Day 5 – March 25, 2020, A Story of Our Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike
It was during twilight when we left Woods Hole shelter. We had been waiting for what seemed longer than just one night for the storm to subside enough for us to continue hiking. We were anxious to make our way towards Blood Mountain as word on the trail was that the terrain ahead would be quite challenging. It was cold, we were wet, and the trail was cloaked in a heavy fog that seemed to dampen our footsteps and slow time until the forest was ready to wake up. It was beautiful. We talked about how it felt as if we were hiking in some far away land, exotic to what we knew as familiar. We hiked with a motivated pace, primarily to warm up our bodies but also to put a bit of distance between us and the other hikers as we had quickly grown to appreciate the solitude of
hiking during the pandemic. As we began our ascent of Blood Mountain, we were pleasantly surprised at how mild the climb actually was. Perhaps the difficulty had been exaggerated a bit by some of the other hikers we had met thus far, or perhaps we were feeling the natural power of our whole food plant based lifestyle. Either way, as soon as the sun came out and we were able to strip down into short sleeves, we felt like we could hike with endless energy. We even jogged for a few miles on some of the smoother terrain, joking about becoming the next Scott Jurek.
We arrived at Neels Gap, the very first stop along our journey. We crossed US-19 and walked up the steps to an outfitter store called Mountain Crossings, an iconic first “taste of civilization” that Northbound hikers would utilize for everything from picking up packages of supplies that they had sent to themselves, to charging up their devices. We marveled at the famous “boot tree”, a tree that became the permanent resting place
for hundreds of pairs of hiking boots that hikers, for one reason or another, deemed a suitable place to retire or perhaps forfeit their foot ware. We thought about all of the reasons one would rip off their shoes and sling them up into the tree. Were they ending their hike? Were the shoes or boots they had begun their hike with simply not working out for them? We couldn’t consider any reasons that would cause us to do the same but we figured every pair must have had a story to tell. We stopped into the store briefly to check out the selection of trekking poles to properly set up our tent, as well as talk to someone about our soggy tent dilemma. A very helpful mountain man shed some light on our situation and informed us that what we were experiencing was just condensation built up on the inside of the tent dripping on to us as the outside of the tent was being pelted with rain drops. This information gave us a little bit of hope in that perhaps our tent was not a total dud. Unfortunately, the trekking poles were too expensive to fit in our budget. Although we didn’t need to resupply, we decided to purchase a small box of couscous and some instant Spanish rice to cook up for lunch and dinner just to enjoy having something hot and not made from nuts, date and seeds for a change. We checked in with our families, who at the time were extremely worried about our safety and well being on the trail, as the rest of the world was falling into a state of panic due to the increasing severity of COVID-19. Meanwhile, we could not have been happier with our current situation, as cold and physically uncomfortable as it may have been at the time. As we settled in for the night, we thoroughly enjoyed a piping hot meal before slipping into our still somewhat fresh sleeping bags. Sleep came easy to us and we went to sleep feeling accomplished, having completed the first 50 miles of our adventure.
Day 6 – March 26, 2020, A Story of Our Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike
Another early morning as we awoke around what we figured was “dark-thirty.” The phone was still dead so we could only guess the time, but for the first time in as long as either one of us could remember, the time of day didn’t really matter to us at all, as long as we kept an eye on the weather and made sure we found a suitable campsite before it got dark. Thick fog, one-hundred percent humidity, and soaking-wet-everything seemed to be a recurring theme for us, but we embraced it whole heartedly and felt as though we could handle whatever mother nature had in store for us as we continued hiking north. The trail took us up to the very tip of every peak and down to the lowest point of every valley, making the days hike as challenging as a Northern Georgia trail could feel.
We hiked through sections of forest covered in what we believed to be the most bright green moss we could ever have imagined. Every stone, every boulder, every downed tree was covered in life. Everything glowed in a brilliant neon green. The forest was alive, it was lush and it was pristine. And giant millipedes ruled the trail.
As we neared the end of our hike for the day, we could feel the immense soreness and fatigue rolling in as
heavy as the fog we had been pushing through each day. Our knees felt as if they had been bashed with a hammer, our legs felt as though they had forgotten that rest and relaxation were even a thing, and our toes were inflamed and swollen to almost twice their normal size, resembling a small row of cherry tomatoes. A warm fire and a bowl of hot Spanish rice at the end of a long, wet, and cold day of hiking was just what we needed. We were equally excited for a good night’s sleep as we were to wake up early and see what was around the next corner of trail, beyond the next peak, through the dense fog, knowing that each new day would be filled with sights, sounds and surprises that even our imaginations would be hard pressed to create.