I'm currently cozied up on a couch at the Top of Georgia Hostel with my first cup of coffee since leaving civilization. It seems that moments of comfort like this will be my time to organize the madness inside this head of mine. I'd say expect a post every 7-10 days. Please feel free to leave any critiques, questions, or advice in the comment section. The more the merrier. I am totally new to this site, so be patient with me. I only had thirty minutes to set this entire thing up. I'll get better with it as I go.
Anyway. The joys and terrors of Day 1.
The first half of the first day looked like a movie set. The forest was full of reds and greens. My head was swiveled back in forth in awe. Just before the first big uphill, I met a group of girls from SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design).
A big fan of the ladies, I joined them.
One of the girls, Effie, happened to be from Ft Lauderdale, a short 30 minute drive from my hometown, Boca Raton, FL. I haven't confirmed this yet, but I'm 99% sure she has some jungle cat in her lineage. She FLEW up the mountain. I kept up, and it only cost me all the cushion in my left knee. I met a couple more people in their group when they stopped for lunch, but pushed on by myself, stopping at Horse Gap, or how I know it, Dante's Lowest Layer of Hell.
After eating freeze dried mac and cheese, which is like pouring a glass of warm water in a bag of Doritos, I set up shop. I read for an hour in my hammock, massively struggling to find comfort, and the rain started. I decided to hang my food, despite the rain, because, well, Bears. Big mistake. HUGE.
I found a limb to hang the food, hung the food, then apparently entered a Nascar track. Dressed in Croc's, underwear, a headlamp, and a rain jacket, I listened as an eighty mph gust ripped through the valley. The gust hit my hammock and ripped all six stakes out of the ground. I covered the fifty feet between myself and the tent just in time to belly flop my body on top of the setup before it could fill with air and blow down the mountain. A couple of items flew out, but the real damage was all the rain that got inside.
At this point, I'm covered in mud from wrist to elbow, knee to toe, and completely drenched. My hiking mantra, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." turned to, "fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck....." as I scrambled to replant the stakes. At this point, grape size hail is falling. I tucked a towel inside my beanie to create a little helmet and kept working. For every 2 stakes in, 1 ripped out. It was slow progress, but after about an hour (8 pm), I had the stakes in and collected my lost items blown away.
The rain and wind continued for the next hour. The wind continued to rip through my setup, filling my hammock and turning me completely horizontal for a second or two before gravity retained control. Each time this happened, I would have to reapply my rain jacket and stick the stakes back in the wet, useless soil and get completely soaked again.
Oh, also, its 45 degrees.
Completely unsure if it would work, I decided to leave the tent altogether to fix the problem, risking another wind gust sweeping thousands of dollars worth of gear, not to mention my new home, to collect big rocks from a fireplace a couple hundred feet away. I built a wall of rocks about two feet tall on one side of my tent so that when the wind would hit, I would hit the wall before I could turnover, therefore stopping the stakes from ripping out.
During the back and forth, lightning strikes would light up the entire setting. It was impossibly intimidating. Like the lights flickering in a power outage, I would get three quick, half second glimpses of the storm. Leafless trees swayed back and forth. Small branches smacked my legs leaving small cuts. The rain looked completely parallel with the ground. The rain must have washed it away, cause I checked for shit in my drawers and found none.
Finally, at 11 pm, the rain and wind stopped, and I slept a solid 9 hours straight.
Like the piggy who's straw house gets blown down by the big bad wolf, I packed my shit and left. My left knee felt about as good as my night had gone, so that morning, I took my time ascending. During my climb, I met Paul. Paul happened to be part of the SCAD group as well, and he listened to my rambles for a few hours before we got to lunch. Paul and I hiked a majority of the next three days together. At one point, we even had a conversation about him dropping out of his last quarter of college to finish the AT. You're welcome to join anytime brotha!
At said lunch, I met Becky aka FBI aka Cindy-Lou-Who aka Bunz. I overzealously, as she would later joke with me, introduced myself. She was head to toe in black tights, hence the name FBI, and it was apparent from the second I met her she had enough personality to fill the mountain we stood on. A characteristic I like to believe we shared. I tried to keep up with her pace and felt like a greyhound chasing the rabbit on the track, except the rabbit was a fantastic hindquarter in Lulu Lemon tights.
The next two nights, they took me in. They let me intrude on their school group and I couldn't be more thankful. Paul, Becky, Effie, Phil, A-A-Ron, Lindsay, Ryan, Sophie, Eliza, Lincoln (cya in Maine), George, Jackie, Jess, and Stephen. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I miss y'all already and hope to hear from the group soon!
The next two days were fairly uneventful. I met some new friends. Huggy Bear, Tim from Boston, Mr. Good Boy, his lady Isabella, and her twin Alexa.
We ran into some trail magic, burgers and a Coke, and they headed into town. I pushed on and got my first 20 mile day in order to earn a zero day where I stand now.
I am headed to a buffet in ten minutes, so my 9 million word update must come to an end.
I don't plan on being this wordy in the future, so hopefully this post doesn't scare you away from reading further posts. Honestly, it's once a week, deal with it.
Below will be some Dropbox locations in my near future. Coordinate with me before sending anything blindly. That way I'm not carrying 20 extra pounds of snacks. Every pound counts!
NOC Great Outpost
Hostel at Laughing Heart Lodge
289 NW HWY 25/70
Hot Springs, NC 28743