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Weminuch Wilderness Area

Hike Reports: Appalachian Trail 2017 (Chronological)

Hike with Gravity

I successfully completed a northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on October 8, 2017. My daily journal appears here in chronological order. If you prefer, read the posts in reverse chronological order here.

Training Hike, Carvers Gap to U.S. 19E
Tell me why, tell me why, is it hard to make arrangements with yourself?

The plan for this weekend was to get in one last overnight training hike. The plan was for it to be the first test in cold weather of my full sleep system, and to make sure all of my other gear was fit for a thru-hike. The plan was to confirm I was prepared, that I was physically and mentally ready to hike from Georgia to Maine. There wasn't much about this weekend that went as planned.

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Recovery Walk in my Neighborhood
I wish I was a headlight on a northbound train

For several months I have been focused on today, the day I was to step off from Springer Mountain, Georgia, and begin a 5-6 month walk to Mount Katahdin, Maine. A week ago those plans were put on hold when I had surgery to repair a hernia.

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Training Hike, North Old Mac to South Old Mac Loop
But I guess I'll get there, though I wouldn't say for sure

As soon as I felt up to it after my hernia repair surgery, I have been trying to steadily increase my activity. The first few days I took walks in my neighborhood of about 1.75 miles, 2.5 miles, 5 miles, and then 8.3 miles. I felt ready today to finally get back to my old training site, Frozen Head State Park, for some real hiking and a better assessment of how I'm doing.

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Making a Few Final Preparations (Finally)
Doctor, doctor, give me the news

When my doctor said I had to have hernia repair surgery, I expected I would only need to delay my thru-hike attempt by about three weeks. Instead of leaving on March 7, I could leave any time after April 1. That was my presumption, you must understand. I knew I didn't have the final say.

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Day 0, On the Way to Springer Mountain
I think it's about time, time for us to begin

It took most of the day before I realized why this day felt so unreal, as though it wasn't really happening. For more than 10 years this was always a day that was coming "someday."

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Day 1, Springer Mtn. to Devil's Kitchen
Well the first days are the hardest days

There's an expression thru-hikers often repeat. No rain. No pain. No Maine. I still had 2,189.8 miles to go to reach Maine, but as I stepped today off the summit of Springer Mountain, I already had the rain and the pain. They continued for much of the day.

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Day 2, Devil's Kitchen to Jarrard Gap
Why don't we do it in the road

This was a day of improvisation, which I am quickly learning is an important skill to have when hiking long distances. It began slowly. I soon regretted that I had chosen to take my time waking up and getting on the trail.

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Day 3, Jarrard Gap to Neel Gap
I'm looking for a chateau, twenty-one rooms but one will do

I wasn't eaten by a bear last night. That's a plus for any night in the woods. I didn't even see a chipmunk or squirrel. Now the next thing to focus on was the approaching weather.

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Day 4, Neel Gap to Low Gap
Run me out in the cold rain and snow

Some people might describe the weather of this day as bleak or nasty. I thought it was glorious.

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Day 5, Low Gap to Tray Mountain
I have seen where the wolf has slept by the silver stream

There is only one thing a hiker likes more than food, and that's free food. Today was that kind of trail magic and it happened twice!

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Day 6, Tray Mountain to Dick’s Creek Gap
A band of angels coming after me

If you only think about the Appalachian Trail as a footpath that runs from Georgia to Maine you are not fully understanding the trail. For you see, it is not just a place to walk a long distance. It is a community. In many cases, the community members are strangers to each other, yet they all share a common interest in the hiking experience. For some, that interest comes not just in hiking, but in making the experience better for other hikers.

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Day 7, Dick’s Creek Gap to Bly Gap
And so I wrestle with the angel

The argument I had in my head last night, which started after my conversation with trail angel Miss Janet, continued through the day. As I left Hiawassee and resumed my hike I kept hearing her say, "You're going too fast."

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Day 8, Bly Gap to Beech Gap
Fire, fire on the mountain

The ability to create and control fire is one of the few things that distinguishes us humans from all of the other creatures of the planet. Sadly, there are times we do not use it wisely. Today as I hiked up and over Standing Indian Mountain, I saw the damage fire can cause when someone decides to strike a match and burn a forest.

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Day 9, Beech Gap to Rock Gap
If the horse don't pull, you got to carry the load

"The trail provides" is a phrase frequently uttered by thru-hikers. It speaks of an uncanny likelihood that, at any particular moment when you are in desperate need of something, your need will be fulfilled. This usually happens in an unexpected way. Today I learned the truth of that phrase.

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