Mail drops and mileage updated!

Hello everyone! I know it’s been forrrrreverrrr since a blog update :(( but I have updated my maildrops and milage (I’ll have a few more maildrops listed later this afternoon too). When I have more time and wifi I will try to get a new post soon. Thank you again for all of the fabulous support and encouragement I have been receiving from so many people. It helps motivate me when times are tough. Right now I am in a Bland Virginia and have gone 587 miles and passed through Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. The Virginas are over 500 miles and hikers are known to get the Virginia Blues now that our ‘honeymoon stage’ is over. Within the last few days about 8 hikers that I know have gotten off the trail. It is difficult to keep the excitement up because of that and it is also a good reality check that we are only 1/4 of the way done. I know that the Virginias are going to be a challenge for me, but I am ready for it!

Also I haven’t been able to add pictures to the gallery on here, but if you check out my Facebook page I added an album.

Happy June everyone!!

20140603-085451-32091367.jpg

20140603-085439-32079636.jpg

20140603-085442-32082912.jpg

20140603-085449-32089881.jpg

20140603-085452-32092466.jpg

20140603-085446-32086392.jpg

20140603-085454-32094069.jpg

20140603-085541-32141685.jpg

20140603-085441-32081149.jpg

Mountains for years!!

4/16 finally left Franklin! Got a hitch to Winding Stair Gap and had a nice nearo of 5 miles to Siler Bald Shelter. It was a really cold night and we found out the night before it has snowed there and had stayed on the ground for a few hours. We where finally reunited with Mac and Kat who we had started the approach trail with! Met some new friends Tinder and Birch and we all huddled around the fire for as long as we could before going to bed. I have been struggling staying warm at night and tonight was no exception.
Gulliver (previously known as Nick), Odysseus, Mac, Tinder and Birch huddling around the fire:

20140419-134615.jpg

4/17: Woke up with crazy frost on the ground

20140419-134927.jpg
Hiked up Siler Bald for the most amazing view yet! A full 360 degree view of layers and layers of beautiful mountains! They almost looked like watercolor. Spectacular!

20140419-135110.jpg

20140419-135228.jpg

20140419-135336.jpg

20140419-135400.jpg

20140419-135434.jpg

Had an awesome hike to Wayah Bald for even more great views!

20140419-140339.jpg

Kat and I enjoying the view:

20140419-140429.jpg

Team cuddle puddle:

20140419-140508.jpg

From the tower we could see Clingmans Dome in the Smokies where we will be in about a week

20140419-140619.jpg

We could also see Siler Bald where we came from earlier. It’s the bald spot you can see in the mountains. It’s such a cool feeling to see how far where you came from is, makes you feel pretty powerful!

20140419-140826.jpg

Stopped at Cold Spring Shelter for a good 12.5 mile day.

4/18 Had some awesome climbs up Rocky Bald and Wesser Bald. A overcast day but great hiking weather!

20140419-141159.jpg

20140419-141217.jpg

20140419-141341.jpg

20140419-141409.jpg

Solid crew on the Wesser Bald Tower: Kbar, Flint, Bamboo, Birch, Tinder, Odysseus, Sweeps, and Gulliver.

20140419-141625.jpg

I hiked to Rufus Morgan Shelter which is only a mile away from the Nantahala Outdoor Center and decided to get a bunk there.

20140419-141744.jpg
Stayed dry from the rain and enjoyed new and old friends and a bacon BBQ burger. Delish! Who knew hiking was going to be this great!?

4/11-4/15 Rowdy AT times and zeros on zeros

4/11 Had the most glorious breakfast I’ve ever had! Gary and Lennie cooked us pancakes, biscuits, scrambled eggs, sausages, hashbrowns and blueberry syrup! Where we ate was an attachment of the house Gary built to look like a one bedroom cabin. It had all these old cooking supplies and was so cozy! The Blueberry Patch has been open for 22 years and Gary and Lennie moved there specifically to care for hikers- 2 amazing people!

20140415-125933.jpg

Gary drove us back to Dicks Creek and it was great to hit the trail. Powered up Buzzard Knob with Chewy and As Knob with Sweeps. It was another sunny day and the climbs are getting harder, but we were going to hit the Georgia/North Carolina border and we were pumped! Sweeps and I got there first and it was so exciting! We dance partied it out and felt on top of the world! 1 state down, 13 to go! There was also a note to us from Hemlock! Notes are the coolest and most fun way to communicate on trail.

20140415-142407.jpg

20140415-142416.jpg

Shortly after the border we stopped at the famous twisted tree for some pop tart action and a water break.

20140415-171818.jpg

Then NC really rolled out the red carpet. We had hiked 9 miles to the border that had about a 1000 foot increase in elevation. We where about to do that again in under 2 miles. Couthouse Bald had 3 separate summits and they were the steepest and hardest climbs I had experienced. While I was dying I was thinking about how it actually felt like I was climbing a mountain and that motivated me to not keel over. It was hot, so whenever I hit a tunnel of rhododendrons I kept calling it the AC and made a goal to keep hiking to the next one. Sweet relief whenever that happened! There was a bunch of switchbacks and it was a lot of work with no good view at the top, but hey! A bunch of people dropout before North Carolina so I was happy to be on the trail. Made it to Muskrat Shelter and saw a bunch of familiar faces and got to meet new hikers too. A group of us went to watch the sunset and it was the most spectacular view I had ever seen. It wasn’t even the sunset itself, but the layers and layers of gorgeous mountains in different hazy shades for as far as you could see. The pictures I took on my camera do not at all come close to what I saw, but it is a picture I will keep in my memory for a long time to come. Here are a few pictures of the sunset.

20140415-234409.jpg

4/12 We wanted to make it to Carter Gap Shelter 12 miles away today. We were coming up to Deep Gap which was right before a pretty large climb up to Standing Indian Mountain. Sweeps, Odysseus, Chewy, Nick and I decided to take a break at the gap. And then the most amazing thing happened! Our first big TRAIL MAGICCCCC!!!! NOBO 2013’s Breeze and Windy rolled up with some of their friends and offered us cases of beer, hotdogs, hamburgers, and bacon. It was truly spectacular! As a few more hikers filed in it truly turned into a magical moment as Breeze was telling us his trail stories and we realized we have so much ahead of us and so many more amazing people to meet. It was overwhelming in the best way possible. It was also interesting to hear how much Breeze misses the trail and how lucky we are to be hiking it.

20140416-090105.jpg

20140416-090120.jpg

We ended up staying at Trail Magic for 3 hours! It was sad to leave but after all the beers were gone, the hike up Standing Indian Mountain didn’t seem so bad. The view on the mountain was amazing!

20140416-090738.jpg

Firefox, Brave, Odysseus, Sweeps, Fall N’ Oats, and Peepshow on Standing Indian

20140416-091023.jpg

We ended up going about 9 miles altogether to Beech Gap but it ended up being an awesome day on the AT!

4/13 The plan for today was to go a good 12 miles so we could be close to Winding Stair Gap and get into Franklin in the morning. We where having a great hike about 9 miles in and knew we would be scaling the glamorous Albert Mountain which just looks like ‘A’ in the guide books it’s so steep. Right before the climb this is what I walk into:

20140416-124959.jpg
More trail magic!!! This time in the form of sloppy joe hot dogs and endless servings on chips, sodas, and honey buns! Thanks to the Oconee County Hiking Club! After feasting until I could be rolled up the mountain, I hit the trail with Wings. Climbing Albert was the steepest climb yet and consisted of having to practically rock climb in some areas. But we finally made it to the top and had a glorious view!

20140416-125545.jpg

We also had hit the 100 mile mark (109 including the Approach Trail)!! In true AT fashion this milestone was graffitied on the fire tower on the mountain

20140416-125719.jpg

We chilled up there until the rest of the crew caught up and took a sweet group shot with Admiral Caboose, me (DQ), Moxy, Odysseus, Sasquatch, Ranger, Sweeps, Tessla, and Easy Day. We yelled into the mountains and the echo went on foreverrrr, it was so cool!

20140416-125820.jpg

After trail magic and conquering Albert, spirits were soaring and we where all feeling great! We had a 2.5 mile hike to Long Branch Shelter (built in 2012 and fits 16 people. 2 story and super fancy) and me, Ranger, Tessla, Sasquatch, Easy Day, Admiral Caboose, and Wings decided to press on to the next shelter. We were half joking about walking all the way to Franklin but where still feeling great. After 3 miles we hit Rock Gap Shelter and ran into some familiar faces. It was about 6 o’clock and we were feeling like totally hardcore. Me, Ranger, Easy Day, Sasquatch, Admiral Caboose and Irish Mist decided to press on to the 3.8 miles to Winding Stair Gap. We knew the moon was going to be bright and thought a night hike would be a great idea! After a pretty tough hike, navigating the trail during a super cloudy night, and 20 miles, we finally stumbled to the road! We made it! Now we just needed to get to Franklin 12 miles away and find a place to stay. A super thought out plan. After getting to town, we went where we knew hikers would be. The local bar! Ended up seeing Wild Turkey, who was another girl I had started the Approach Trail with. It was a great night filled with meeting new hikers, a well earned margarita and 3 mile walk to a janky motel where we stayed the night. It was a spontaneous and hard day that ended up being a total blast!

4/14 When we woke up, we quickly realized that maybe a 20 miler in the first 2 weeks of trail was not the smartest idea. Our feet and knees where crying and hobbled like old men to meet up with our group who was coming into Franklin in the morning. We all went to Outdoor 76 to have out feet looked at. I learned that the insoles in my shoes where unnecessary and were very detrimental to my feet and the reason for a lot of my foot pain. The outfitters was a really cool place with great craft beers and a wall to sign your trail name to.

20140416-131844.jpg
We had also gone out to eat and received trail magic in the shape of the remnants of a yellow chocolate cake and it was the most fabulous thing in the entire world. You really start to appreciate the little things like scraps of food. NOMS!

20140416-141312.jpg

I had also received the most amazing Wisco care package consisting of cheese curds, spotted cow and whiskey. I spread the love in the form of cheese to hikers and locals that had never had a cheese curd before! I changed lives one curd at a time. That night we went back to the bar and tore down the house with some thru hiker karaoke. The best kind of karaoke.

20140416-142443.jpg
We met some great locals and it was so cool the huge thru hiker community that was in town.

4/15 Rather than head to the trail we decided to take another zero to relax and run errands. Also those of us that hiked the 20 still felt like we were falling apart. We resupplied, got stranded at Walmart for several hours, and feasted on pizza. Aka bummed around all day long and had zero productivity. But it was great! Everyone is getting so much closer and we saw Mac and Cat who had started the approach with us! Its been chill hanging out in town but we are so stoked to get back on trail. We will be at the NOC in 2-3 days and Fontana Dam in 5-6!

Also this day was important to me because during the Approach Trail when I was having a hard time and through the tears had given myself until April 15th to decide to stay on trail or go home. There is no doubt in my mind that the trail is the place for me. I am so happy and lucky to be hiking on the Appalachian Trail! I’m sorry this post was short and uneventful, I am still getting used to this blogging business. If anyone has suggestions for more things you would like me to talk about or more/less pictures just let me know- I would appreciate it!

Cheese and love,
DQ

New Features! Holla!

20140410-214248.jpg

Just a quick update: I added 2 brand spankin new pages to the blog! “Where She At?” Will show you where on the AT I am via my spot messenger. Just click on Rachel O and it’ll show you where I am. The little messages are pre made messages I can directly send to my fam to let them know I’m alive. I also put my daily mileage and the total mileage I’ve hiked so far.

“Mail drops” is where I’ll put the addresses to the next places I’ll be stoping if anyone ever wanted to send me something (I’m craving beef jerky hint hint 😉 ). Just make sure you copy the addresses exactly and put my last name on every side of the box/letter. Priority mail is recommended. Id love to hear from you and you would totally get a postcard back! Whoop!

Thanks everyone!! ❤️

The Appalachian Tales begin! Days 1-7: 64.5 miles

So when I decided to start a blog to share my adventures and experiences on the AT I envisioned telling countless stories of fun times, amazing hikes, and pictures of my sculpted calves. However, I did not anticipate the possibility of sharing challenges and struggles that I normally would not care to admit with even my closest friends. I thought about skipping these parts over completely (gotta save that dignity) and only focusing on the good. But then I realized I want this blog to be an accurate representation of my time on trail and that includes that trials. I’ll try to save some of the mushy gushies for my journal and I in no way want this to become a trail diary, but here is what I’ve been up to these last few days!

Green Bay to Amicalola Falls State Park
After months of slaving and planning away what to pack, suddenly the morning I was about to fly to Atlanta I doubted every decision I had made. Everything from sock choice to what-in-the-actual-heck-am-I-doing-with-my-life-I-am-not-about-to-go-live-in-the-woods-for-6-months. But alas. I created this blog and bought a plane ticket. 2 very hard things to back out of. I was too nervous and emotional to eat and was already sad from saying goodbye to my brother earlier that morning, knowing a goodbye to my mom, dad, and sister was coming made me constantly weepy. All of this talk of a new adventure and suddenly it all became real once I had to say goodbye. At the airport the tears did not cease until after take off. The fact that I was so sad made me nervous- was I making the wrong decision?
At the Atlanta airport my ride (Hank) informed me that there was another girl (Sam) on my flight who was hiking the AT and also needed a ride. Yay! Hank was amazing. Drove us to get fuel for our stoves and took us to chick-Fill-a (great place to stock up on condiments btw) and then to Amicalola Falls State Park. Weighed my pack. 40 pounds without water. SHOOT. Well guess the second guessing and just shoving everything into my pack wasn’t the best strategy after all. Stayed at the Max Epperson shelter and made great friends! We would all hike the approach trail in the morning! Before bed my feelings of anxiety were high but reading the shelter registry and realizing that we all have our fears but in the end what the trail holds is unknown for all of us.

20140408-014045.jpg

20140408-014058.jpg

Day 2: Approach Trail to Springer Mountain: 9 miles
Woke up with lots of excitement and nerves, today was the day! The hike to the AT! I was so happy to be doing the roughly 9 mile Approach and was excited to see the waterfall. Sure I heard it’s tough and the 604 stairs hurt but how hard could it be and why wouldn’t you do it? YOHO. After a chipper stop in the visitors center I was ready to rock! By the (short) time I reached the stairs I could already feel ever single one of the 40 pounds on my back. I made a list of everything I wanted to send back home and almost turned around. However I decided to wait until Neel Gap before sending stuff back. But in that critical moment I should have turned around because I had forgotten to things. One I would find out very shortly, the second 9 miles later.

20140408-022215.jpg

20140408-022225.jpg

20140408-022233.jpg

Time to climb! I could only imagine what those Georgian inmates were thinking, laughing to themselves as they built the staircase to hell knowing unsuspecting hikers would willingly try to climb it. Mother forgive me for the words that came out of my mouth as I dragged myself up the stairs gasping for air as everyone passed me. When I finally got to the top (the view made it worth it-gorgeous!) I did the normal thing and puked behind a sign. Super classy. It was only 9 or 10 and the sun was already beating down it’s rays and it was hot! I slowly began the ascent up the trail and quickly realized in my excitement to leave I had only filled one water bottle. I only had 1liter of water for a casual 9 mile hike up a mountain in temperatures only familiar to Hades. There were no water sources until the 7th mile. In my continuous struggle climbing, pausing every 5 steps to take a break I was excited to be on my way to the AT but I had many doubts on my ability to actually get there. When I finally made it to water I was rejuvenated and met the rest of the approach trail crew at the shelter before the hike up Springer. After panting my way slowly up and falling farther behind I finally made it to the top of Springer Mountain! Celebrated with some trail magic in the form of a Dales Pale Ale. The view was breath taking and you could see for miles!

20140408-105113.jpg

 

20140408-105132.jpg

20140408-105121.jpg

20140408-105202.jpg

I went to get my phone to take pictures and realized it was no where to be found! I must have dropped it somewhere on the approach trail. As the night went on I got extremely homesick and doubted whether or not I would be able to keep hiking the next day. I was feeling down and gave myself a week before I threw in the towel.

Day 3: Springer Mountain Shelter to Horse Gap 10.7 miles

I woke up early to get a head start on the trail. Compared to the approach hiking the next day was a breeze! Met a couple of thru hikers on the way. Everyone is so friendly and it’s great meeting new faces on the trail. It warmed up fast and was another crazy hot day. Stopped at Hawk Mountain Shelter and forced down some lunch. The combination of hot weather and my emotional roller coaster eliminated my appetite but I knew I needed energy. The shelter quickly turned into a social gathering and met new hikers and reacquainted with old. Sam, Emma, XC Crow and I decided to hike on. Camped at Horse Gap for the night My feet where really sore but I felt good about the 10 mile day wand was in good spirits.

Day 4: Horse Gap to Woody Gap: 10.5 miles

Woke up eager to hike! Hot the trail around 8:30 to climb Sassafrass Mountain. The fog was thick and made the woods look spooky cool.

20140408-120001.jpg

I’ve got a hotspot on each arch that will be blisters soon and my supports are pretty rough on my arches, but other than that I feel great! Had a lot of times where I was feeling just dandy about being in trail and Maine seemed more of a reality. Stopped at Gooch Mountain Shelter for another forced lunch and met more hikers- it’s been so fun meeting so many people. I wanted to push on so Sam and I hiked on. I’m noticing my trail legs coming in and I’m taking less breaks on the inclines. Saw some great views at Liss Gap and it’s cool to see so many different environments on trail. There will be areas that are bare and others that are lush and green make you feel like you are hiking in a jungle. Camped at Woody Gap after hiking Sassafrass, Justus, Gooch, and Ramrock Mountain and was feeling great! I’m feeling stronger and certainly smelling stronger too!

20140408-120803.jpg

20140408-120748.jpg

Day 5: Woody Gap to Neel Gap: 10.7 miles

Woke up freezing this morning with my hammock tarp blown in. The gaps tend to funnel the wind and It was crazy windy. Bundled up in all my layers and licked a frozen granola bar for breakfast. Headed out with Hemlock (Bill), Fletch, Sam, Mark, and Steve (Grunt) and kept a great pace and got a great view on Preaching Rock.

20140408-121608.jpg

20140408-121616.jpg

Climbed Big Cedar Mountain, Gaddis Mountain and then finally the legendary Blood Mountain! Dun dun dunnnn. Within a mile there is about 750 plus foot elevation increase and lots of switchbacks. But at 4,500 feet the view was breath taking!

20140408-122029.jpg

Blood Mountain Shelter was built in 1934 and has crazy character. In each shelter there is a trail registry where you can sign in and read who else has been there and their stories- it’s really cool when you get to know hikers in front of you without ever meeting them.

20140408-122312.jpg

After the climb down Blood we made it to Neel Gap and Mountain Crossings Outfitter! It was so cool and saw many familiar faces. Everyone stocked up on pizza and candy bars. Sam, Fletch, Hemlock, and I all split a cabin at Blood Mountain Cabins (soon to be the title of the next horror film). Another group of hikers we met earlier that day did the same and I and another hiker went into town to get pizza and beer AKA the hikers essentials. 4 large meat lovers pizzas and 4 cases of beer later it turned into a great night! What a tough life us hikers lead.

Day 6: Neel Gap to Whitely Gap Shelter: 7.9 miles

In the morning I gave my pack a shake down and sent about 4.5 pounds home. I was almost sad to see it go. I was ahead of a lot of people I had started with and if I could make it this for with 42 pounds why couldn’t I make it to Maine with that? But my back thanks me. I also had managed to track down my phone and was able to get it dropped off to me at Neel Gap! Woo! Hiked Levelland Mountain, Wolf Laurel Top, Cowrock Mountain, and Wildcat Mountain. Wildcat Mountain was tough. I heard someone say anytime you come to a gap with a road you pay the price in the climb you are about to do. True dat. I lead the charge up it and it felt good! We knew rain was forecasted for the night and thought it would be smart to stay in a shelter. However, the closest shelter was an extra 1.2 miles of the trail. After what felt like hours trying to find the shelter we finally found it and set up. I hung up my tarp o the outside of the shelter to try to prevent any rain from coming inside. Had a great fire and hiker camaraderie before the rain hit.

Day 7: Whitely Gap Shelter to Unicoi Gap into Hiawasse, GA 15.7 miles.

It would have been a smarter move to have slept in my hammock. After a night of shivering and no sleep the high winds had blown the rain in at such an angle that we all got soaked. It was a freezing morning with lots of cold rain and wind. But I was already wet, what was there to lose. I got an early start and hiked the whole day without seeing anyone. It rained the whole day, and the everywhere around you was white, it was pretty cool! A lot of runoff waterfalls scattered and ran down the trails which made puddle jumping more fun. After I made it 10 miles and I knew I would freeze in my wet sleeping bag so I hiked on to Unicoi Gap. I scored a room and had left a not at the last shelter for my current hiker family to join me if they wanted to hike that far. Had a rain free night and a Holiday Inn with Hemlock and Odysseus and feasted on a 8 dollar buffet next door. My feet are sore and a knee is starting to bother me. I am 2 days ahead of schedule and since I did not intend to do such high mileage in the beginning I might take today off. However I am feeling very eager to get back on trail and might just do a 6 mile day today. We will see! It has been a full week since I have left and it is weird to see the mindset I wan in then compared to now. I am feeling stronger and enjoy seeing how far I can hike. North Carolina is in the horizon and will be my first big landmark

Homemade Appalachian Trail Granola! Total Noms.

20140330-162553.jpg

For those of you that know me (particularity those who have lived with me) know that my cooking skills are…well….they don’t exist. I have set off the fire alarm just trying to boil water more times than I count. I love burnt food, only because that is really all I can make. Anyway! At camp for some of our bigger trips we would have granola made for us, or make it on trail, and it was always mind blowingly delicious. It was hearty, filling, and yummy. Soooooo I have attempted to whip up a granola to bring on trail. AND IT WORKED. I will wait for the applause and standing ovation. 

 

Did you applaud?

Perfect. Anyways I just quickly wanted to post the recipe on here if anyone is interested (also I was too lazy to write it down so I can look up the recipe here. Win win)!

 

4 C oats

1 1/2 C Sliced or slivered almonds

1 C Roasted and salted pumpkin seeds

1/2 C Pepitas seeds

1/2 C Soynuts

1/2 Salted sunflower seeds

1/2 C Chia Seeds 

1 C Chopped walnuts

1 C Dried Cherries

1 C Dried Mangos

1 C Dried Bananas

1C Dried Blueberries

1 C Dried Cranberries

1 C  Dried Apples (torn into smaller pieces)

 

Syrup:

1 1/2 C Pure Maple Syrup

1 1/2 C Honey

4 Tbs Butter 

2 tps Cinnamon

1 tps Salt

 

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2.) In a bowl mix all dry ingredients

3.) In a sepereate bowl mix all fruits

4.) In a pot over medium heat whisk all syrup ingredients. Whisk until well blended and the mixtures starts to bubble.

5.) Pour 1/4 into the bowl with your dry oat mixture and stir. Repeat until syrup is gone and all oats are coated.

6.) Pour granola mixture on to greased cookie sheets. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove and stir. Cook for another 10 minutes.

7.) While the granola is still warm and gooey, mix the fruit in! Let it cool and BOOM! DONE!