Once in my tent, I snuggled up in my sleeping bag and used my pack as my pillow. I surprisingly fell asleep quickly only to wake a few hours later freezing. I ended up putting on every article of clothing I had brought and sleeping in that. I guess the sleeping bag I’d purchased from the resale rack a few weeks prior in Asheville wasn’t rated for cold weather. Oops. At least I stayed dry!
I woke up to a new beautiful slightly foggy morning. After using the privy, I came back to find Jenni wrestling her tent. I told her I’d grab both of us water while she got things set for breakfast. I came back to some lovely brown water (aka. coffee) which was amazing because it was warm.
I made two engligh muffins with peanut butter and honey (that I’d picked up from Chick fil A the week prior) with granola on top. I stuck these in a ziplock bag in my pocket. We finished packing everything and set off on the trail. I was sore starting out, but not bad.
One memory I will not forget was hiking down a trail with Jenni behind me. I’m not quite sure what happened, but I lost my balance. For a second, I thought I was going to tumble down the mountain. Thankfully I clicked my hiking pole in a reaction and ended up falling into the mountain… into what may or may not have been a healthy growth of poison ivy. Jenni and I laughed uncontrollably for quite a while about that. In defense of the poison ivy, I used some purell on my hands. I have no idea if that would have helped or made it worse, but at the time, it made sense.
We had a few mini CrossFit adventures when we came across situations like this. Stepping over isn’t a big deal until you consider the 30# dead weight strapped to your back that is pulling you backwards. We had a few laughs watching each other tackle these.
The majority of the day was spent hiking downhill. One would think this would be easier, but it certainly takes its toll if you’re not accostomed to it. (aka if you haven’t trained at all for a hike).
About 4 miles into the hike, my knees were over it. I pressed on and distracted myself with music on my iPhone.
I had my phone in airplane mode the majority of the hike and was surprised at what apps were still usable. I love that a paid plan on Spotify allows you to save music and playlists to your phone to listen to without cell service. I knew spotify would still work because I used it for running frequently.
For directions on our hike, we used an app called AT Hiker: Guthook’s Guide. This offered a map with details for each shelter and resting spot along the way. It also offered a crowdsourced aspect in that people could leave notes on whether there is water or tips to a better experience along the way. It’s pretty helpful and I highly recommend it. Even in airplane mode, our blue dot continued to move along the map. Not sure how that works, but it was great!
Another thing that was pretty helpful was my navigation ziplock. Thishsd our trip broken down by landmarks and stops so we knew the mileage betwen them. I put it in a ziplock and carabeanered it to my bag so I could easily glance at it.
As the day went on, it got warmer as it dried up. From there, the gorgeous views emerged.
There were quite a few moments where we paused just to relish in the fact we were there among all those trees!
I loved the manmade bridges that we came across. Jenni wasn’t a huge fan but she did a great job!
Finally we made our way to Deerpark, our shelter for the night. I was really struggling at this point. My left knee had started some tendonitis issues and was very painful with every step. I was looking forward to stopping for the night but also dreading it. Stopping meant more work in order to setup our tent, get more water, restroom, dinner etc.
Well to our surprise the shelter was quite a ways back from the trail. Over 0.2 miles away! Doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re hiking with a 30# bag after a long day, it’s far!
We explored the shelter a bit and selected a spot for our tents and hung our food.
We then took off to replenish our water. I knew from reading the notes in the App that water was a bit of a ways away. It was nearly impossible to find.
There were several moments where Jenni or I would say ‘maybe this is it…’ and walk down what may or may not be a path and then walk back. Eventually we found it.
One big takeaway I learned on this trip was to make sure you don’t have exactly the same thing for both hikers. Jenni and I are both fairly independent. We collaborated on several things regarding the hiking. Easily split up duties (I was navigation, she was accomodations.)
When it came to a few things, we went our own ways especially with gear. She used hiking boots. I preferred running shoes. Most importantly, our water filters were complete opposites. Mine involved filling a bottle, attaching a filter to it and squeezing it into another bottle. Hers was different and this ended up being a very good thing. Water sources weren’t just walk up and filter. Some where deep, some were shallow, some where a trickle from a PVC pipe coming from a hole in the mountain. Sometimes mine was faster and more efficient. This time, hers worked and mine was barely usable because of how the water was. Luckily we were able to use each others equipment to get water as we needed it. Plus with us each having a filter, if one got clogged or broke, we had a backup. Highly recommend considering bringing different equipment for some things for future hikes.
After we got our water, we walked back to the shelter to setup camp for the night, cook dinner and relax. We were only about 3 miles outside of Hot Springs, so it wasn’t a very popular shelter. In fact we were the only ones there until about dusk when two teenage boys hiked through looking for somewhere to setup camp. They saw us and decided to keep hiking.
Right after I finished cooking dinner, my fuel canister ran out. Talk about timing.
Most shelters have a log book as well. I liked to flip through them to see what people wrote and where they were from. I was thrilled to see a post from Smiles and Ghost Chili who had passed through the day before.
Someone else had the same idea as us to hit up the hot springs after we were done!
This post was a little unsettling. Spider Shelter?
After dinner, I crawled into my tent. It was still light out, but I was exhausted and wanted to rest my legs.
I laid down for a bit and couldn’t sleep. I decided to read for a bit, clicked on my headlamp and was a bit surprised to see this guy. Oh. Hey there.
And then came all his friends. All of them. They covered the tent and climbed between my tent and the rainshade. This is why you always, always, always zip up your tent whether you’re in it or not.
After that discovery, I decided it was best to just shut off my light. I fell asleep only to wake up to the sound of wolves. Pretty close too. I called out ‘You okay over there Jenni?” and she called back. Interesting evening. At least it was warmer than the previous night.
I managed to fall asleep by the gentle coos of my new spider friends.
The next morning was a gorgeous morning. The spiders had disppeared and we got an early start eagerly heading down the final 3 miles towards Hot Springs.
The last 3 miles of the hike were entirely downhill.
As soon as we made it back to the trail, we ran into a new friend! A hiking pupper!
His humans mentioned they were hiking to visit a gravesite nearby, so Jenni and I decided to take a look.
George and Eva Gragg had owned land alongside the Appalacian Trail in the 1920s. George’s headstone says ‘departed but not forgotten’ while Eva’s says “absent but not dead.’ Interesting.
We hiked a bit more until at one point I heard loud panting behind me. I braced as a large dog squeezed past me on the trail. We spoke with this fun gentleman for a bit. He hike the trail every day with his two pups.
We cruised along down the hill toward the tow. My knee was objecting to everything I was doing. I let Jenni hike ahead and took things one step at a time.
Finally. we finished our hike!
Officially finished my first section hike of the Appalachian Trail. Eternaly grateful to Jenni. If it weren’t for her, I never would have accomplished this! I can’t wait to go again and tackle another section.
What section do you recommend I explore next?