.2 miles to Woods Hole Shelter at mile 27.7
There is only one other person (a thru-hiker named Ken) camping at this shelter tonight.
The wind is blowing wildly and the temperature has plummeted with intermittent sprinkles of rain. Tonight will be a good test of our cold weather gear.
Tomorrow should be a short hiking day as we get off trail at Neels Gap and skip hiking (take our first zero day) on Friday.
12 March 2019 - Hiked 4.3 miles to Woody Gap on the AT, then 2 miles on GA Highway 60 to restock supplies and spend the night in a real bed.
Our goal in these early days of AT thru-hiking is to limit our miles to an average of 6 to 8 miles per day, before later increasing to an overall average of 14 miles per day.
We witnessed another thru-hiker abandon the trail today. We are now seeing as many day hikers and section hikers as thru-hikers.
We started the day in long pants, but zipped off the legs and shed outer layers down to tee-shirts before lunch time. Sunny and beautiful overall...
11 March 2019 - Hiked 7.6 miles to Gooch Moutain Shelter in cold, wind-blown rain for much of the day.
This time of year, there are about ten thru-hikers per day starting from the southern ending of the AT. That we know of (there may be more) five of the approximately ten thru-hikers who started the same day as us have already quit their thru-hike attempt. Four who quit are men and one was a woman. Most who quit seemed to have never before hiked on steep mountain trails carrying a heavy backpack in inclement weather.
The views were fantastic today, despite the cold rain. Here at high elevation, we are expecting below freezing temperatures tonight. That means extra things in our sleeping bags to keep them from freezing (water purification filter, phones, and other luxuries).
With only one bar of phone service the past two nights, uploading photos has consistently timed-out/failed. Thus only text updates are happening until we next have a strong phone signal somewhere in the next few days.
10 March 2019 - Camping adjacent to the Hawk Mountain Shelter
Hiked 8.1 miles today, plus a mile to the southern terminus of the AT. Lots of thru-hikers were northbound on the trail today. There was a little rain in the morning, but by the afternoon it was time for no jackets and shorts. Overall it was a great first day of hiking.
We saw our first thru-hiker quit the trail. He was from New York and fell twice during the approach trail to the mile zero start. He was trying to hike without trekking poles and his one wooden hiking stick slipped on the wet rocks on trail during the rain. His left knee was bleeding quite a bit and he said he believed he was going to need stitches, and that he had decided his thru-hike attempt was over. He caught a shuttle ride off the trail at mile one.
The oldest thru-hiker hiker at our shelter campground was “Gigi” from Indiana. She’s 70 years old and her husband was born in Decatur Illinois, our hometown. Other thru hikers are from Michigan, Chicago, Ohio, Louisiana, Florida and elsewhere.
Just after 6 PM, a hiker started yelling, “Help, Help, Fire!” Instantly, at least ten hikers ran to her tent with bottles of water and doused the burning leaves at the entrance of her tent. Dry leaves had blown up against her gas stove and caught fire, trapping her in her tent. She said now she now knows not to cook just outside her tent door and also to not cook on the ground near dry leaves on a windy day. Fortunately her tent was unharmed.
We ate mashed potatoes and something similar to Rice-A-Roni for dinner, yummy :-).