Top of Georgia Hostel – the end of the line. 

As nice as the hostel is, the bunkbeds here have the same crappy thin rubber mattress I experienced at Mountain Crossing. The lack of room mates allowed me to repurpose another mattress and double up my comfort level a little. For some crazy reason, I had signed myself up for breakfast this morning at 7. Seemed like a good idea last night. Not so much this morning as I lay there listening to my alarm, trying to convince myself to get up. The alternative is that I don’t eat until the shuttle takes me into town at 1pm. That’s a long time to wait for breakfast.

Mark on the AT 2015 3

This dog has thru-hiked the AT!

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Day 7 – Dick’s Gap, how ironic – yeah I really do think

It was mostly downhill this morning, and by downhill I mean that the trail went down, then back up, then down some more then up then…you get the picture. These are also known as PUD’s. Pointless Up and Down’s! Actually this section really wasn’t all that bad but I still hadn’t recovered energy wise from the previous day and had been keeping a record pace covering about 7.5 miles in roughly 5 hours. The plan at the moment is to make it to Dick’s Gap where I’m going to take at least a couple of days off at a hostel, maybe more.

Except a bathroom break at the Swag of the Blue Ridge here (there’s a really nice spot behind one of the trees, just watch your step), I managed those 5 hours without a break. Continue reading

AT Day 6 – What’s more fun than climbing a mountain on the Appalachian Trail? How about climbing three in one day?

After getting up a few times to make some micro adjustments to my hammock and UQ, I have to say I slept quite well. Love, love the new hammock. Although quite light, the rain kept us company most of the night. Save for the torrential biblical type stuff, I very much enjoy hiking and camping when it’s raining. As usual I’m in no hurry to get going this early in the morning. Karen is up and packed before I can finish my tea. She heads out while I tend to my new blisters and contemplate how far I want to hike today. I decide to try a tip I picked up at Mountain Crossing yesterday and cover all the blister ban aids with duct tape. That’s right, I duct taped my feet! It’s all about the sex appeal out here, you know.

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AT day 5, should I stay or should I go?

So apparently it’s been a while since my last update from the AT. In fact this update is pretty far from the AT all together. I love how life can grab a hold of the handlebars and take you off in a different direction so quickly. You have this idea of what you want to do, where you want to be but things you never expected pop up and all of a sudden you’re in a completely different place than you had envisioned.

“And you may find yourself, living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself, in another part of the world
And you may ask yourself, well…how did I get here?”

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AT Day 4, a nero at Neel Gap

Fantastic sleep last night. I do my typical learn how to walk, tea and Cliff bar thing. I also pay my respects at the privy which turns out to be the cleanest yet. Exton asks if he can hike with me this morning and we head out together. He’s hiking back to his car by Neel Gap and I’ve decided to take a NERO at Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap. What’s a NERO? Where a ZERO is basically a day off where you hike zero miles, a nero is one where you hike nearly zero miles. Nero. Neel Gap is 2.8 miles away which makes this a nero day. Although I feel well rested and my knee feels better than last night, there’s definitely something going on with it and I think taking most of the day off will help. Continue reading

AT Day 3, hammock city

I wake to water splashing onto the mesh and into my hammock, as another wild storm passes overhead. It’s 5am and the rain has picked up back to Monsoon again. Biblical even. This has to be the hardest rain I’ve ever camped in. I reach under the hammock to feel the my UQ. Wet and mucky, again. UGH! “Forget it, I’ll deal with it when I get up in a couple of hrs,” I think to myself as I doze back off. Lori and I once slept in our hammocks during the tail end of a hurricane and didn’t get this wet. I think it helped that we had nice thick grass under the hammocks to help absorb the rain while the hard packed dirt beneath me tonight is doing the exact opposite. It seemed like such a perfect spot last night when I was setting up.

A couple of hours later, I try unsuccessfully, to tune out the voices I hear just outside my floating palace of one. Ok so setting up the hammock directly in front of the shelter where everyone congregates, may not have been the most perfect spot. It’s daylight and still raining. Might as well get up and assess the sitch. The piece of Tyvek I use as a ground sheet under the hammock, and my hiking shoes sitting on top, are completely caked with muck. The UQ is still damp and also covered with muck. As an added bonus, I find my hiking shorts have fallen off the top of the hammock and are laying in the mud completely covered, nice. Continue reading

AT – Day 2, a poop in the woods

Usually it takes me a day or two to get comfortable sleeping in the woods but I have to say I slept fantastic last night. Had to force myself to get up and leave my little floating cocoon. My calves screamed at me the second my feet hit the ground. The ladies said they slept pretty well, and didn’t fall out of their hammocks – woohoo! I made a tea and slowly packed up camp, calves feeling better with every step. I don’t typically eat breakfast first thing in the morning so I forced a Cliff bar down before heading out.

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Pretty quiet hiking most of the day, almost tranquil. The forest tends to insulate the sound pretty well, and there’s definitely a lot of forest here. I pulled into Hawk Mountain shelter at mile marker 8.1 and found a couple of guys packing up their gear. I was hoping to use the privy and to re-fill on water at the water source my map book indicated was .1 mile behind the shelter. Continue reading

AT – Day 1, conquering Springer

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Strange but I was actually feeling nervous, you know, like before an interview butterflies-in-the-tummy-nervous. So I’m not sure if it was the nerves or the food at the lodge or what, but man was I happy to have a full bathroom for some quality one on one porcelain time this morning. First thing after getting up – hit the bathroom, unpacked my new gear – bathroom, text Lori – bathroom, went for breakfast – bathroom. It was a nicely tiled bathroom, something you’d find in a more upscale hotel. Talked to Lori on the phone for a bit. Apparently she didn’t get home till after midnight, yuck. I re-packed my backpack with the few extra goodies I had shipped to the hostel the previous day, and went in for one final round in that super snazzy bathroom before hitting the trail at the crack of 11.

Lori text me: “just remember Andrew Skurka’s words. Hiking is a tortoise’s game, not a hare’s.
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And so a new adventure begins: The Appalachian Trail.

We’ve talked about doing this hike for a long time. Initially we considered doing it together but after a short test hike a couple of years ago, Lori decided that she didn’t love it as much as me. Something about not enjoying climbing mountains all day long, non-stop sweating and the constant bugs. With that in mind she gave me the green light to go hike.

It took Lori & I a couple of days to drive down to Georgia, about 1300km’s (800 miles), where the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail is. We left pretty late the first day and then got delayed at the border. “So how long you gonna be in the states?” I was asked. “Oh about 3 months,” I replied. Seemed to be the wrong answer as it prompted even more questions followed by: “well that’s a long time so you’re gonna have to go see immigration and talk to them.”

Surprisingly it only took about 30 min to clear immigration. I say surprisingly because when we arrived, the room was full of people. I couldn’t help but wonder what they do with Snowbirds every year. “Yes I’ll be here for 6 months!”  I think the correct answer lies somewhere between 1-2 weeks.

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That space in between

So I’ve been home for a couple of weeks and have to admit that I’m feeling a little deflated, bored, and maybe even a little depressed. It’s hard to come off a year of constant motion, of picking up daily and moving on to somewhere new and exciting, and just STOP. Even harder to come off the adrenalin packed month I’ve had in California; flying high in a formation clinic, driving a sling shot or munching on a Schat’s Bakery sandwich at a quiet overlook while staring out at the ever captivating Sierras. It’s kind of hard to get excited about watching traffic go by outside our window and reading the weekly Canadian Tire flyer with my morning tea. UGH! I’ve tried to get out as much as I can but even hiking on the local trails is a little anti-climactic after hiking out west.

Maybe it’s the post adventure doldrums. Maybe I’m feeling this way because everything associated with “here” has to do with our former eat/work/sleep lives. Maybe reality lies somewhere in between, I have no clue. Continue reading