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:

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

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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!

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

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Kat and I enjoying the view:

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Team cuddle puddle:

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

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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!

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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!

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

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

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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:

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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!

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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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

4/8-4/10 on the AT

4/8: Feasted on an all you can eat breakfast buffet and was fascinated by a machine where you push a button and pancakes magically appear on a plate. Contemplated taking it on trail with me. Took a spontaneous zero day (a ‘zero’ means not hiking any trail miles. You could be staying in a town, or the same campsite and not hiking any AT miles. Zeros are taken to heal the body, relax, and/or enjoy and explore a town or area. They are beautiful but get you missing the trail pretty quickly) once we coincidently meet back up with Sam (now named Trail Sweeper or Sweeps as I like to call her). Re supplied (meaning buy the food you need to get you to the next town you stop) at an Ingles (think a southern version of Festival Foods), which I am now a proud member of! Woo! Earning fuel points with every purchase of food like a boss! I don’t have much use for them hiking the AT, but it sounded fun and practical. I now realized that grocery shopping- once a grueling chore I put off for as long as possible and sustained myself solely on fast food – is now a hub of excitement, desire, distraction, and temptation. I re supplied with 6 days of food including a strawberry cheesecake and 2 baseball sized balls of fresh mozzarella cheese. Also got educated by a local on how to not die if encountered by the ever-popular and ever-elusive Appalachian Trail Wild Boar as well as how to pick ginseng and make a fortune. A very educational day!

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4/9: So eager to get back on trail! This morning I was unintentionally given the Trail Name DQ, short for Dairy Queen. Strangely, demanding ranch on everything, eating a basketball sized mozzerella ball for breakfast, talking about your cheese cravings occasionally, and being from Wisco makes DQ a suitable name.

Took a hiker shuttle to Unicoi Gap and began the climb up Rocky Mountain. My mind was so jacked to be back on trail, but my body didn’t quite get the memo. I was slow going up and it took a lot more work to climb a mountain than I remembered. But it was another beautiful sunny day and a great day to be hiking! I put on some music for a bit and a Trampled By Turtles song had a lyric that made everything better:

My home is with the hills and trees around me
My ceiling holds the moon and stars above
So I’ll never be a lonely man a’walking
I’ll never live one day without love.

And this is the view from Rocky Mountain as I heard those words:

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By then I was feeling great and my legs were ready to rock and roll. Had a great stroll to Tray Mountain and realized how many unique trees there were along the trail and how important it is to notice these details in nature.

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Here was Tray Mountain as I was hiking towards it:

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And the view from the top of Tray Mountain:

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Looking at the amazing view from a mountain you just climbed is a pretty cool aka BAMF feeling.

Stopped at Tray Mountain shelter for lunch and met some more thru hikers we would later camp with that evening. Made it to Sassafrass Gap after 11 miles and enjoyed friends, a fire, the sunset, and my hammock. (In the picture my hammock is hanging on the left. Sort of hard to see with the light. But the sunset was beautiful behind the mountains.

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4/10. Started off the day hiking Kelly Knob. Don’t ask me the difference between a knob and a mountain, because my legs certainly can’t feel
one. I had been hearing about good ole Kelly for a few days and knew she could be a beast. Imagine climbing a steep rocky spiral staircase for about 45 minutes. That was Kelly Knob.

Again it was another GORGEOUS day to hike and you can start to see signs of Spring!

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Made the decent into Dicks Creek for a nearo 6 mile hike (a ‘nearo’ is taking a near zero day. Usually between 2-4 miles but I would consider a shorter half day like today to be a nearo). Got picked up by Gary who owns and runs the donation based and infamous Blueberry Patch Hostel. Relaxed in the backyard with some goats surrounded by mountains. The Patch is an amazing place with amazing hospitality. Met some more great hikers and we are all getting served blueberry pancakes and coffee tomorrow morning before getting shuttled back to Dicks Creek. I’ll be in a North Carolina by the end of tomorrow!

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New Features! Holla!

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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 ūüėČ ). 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!! ‚̧ԳŹ

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

Just a Peak…..It’s my gear list!

Hold the phone. 2 updates in 3 days?!! Praise the heavens it’s a miracle! After millions of hours of researching and comparing gear, scouring forums and blogs, sending too many annoying emails, going through my own only -certified-for-Camp- Unie gear, and a little DIYing I am finally ready to reveal to the world what I will be bringing with me on my hike! ¬†WARNING: This post might bring out my inner newbie gear nerd and does not contain much humor. Sorry I’m not sorry. But if for some reason you are interested in what I am bringing and my opinions on them, then keep reading!

Backpack! Backpack! Backpack! Osprey Ariel 65

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Osprey Ariel 65 in Deep Sea Blue

Camp Unie 4 Lyfe. The place that inspired me to travel the trail on the loose.

Camp Unie 4 Lyfe. The place that inspired me to travel the trail on the loose.

Love this backpack! It was a birthday gift from my parents (before they knew of any plans to hike the AT. The pack that started it all. You can blame them ūüôā ) and I absolutely love it! It’s roomy but comfy (so far! We’ll see my thoughts once I actually hike some mountains. The side compartments are a little small and oddly shaped and it’ll be interesting to keep fitting my platypus H2O bottles in there, but otherwise everything else seems very durable. It has a capacity of 65L and weighs 4lbs 15oz. A little heavier but it’ll also be sturdy and reliable and I like that. I even pimped it out with a Camp Unie patch.

ENO DoubleNest Hammock with converted ENO BugNet sewn on top and jazzed up with Dutch Bling

ENO Double Nest Hammock

My Baby

My Baby

I love my hammock! I have had it for almost 3 years and it is purrfect. The doublenest is ultra roomy. I can wrap myself in a cocoon and also stash some gear around me too. I just get way better sleep in a hammock and I love being able to put it where tents can’t go. I’ve also got a set of Hennessy Snake Skins. They are like an insta stuff sack for your hammock and prevent it from ever touching the ground. I’ve heard wonders and so far they are pretty cool!

The BugNet

Before

The ENO Guardian Bug Net Before

I’ve also had the ENO BugNet for 2 years and for not having to worry about weight and at the time still learning the basics of hammocks (and I’m still learning!), it is a great bug net! It fully encloses you and your hammock all around. And it’s removable for when you don’t need it. However. I always put it on (not for fear of bugs but just because it I felt more comfortable) and it can be a tiny bit time-consuming, the ropes don’t always reach where you want them to, it’s heavy, and it doesn’t pack down very well. I wanted a hammock that had a bug net on top all the time. I felt it would be more efficient. However, I did not want to spend a ton of money and buy a new hammock with the bugnet. I found some guidelines on how to make your own bugnet. But then I procrastinated and couldn’t get the materials in time. Panic. But then: Lightbulb! I had a perfectly good bugnet already. I googled until my fingers fell off hoping someone had tried this before. Nothing. So I performed surgery. I removed the bugnet zipper and attached it to my hammock. Cut up the bug net, and eventually sewed it on the top of the hammock. Sounds easy. Took me forever. But it worked! I shaved off a ton of weight. I also got a whoopie sling ridge line to keep the sag in my hammock while also keeping the net off of myself. It’s a miracle! I’m so proud. Fingers crossed it stays together more than 2 days.

Post Op. Hammock with Bugnet sen on top

Post Op. Hammock with Bugnet sewn on top. This is also before I installed the ridgeline.

 

I completely took the zipper off the bugnet, sewed it onto the hammock and then sewed it onto a different section of the bugnet

I completely took the zipper off the bugnet, sewed it onto the hammock and then sewed it onto a different section of the bugnet

The Suspension

I also realized that my hammock’s suspension (what you use to hang your hammock up) was wayyyy heavier than it needed. I also strongly disliked ENO’s smart straps. They were the first straps to come out and ENO has since greatly improved there straps. However the ones I have the loops are too spaced out and it takes awhile to get the right fit. Again they are also heavy. And the ropes and biners that were in my hammock were unnecessarily heavy as well. Then I found Dutch. What an incredibly helpful guy! A master hammocker and genius. I upgraded to some beautiful whoopie slings with a dutch hook, and lighter, shorter, webbing with a dutch clip. Installed a continuous loop in replace of the heavy rope and biners. Saved crazy amounts of weight and cut my set up time by minutes!

The Tarp

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The Tadpole! So cute!

Stingerz from Dutchware

Stingerz from Dutchware

Tadpole with cordpockets and the linelocs I sewed on. Used lash it for the tie outs.

Tadpole with cordpockets and the linelocs I sewed on. Used lash it for the tie outs.

Mesh Tarp Sleeves from Mountain Goat Hats and Goods

Mesh Tarp Sleeves from Mountain Goat Hats and Goods

I know you are sick of me saying this. I also had an ENO DryFly as a tarp. This is new and I used it a lot last summer. Yes it keeps me dry. However, with its six guy lines plus having to set it up over the bug net there were about 80 million ropes going every which way. Also while researching gear I realized it was really heavy, and it is (22oz). So I needed to find a tarp that was lightweight, big enough to cook under, but not too big where it seems like I’m¬†living in Noahs Arc, pack small, and most importantly not expensive. Oh boy. Lightweight tarps made from cuben fiber, sil nylon, ARE CRAZY EXPENSIVE. I was looking anywhere between $167-$300. Hell no. But then! I found the Tad pole! Shout out to Marty from Wilderness Logics (great company in NC) who answered my questions. At only 11.5oz and 132”x92” FOR ONLY $90!! Amazing! And then you can customize it to fit your needs, add on cord pockets, doors, pullouts, tri-loops. I absolutely love this tarp! I sewed on lineloc 3s to each webbing loop for my lines and got some Dutch Stingerz for my Ridgeline (love them too!). I also got some sweet mesh tarp sleeves to store my tarp in, make set up even easier, and allow¬†my tarp to dry a little even when stored away. It’s also nice that you can set up your tarp in the sleeves above your hammock, but take off the sleeves when you want your tarp open. Katharina is the women who makes them in this cozy cottage in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and she is the best! Derek from the Ultimate Hang also deserves a huge shout out! He gave me the stepping-stones, tools, and pro advice on how to create the ultimate hammock using what I already have, DIY, and inexpensive alternatives.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm

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I’ve always used a sleeping pad in my hammock but I wanted an upgrade (Plus when sleep in shelters I can had a nice pad to sleep on) Something lighter than what I had a ton times warmers. The Xtherm is just that! It’s 15oz but made to be a winter sleeping pad. It has two¬†layers of triangular baffles to create a ton¬†insulating cells, which slows convective heat loss.Hammocks sleep cold and I want to make sure I keep warm on the AT. This paired with my quilt I think I will be just fine. Just like the reviews said, it is loud and crinkly (albeit less noisy than the XLite). I am used to a durable thicker material and the XTherm does seem a lot more fragile. ¬†I don’t feel quite comfortable carrying this on the outside of my pack, but maybe if I find a good bag or something to wrap it in I can keep it on the outside.

EnLIGHTened Equipment Enigma 850DT Sleeping Quilt

So cozy!

So cozy!

I realized I needed a new sleeping bag when 0* bag left my freezing in Isle Royale temps of ¬†20s and ¬†low 30s. Upon researching I discovered the joys of quilts! No zipper, no hood and open on the bottom. The rating of your sleeping bag or quilt doesn’t matter when you lay on top of it. Your weight pushes down the insulation and it essentially becomes non existent. Which is why hammocks are colder. You have air blowing under you rather than ground that helps insulate you. So with the help of a sleeping pad under you (or a under quilt under your hammock) you can stay just as warm with a quilt. I am really nervous about being cold so I knew a down quilt would be the best. But there is lots of rain on the AT and down and water are not best buddies. Then I heard about a great company in Winona, MN called Enlightened Equipment. All bags are custom-made to your size and needs. The Enigma 850DT is perfect. It has DownTek treated down that is resistant to moisture. The bottom is also completely sewn up around the feet and to the catfish area to help keep your dogs nice and toasty. It comes with straps to attach to your sleeping pad if you want. This bag is so warm and perfect! I haven’t stopped sleeping in it since I got it. And Tim¬†Marshall¬†was so friendly and super helpful! He whipped this puppy out in under a week! This combined with my Sea to Summit silk liner and my Xtherm, I think I will be nice and warm!

Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles

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These babies are 15.9 oz and I got an amazing price for them on Steep and Cheap. Seriously I saved buckets. If you want to save buckets on your gear, Steep and Cheap is the way to go. I have never used hiking poles before, so I know that I am bound to look ridiculous when I start, but once I figure out how to use them I am sure they will be great. Also when I got them I had no idea they were purple and greenish. Super cute. That’s what hiking’s all about right? Also the inside of the straps are like this furry fleece. They make your hands feel like princesses.

Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 Gtx Trail Runners with Superfeet Green Insoles

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I’ve decided to hike with a trail runner because I had heard they are better in the long run for your feet. They are more breathable than hiking boots, a little more flexible, dry faster, and might not give you quite as many blisters. They also run a bit large so I went with a size 8.5. I also invested in a pari of Superfeet insoles (Green) so help protect my joints a little more and hopefully ease up on my knees a little. They provide mad support and feel really sturdy under my feet. I need to break them in more as they can be slippery on rocks, but I feel pretty confident they will last awhile. I also have an amazing pair of Merrel hiking boots that I recently started thinking about hiking in initially while it is still cold and sending my Salmons when it warms up. I am still deciding on that.

JetBoil Sol

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My only experience with camp stoves is those and Camp U-Nah-Li-Ya. I’ve grown used to them, love them and have learned their parts and how to repair them. I am used to having to work and wait for your water to boil, and I love it! However, I decided that since I think that I will mostly be boiling water anyways rather than cooking 20 pancakes and a cauldron full of nugget of gold, I wanted something that could do it fast. And boy does the Jetboil deliver! Boils water in under 2 minutes, stores inside of itself, weighs 10.5oz, and if when I am tired of having ramen everyday,¬†there is the option to get a pot support and jetboil pan that work with the stove. It is so user-friendly, it’s almost scary. It actually is scary though, your turn the fuel on, hit the igniter switch and BOOM! Almost Insta-Boil! Its great!It’s capacity is 0.8L and has a quaint insulating cozy and handle attached to it. Bring on the ramen!

Water!! Sawyer Mini Water Filter and 2 1L Platypus Water Bottles

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I was recommended this water filter by a great friend of mine, unbeknownst to the all of the amazing reviews of this little guy! Simply fill up your water bottle, screw the filter on top, and drink from it! It weighs a tiny 2 oz and is good for 100,000 gallons, filters %99.9999 of bacteria and protozoa. It also comes with a straw and the pump to clean it. So far it’s been working great and I’m excited to use it on trail. I also am bringing 2 1L Platypus water bottles. They are collapsable and can stow away if empty. I will also¬†bring the bottom half of a plastic water bottle to fill up the platypus in the times where there is a weak water flow. I am not bringing a hydration bladder, I have a feeling I will end up getting one but I am going to try without for right now.

SPOT Satellite Messenger

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This is what is going to allow my mom to sleep at night! This nifty gadget sends my GPS location every 10 minutes and also allows me to send 2 custom messages to check in with my folks. It alerts them via email (also texts, but you have to have a national carrier for them to receive them) which is pretty sweet. There is also an SOS button that I can use in a life or death situation. When I push SOS, it alerts the emergency services and hundred off helicopters come rescue me! Or something like that. But for real, it’s pretty neat and allows my parents to look to go to a website and check my path and location to make sure I’m alive. Yay!

Patagonia Ultralight Down Jacket

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These down jacker was another amazing steal on steep in cheap. I think I got over %52 percent off. I am not a fan of the color, it kind of makes me feel like a leprechaun or shamrock shake, but it is nice and toasty.

Mountain Hardwear Solidus Pullover Fleece Jacket

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Found on Steep and Cheap, super comfy! Has pretty long sleeve, but I like that. Very warm and soft. Also has a extra large hood that is meant to go over helmets and such. I think it’ll be great going over the messy buns on top of my head. It’s perfect!

Icebreaker BodyFit Plus 200 Pace Leggings 

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Steep and Cheap. Meant for cold weather. Merino wool. Boom. I also have a pair of of reebok leggings that I already own and a pair of¬†Gramicci Native Art that I think are kind of retro, so I will also bring one of those. Icebreaker is also a pretty awesome company! They value the sheep ¬†and employees of their company and you can even trace your specific piece of clothing to the original farm! It’s pretty neat.

Icebreaker BodyFit 200 Oasis Crew Long-Sleeve

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Found on Steep and Cheap (can you tell lived there?). Merino wool, nice and warm and comfy.

Icebreaker Bolt Crew Top  and Nike Dri-fit short sleeves

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Steep and Cheap. Tighter fitting, but still pretty comfy and made our of merino wool. I also have 2 other nike dri fit shirts that I already have. I will bring 2 t shirts to start and then swap one out for a new one when they get tired of hiking. I like this shirt because it’ll keep me warm when it’s cool outside but then will also wick moisture and sweat away when it is warm outside. Versitile. I like it.

Sports Gym Girl Ultra Skirt

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Found on Steep and Cheap. Seriously the most comfortable thing I have ever worn. Has built in shorts that don’t slide around and prevent chaffing, great coverage, and it was at a price I couldn’t pass up. Not sure how I feel about the color though, kinda…you know. But when it warms up I will try this out and see how it goes!

Bridgedale WoolFusion Trekker Socks

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Read amazing reviews about these socks! Think Smartwool but more awesome! Plus they are made in the UK so they make me feel exotic. Amazing costumer service too, they helped me pick out the perfect pair. I went with a midweight and they feel great in and out of my hiking shoes.

Stoic Merino 200 Boy Boxers

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Founds these babies on Steep and Cheap as well. Ultra comfy and made from merino wool. I had read that the seams get twisted when you wash them, so I just stitched a couple of X’s in various places to keep the band in place. I will bring 2 pair and will have a 3rd sent at some point to swap out. They are seamless and are just overall comfy. And dat merino wool doe! So great.

Food

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I am bringing 7 days of food to star with. I also have 7 mail drops planned for along the trail. I organized everything in ziplocs and then put breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, in a gallon ziploc just to keep a little order in the food bag. Lots of instant pasta, rice, couscous, and power bars. I am also making homemade granola that will have lots and lots on good nutrients in it and be super delicious. My initial food bag weighs (without the granola yet) a little over 11 pounds.

AWOLs (David Miller)Guidebook

Cover 2014 NB shopping cart

I don’t need anything else as long as I have this! Tell me milage, elevation, nearest shelters, towns, what’s in the towns, places to stay, resupply, etc. Fabulous!

Everything else

Other items I have: 2 sportsbras, my tevas for camp shoes, rain jacket (heavier one for now and then I’ll switch to a lighter one. I’ve had both for a few years) ¬†rain pants, lighter, spork, journal, a book, headlamp, phone, ear plugs, knife, first aid kit, sewing kit, rope, duct tape, toilet paper, toothbrush and toothpaste, Dr. Bronners soap, maybe a camera, hat, gloves, sunglasses, baseball cap, and I think that’s all!

 

Thank you so much for reading! Feel free to comment on anything, give advice, ask a question, etc! It’s appreciated!