Friday, February 16, 2018

Week 1 in the books, aka Update Days 5-9

Howdy! Cell service has been quite spotty all week, but got to a hostel today and I'm soaking up all the WiFi I can!

I'm up to just about mile number 70ish right now. Hopped off at Dick' s Creek and hiked in towards Hiawassee, GA (Yep, the town where Deliverance was filmed) to stay at Top of Georgia Hostel and Hiking Center.  Nice place! Greeted with a soda as soon as I walked in the front door, so I knew I was home. It's so great to be able to do laundry, take a shower, stay in a real bed and get a shuttle into town to resupply and grab a bite at a restaurant. I almost feel human again!

So, I've been posting a few pics on FB this past week, about one a day, mostly of me and fog and creepy trees. And I wish I could say there was more to take pictures of, but with the crummy weather, i havent been able to really experience the fantastic views from all the lookout points at the top of each mountain. And boy oh boy have i climbed some mountains.  That is literally all i do all day... climb straight up for a few miles and then straight down for a few miles, straight up, then straight down.  What i wouldn't give right now for a 20 mile, monotonous, flat straightaway just to break it up a bit.  
Anytime family and friends have asked how it's going so far, my response is honestly: it is so ridiculously hard, painful, insanely difficult, amazing, fantastic and awesome all rolled into one. Many times, especially towards the end of a long day when my legs start to get a bit shaky, I think to myself "this is stupid" and "I can't handle the pain" but as soon as I get to camp there is an instant thought of "That was a fantastic day!"  It's such a weird emotional roller coaster, even over the course of a single day. 

And then there are Zero Days (days where you do the hostel/hotel/town/resupply thing and you don't get any miles done) and Nero Days (Nearly Zero days) that are a whole different dynamic and give you something to look forward to all week.
Today (Fri, Feb 16) was a Nero, since it was about 4 miles from the last shelter to the trail head and then about a half mile road walk to the hostel.   Feels great to get things cleaned up and organized and ready for a new day tomorrow.  

Random story: So, I finally got a Trail Name.  My name is Mickey. All because of the story with the mice.... so, a couple nights ago I was setting up in a shelter, getting ready for bed. I took the water filter off the top of my Smart Water bottle so that I could put it in my sleeping bag with me (if it freezes, the filter cracks and doesn't work anymore,  so my body heat keeps it warm). Well, I couldn't find the regular screw cap for the top of the bottle and then I got distracted with doing other things and totally forgot about it. So, there was no top on the bottle all night and it just sat in the side pocket of my pack which was hanging on a peg on the shelter wall.  The next morning, as I was packing up my stuff, I pulled the water bottle out and to my horror saw that 2 mice had climbed into the bottle and were now floating dead inside. Uggg, it was so freaky.  But also looked kinda like those ship-in-a-bottle things where you can't figure out how it got in thru such a tiny opening.  Anyways, of course the other hikers instantly decided that this should make a trail name for me. "Chow Down", who is one of the people I've been hiking with all week, suggested names like "Mouse Killer" or something like that.  I vetoed that right away. But after a bit, and based on how much I talk about Disney, my name became Mickey.  Since then, I've had to tell that story to quite a few people who've asked about how I got my trail name and every time people agree that that incident absolutely had to create my trail name in some way.  So, im glad i finally have one... but i feel bad for the poor mice that died because of my little mistake... but it made for a pretty good story.

Here are some random pics!

Chow Down earned his trail name by ordering pizza the day before to be delivered to a trailhead parking the next day at noon. That is devotion to food. We sat under a trail info sign and ate in the rain.

If you want to know what most of the trail so far looks like, it's this. Rocks, leaves, mud and all straight up or straight down.

Sooo many pretty streams and waterfalls! 

And this is actually what I look like when I get to the top of a mountain, not the smiling face I post on FB.  Just a look of pure exhaustion.

Look at this shelter! It has almost 4 walls and a loft! Living the posh life!

Top of Georgia Hostel!

I made strawberry shortcake for everyone in the bunk house, Chow Down bought some guac and Amanda had a pile of girl scout cookies from a family member.  Oh crap, we forgot about the cheesecake in the freezer! Yep, Chow Down really fits his name!

Whelp! Til next time, y'all!
Lots of love, Erin aka Mickey

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Day 2 and 3 and 4

So, some days I have cell signal, most days I don't. Yesterday, I didnt. But really, I don't think I need to update this every single day.

Day 2, Feb 9... Man, that was a tough Day! I obviously don't have my trail legs yet, and being from Florida it's even harder for me. But I got to the top of Springer Mountain and the official start of the AT. It was amazing! The view, the history behind it and the sense of accomplishment after climbing up.





 And then the amazing beauty of the streams and tree cover down in the gap.  And then up another mountain and then down into another gap... I'm sensing a trend.


The day ended with me taking a wrong turn and going about 2 miles round trip on the wrong trail. Which placed me pretty close to sunset by the time I got to the shelter I was aiming for, and absolutely exhausted!  But I was greeted by two other hikers Ketti and Maximus, who were already there, that were super welcoming!

Day 3...And now, quite a storm has rolled in, so the three of us decided to grab a ride to a hiker hostel, Mountain Crossings at Neels Gap. A great place to resupply, regroup, take a shower and head into town to grab a few at the pub!

So far, even after only a couple days... This is the hardest thing I've ever done and the most amazing thing!

Love to you all! I'll edit this post tomorrow with a day 4 if we stick around due to the crazy storm.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Day 1... done and done!

Wow! What a first Day! It was everything I expected and more! Hiking in the winter has it's major benefits. First, I don't get overheated on the tough uphill climbs because of the chilly weather, I just adjust my clothing accordingly. But most of all, the lack of leaves on the trees makes for some amazing views that would otherwise be obstructed by canopy cover.
I (almost) finished the Approach Trail which is 8.8 miles long. I stopped at the 7.3 mile point, at a shelter, because I was getting a bit tired and I wanted take it easy on my first day. Also the sun was getting a bit low on the mountain and i wanted to be at the AT starting point in the daylight to get some "official" start pics of the Southern Terminus plaque on Springer Mountain.
Oh, yeah, and the 604 steps up the waterfall at the very beginning are no joke!! I thought it would tough for me solely because of being a flat-lander from FL, I'm not quite used to steps... but on top of that, the steps were metal grating and slightly slippery from the waterfall spray.  I'm not super afraid of heights, but geesh, that rattled me a bit!

Dinner is done. Everything is set up in the lean-to shelter. It's barely 7pm and I am sooooo ready for bed!

Here are some pics from today:





Tuesday, February 6, 2018

I quick update before I leave!

Just a little blurby blurb before I head out...
All the gear I need has been finalized. It feels like I'm packing waaay too much! I can always send things home as I realize what I actually use...
It all fit in my pack tho! The clothes on the side are what I will be wearing (1 set of clothes for hiking, 1 set for sleeping... And that's it!)
Oh, and Welcome to the World's Most Boring Cooking Show!  Fixing up meals to take with me and extras for mom to send to me on the trail as needed....
Road trip with mom starts tomorrow (Wed, Feb 6)! We are staying the night at the Lodge at Amicalola State Park and then Thursday morning she will drop me off at the start :) Probably, 1st day of school style... complete with way too many pictures and a few tears

Love to you all!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Technology and Things and Stuff

Moms worry. It's their job. And it's a good thing!
But I'm trying to ease that a little bit by stocking up on all the tools I can find!

SPOT GPS
So, I got a GPS tracker for my AT thru-hike :)  It will update my exact location every 5 minutes while it's turned on.  It works anywhere in the world, so as I venture around Europe, it will update then as well.  The coordinates will be plotted on a Google map and everyone can follow along at home. And it even has a button that I can press that will send emergency services out to my location, even if I have absolutely no phone signal.  Nice, huh?  Technology nowadays is amazing and my mother is feeling a little bit better about this whole crazy trip of mine... a little bit.

Here's the link to the map, so you can keep an eye on me, like the creepy stalker you are ;)
https://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0QcejA15ca2Cq2FaJg5HfZXIBdptGTQpR

I'm obviously not going to turn it on until I leave, because who really wants to keep clicking refresh and notice that I'm still sitting at home, in the exact same spot? 

YOUTUBE CHANNEL
I set up a YouTube channel as well... Although, I'm not the best at taking and editing videos... but I guess you have to start somewhere.  At the beginning, it might just be a few 1 minute clips of me saying "Hi mom! I'm still alive! Yay!".  But hopefully, over time and with practice, I'll be able to string together some ideas and edit videos that are kinda fun, do a decent job of documenting my experience and maybe even teach people out there a thing or two.  Who knows!

Here's the link to the YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDJnGy-otpyLMe_TYQYUTKw

GUTHOOKS APP
So, there's a pretty nifty app for the phone that is chock full of information, almost down to every tenth of a mile of the Appalachian Trail is documented: where the nearest water sources are, the next shelter, road crossings, lookout points, the nearest store/hotel/hostel, etc. All in one amazing app! People also add their own comments and pictures (for instance, letting others know is a water source has dried up or is flowing).

AWOL'S AT GUIDE
And don't worry, I'm not just relying on technology.  I know that sometimes it fails, sometimes batteries go dead or sometimes things are just incorrect.... That's why I also have a paper guidebook, paper maps and a compass.

Is everyone a bit more comfortable now??!!

Ok, good :)

Lots of love to you all!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Gotta start somewhere...

"I know! Start at the beginning... and when you get to the end... stop." -The Mad Hatter, Alice in Wonderland

That's a pretty good way to tell a story, I guess.  But who out there actually really wants to hear every little detail from the very beginning. Ya, so let's skip all that: basically, I had a rough 2017. Like, a REALLY rough 2017. As the year started to get down the home stretch of finally being over, a couple amazing opportunities presented themselves for 2018.  These were the types of opportunities where people say "Dude, you need to post updates about all that so I can follow along!"

So, here I am. Starting a blog.  Haven't done this since college (a billion years ago) when we first learned of a new-fangled thing called a "weblog", something that might one day be kinda sorta used for who knows what.

What the heck are these amazing opportunities you might ask?  Actually, you didn't ask because I probably managed to wedge it into our general conversation without you even knowing and now I'm blabbering on about it and now you're glancing at your watch and making the excuse that you need to go the bathroom.  BUT, I'm going to tell you anyways because I'm SOOO frickin excited!

1. I needed to get away. Seriously get away, clear my head.  Go out into the woods and stare at a tree for hour or something.  Then, after a few awesome backpacking trips and a few too many YouTube channels, I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail. Yay me! Let's do this! Sounds great! I decided to start at the end of March (a common time for people to start NorthBound from Georgia to Maine, also called NOBO). It would work out perfectly because it would give me time to prepare for the adventure, the weather would be warmer and I could leave right after all my March events were finished here in Deland, FL. And then I'd probably finish the trek by the end of September.  Done.

2. Then came the awesome wrench in my plan:  I was offered a fantastic opportunity to go to Norway for the summer and organize some events and work on several really cool projects with some of my favorite-est people in the world.  Yay me! Let's do this! Sounds great!  Oh. Wait.  That's when I plan on hiking. That means I have to pick one.  It's not a bad problem to have, but still.

Right now in my life, I realize that life is so very very short. It can be taken away from you at any moment for any stupid reason.  I gave up darn near everything in 2017 in order to help take care of my family.  So now, at the end of 2017, I got nothing.  On one hand, it's really weird to have not much going on, to have all my stuff in storage and to be living simply out of a couple backpacks. But on the other hand, I can do whatever I want, go anywhere, build something new and start fresh.

So, after lots of thinking and doing math, I decided to do both!  It just means that I will have to: a) start hiking the trail a bit early than planned b) possibly take more breaks in order to find internet/email access while hiking to prepare for my summer and c) leave the trail for a few months in the middle to go to Norway.  After I get back from my European summer, I'll make a decision (based on how many miles left, time of year and weather) about the best direction to go to finish up the hike and then hop to it.  I'll be back from all my adventures around mid November, just in time to do November and December events here in Deland and Bob's your uncle!

As for this blog? I have no idea quite yet how it will turn out or even how I want to sound.  It might be a bit like a diary for me.  Or maybe I'll get into doing gear reviews.  Or y'all might just end up with a ridiculous number of pictures of me... staring at tree... followed by an awesome Mr. Bean meme.

Until next time!
Lots of love to you all

ERIN
Director of Awesomeness

(I'm the one on the right)-->