Wrapping up Week One with a Zero Day!

Day 6: Mile 69- Hiawassee, GA

It’s hard to believe it’s already (and only) been one week! I think it’s a combination of having amazing weather, days of hiking in solitude, days of hiking with new friends and having long life conversations, and of course having to start to repeat certain types meals already…it really feels like I’ve been out here for awhile already, but definitely in a good way!

There have of course been some ups and downs (and I don’t just mean in elevation gain!). It wasn’t really until Day 4 that I started to really understand fully feeling the mental aspect of this challenge. Although I’ve been able to meet up with the same group in the evenings which has been great, during the day we tend to spread out and meet up on water breaks, steep climbs to the top or at beautiful views, but majority of the other time it’s just me and my thoughts and the sounds of nature. During that time, I’m sure most would eventually start having similar thoughts like “what am I doing?”, “Not sure I can do this anymore?”, “Man, it’s beautiful, I can’t believe I’m doing this amazing thing,” and of course the ever so common, “ugh my feet are tired.” Like I said it ebs and flows throughout the day. Usually though by the end of the day, I get to camp and all I can think about is how great the day was and think about what’s for dinner! Up and down. Up and down. But it’s interesting how the mind goes from place to place all during a day of walking in the woods!

Trail Magic at Unicoi Gap

I think during the first few days I had doubts. From the start at Springer I’ve seen lots of people, so many thru-hikers, but majority of them are men. I’d say within a week of being here and seeing 75 or more thru-hikers, maybe less than one handful have been female. And of those, most have been with a partner or parent. Two others were by themselves. Anyways, it’s not really so much that it’s overrun by men (although come on ladies, get a pair of shoes and get out here!) but moreso that it was a little intimidating to navigate this new adventure when all the thoughts of others starting to pop into my head like “you’re going alone,” “you’re female and alone what if something happens,” “aren’t you scared to be by yourself during the day and especially at night,” “what if there’s some killer out in the woods”…unlikely but of course the questions that pop up. Now, for the most part I don’t at all mind hiking alone, it’s peaceful, you can go your own pace, and especially since when it comes to “taking care of some quick business” ladies have more of a process than just turning around, and places for that have been few and far between during the day. But I digress, mainly all those scary thoughts would come to me at night and I didn’t love the idea of stealth camping in the woods alone. I haven’t ever had to camp alone and I personally don’t necessarily feel comfortable doing it but so far the AT has led to a sense of comfort so maybe one day. But in the meantime, it has been the fear of what happens at the end of the day that leads to the most anxiety which I honestly never thought would be the case.

I’ve been lucky enough to find a trail family to camp with after the first night but that may change so I’d like to think when the time comes it won’t make me a ball of nerves. In the meantime, I’ve noticed that it leads to the pressure of keeping up with the guys because thus far, they are the ones I’ve had fun with and feel most comfortable with on the trail. We haven’t been pulling crazy miles but definitely have been going farther than we had all expected. 12, 17, and 13 miles the last three days has been a little rough on the feet but also extremely satisfying! It’s been fun to have a group to catch up with, hear how they appreciated the trail that day, or commiserate on what meal will be boiled for dinner. Not many groups go from start to end in Maine together but this far, the gang we have is one of the reasons I’m still out here. It’s about the support every thru-hiker brings but having having a trail family to go through the ups and downs is a nice treat.

Rhyme Time, Last Spot, Pumpkin Spice, and me. Photo courtesy of Ramble on Russ.

And speaking of that, our group finished our long week by landing in Hiawassee, GA last night. The last two days consisted of a 17 mile day with 5,000ft of elevation gain and 13 miles day with at least 2,500ft of elevation gain. We’re tired. My feet have sadly succumb to pinky toe blisters. My fool proof plan to wear toe sock liners under my socks had seams that caused the blisters unfortunately. So taking zero day will hopefully give the body, mind and feet a refresh.

Sunrise.on Tray Mountain

Yesterday, after setting out at 5am to get to the top of Tray Mountain for sunset, we had 13 miles until we hit town. We were lucky enough to have a kind resident of town pick us up at the trailhead and bring us to our hotel around 2pm. Many plates of Mexican food and beers later, and some pizza later too, we all had a restful night one in town.

First zero day meal at the cantina…waitress added a nice diagonal to this photo huh

Today, I’ll be relaxing, filling up on calories, and shaking down my pack one more time to figure out just a few more ways to shed weight. Should be great day in GA, looking forward to it.

Zero days are worth it, Katahdin isn’t going anywhere!

-Kelly

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