The Norovirus is always a fear on the trail so we were very careful about washing our hands after we went to the bathroom. Well about a ½ of a mile from the stairs Sammy found some human poo and had to roll in it. It was SO gross and smelled to high heaven. We had let him off the leash since no one was around and figured he would stay by us since he normally does when we hike. Well, he did not and he came back after we were calling him and we tried to clean him up but it was so gross. We came across a creek and were able clean him up completely and then I had to wash my hands extra well. It was not a great way to start the first day but thus is a life with a dog!
We headed out mid morning to make our way to Springer Mountain (Episode 8: Day 2 on the AT) and enjoyed being on the trail and getting some miles under our belt. Sammy barked at every person we came across and he was then given the trail name “Growler” by a fellow hiker. We made it to the top of Springer Mountain in the early evening and enjoyed the views from the climb. We signed the log book and headed to the Springer Mountain Shelter. Since we had Sammy we stayed in the camping area, set up our tent and cooked a delicious dinner! One of the dinners we had prepared ourselves was a beef vegetable stew with Ramen. We used dehydrated Mountain House beef, dehydrated vegetables, some Italian seasoning and a packet of beef Ramen. It turned out so delicious!
We were sore and tired from our first full day on the trail so we headed to bed after dinner and when we woke up the next morning we were feeling pretty refreshed! We hit the trail at about 9:00am and saw our first white blaze of the Appalachian Trail (Episode 9: Day 3 on the AT). The first 8 miles we did were of the Approach Trail so we were very happy to actually be on the AT now! The terrain was much easier than the day before so we enjoyed covering some more miles. There was about 6 miles were no water was available so we were very happy when we came upon a spring about a mile from the Hawk Mountain Shelter. We filled up, had a protein shake and then continued to our camping spot for the night.
Our 4th day (Episode 10: Day 4 on the AT) on the trail we got up super early in order to make it to the Post Office in Suches, GA before they closed. This is where we received our first bit of trail magic by getting a ride to the post office. It really made our day because we were able to grab our Priority Mail box that had another 3 days worth of food for us and Sammy. Once we got back on trail we decided to put in a couple more miles before calling it a day. We found a spur trail right before Liss Gap where we set up camp. Jake had a heck of a time hanging the bear bag because the trees were so tall in this area. But he did eventually succeed and we enjoyed a hot meal before heading to bed.
We knew the next day was going to be a rough one with a handful of gaps to cross (Episode 11: Day 5 of the AT). A gap is essentially a big elevation gain followed by elevation loss to a valley or a road. Then you do it all over again. About midway through the morning we came across a potable water source that the National Guard left for hikers to drink from so that was a treat for sure. Then as we crossed into Woody Gap we enjoyed some more trail magic! A couple gals had grilled some hot dogs and had some snacks for thru hikers coming by that area. It was so delightful to enjoy a hot dog and some fresh fruit! Sammy even had a hotdog! From there we continued on to Jarrad Gap where we spent the night. We had planned to make it thru to Blood Mountain but once you enter past Jarrad Gap you cannot stop for another 5 plus miles without having a bear canister. Since we did not have one we decided to stay right outside that boundary. This was where we experienced our first rain storm while on the trail. We are not newbies to storms when backpacking but it was definitely a new experience having all of these people around. So when I had to pee in the middle of the night it was a whole process to get my rain gear on to go to the bathroom. Then in the morning when I had to poo, oh man, that sucked.
About mid morning, when it was still down pouring (Episode 12: Day 6 on the AT), we decided to just pack up camp and head out. Then once we started hiking it stopped raining and it wasn’t bad weather for the rest of the day. We hiked up to Blood Mountain and would have enjoyed an awesome view but it was so foggy we couldn’t see a thing. There was a stone shelter on the top of the mountain which looked really cool! There was a fireplace in it and everything. The hike down the mountain seemed to never end and it was very hard since there was a lot of rocks and boulders to climb over. But we made it into Neel Gap and enjoyed a pizza and Snickers bar! Since we were feeling good – besides not showering in 6 days – we decided to hike through the end of the day. We ended up going about 11 miles and my feet hurt so bad. By the time we got to Tesnatee Gap I'd had it and it was pitch black out so we set up camp on the edge of the parking lot, had dinner and hit the hay.
We woke up to a group of teenagers getting ready for a day hike so they were having a good ‘ole time heading out (Episode 13: Day 7 on the AT)! We took our time getting ready and since it was Saturday, I was really hoping there would be some trail magic along our path for the day! And we were not disappointed! A couple from the area started setting up as we were almost ready to leave so we enjoyed a couple snacks and headed straight up the next gap and hiked through to Low Gap Shelter. We had to get water and the stream was flowing pretty good so we hiked down the ravine to get water and use the privy. At this point Sammy has still be barking at pretty much everyone that would go by and was not doing well around people. So we didn’t get much of a chance to talk with other people that were thru hiking, though we still tried to be social. After we had a break, refilled water and rested our feet for a bit we did a couple more miles before we stopped for the night at Poplar Stamp Gap. We enjoyed our first fire of our hike and made the most of it even though the wood was damp. We knew it was going to rain that night so we made sure to set up our tent in an area where there would be no run off.
a ride in the back of the pickup truck of a dad with some boy scouts. They dropped us off at our hotel and we were so appreciative of their generosity! We headed up into our luxurious economy hotel since it was clean and pretty quite. We enjoyed cleaning off our gross bodies of all the dirt and grime. I think I washed my hair three times! We treated ourselves to some pizza and feel asleep pretty early!
We took a rest day in Helen (Episode 15: Day 9 on the AT) and picked up our 5 day resupply boxes, a few groceries and had to walk back to the hotel in a downpour. We decided on a full rest day since there was some really bad weather forecasted to arrive, which included tornado warnings. Luckily the weather was not too bad and we were able to head out bright and early the next day (Episode 16: Day 10 on the AT) to tackle a couple more huge gaps that day. There was some more storms in the forecast but not like was had been predicted the day before. In the early afternoon we got pelted with some hail and hid under our umbrella to try to protect ourselves and Sammy. We were a-ok and headed on, rather begrudgingly, in the downpour because it didn’t seem to be letting up. We opted to make it a shorter day and stop at Steeltrap Gap because once the rain stopped the wind picked up and we were cold since we were sopping wet. Little Sammy was happy to rest and get warm as well. He was such a little trooper throughout that storm.
Since we ended up with some extra down time were able to dry out and we felt pretty good heading out the next morning (Episode 17: Day 11 on the AT). At this point we were getting a bit bored with the monotony on the trail and were debating about making our thru hike into a section hike. We really didn’t want to since we had done so much prep work for our thru hike and we really wanted to complete the trail. As we hiked we discussed the pros and cons and finally came to a conclusion that if we aren’t enjoying it like we thought we would, why keep on doing the trail? We had saved enough money for 6 months and had enough food for that amount of time too so we opted to start traveling around the US. We just were not sure of when we would get off the trail. After we went up and down some more gaps and ended at Dick’s Gap for the evening, we wanted to decide in the morning if we were stopping there or once we made to the North Carolina line.
The next morning was overcast and muggy (Episode 18: Day 12 on the AT) and the bugs were already greeting us good morning. We looked at the map some more and decided to step off the trail and head into town since if we didn’t we would have to hike another 40 miles to the next town. We were able to cross the road and found a shuttle driver in the parking lot since he had just dropped some people off. He was a very “interesting” character and surprisingly Sammy didn’t growl or lunge at him. I think he must have known the thru hike was over! We got a ride to the nearest Enterprise and rented a vehicle to take us the hour and a half to where our vehicle was at Amiacalola Falls State Park. Once we picked up our vehicle we headed on our way to start traveling around the United States but first we had to find ourselves a camper!
Blog post written by Amy Karras
For the love of travel and new adventures, we live our lives for the next dream fulfilled!