Day 43 500 miles

Tues 22nd May

I woke around 5.30 and dozed until  6am, before getting up ,I let down my mat  before wandring off to the loo. on my way back I collected my food bag, then  I grabbed my pack and took it outside the shelter so as not to wake people . I  went back and grabbed  my mat and sleeping bag. once outside I stuffed my bag into its stuff sack then rolled up my mat.once done assembled my stove and put on a brew  before making breakfast.
I continued to pack as I sipped my tea. when I  was ready I slung my pack onto my back and headed out  it was 7. 30.
I knew it was going to be a day of climbing so  wanted to  have an early start .The trail started off nice ,  a lovely tread just how I like it but it wasnt long until  it  quickly began to climb  snd  become  knarly and rocky. My poorly foot didn’t like this as every knock sent painwaves up my leg with the odd swear word, but I continued on. later i came to a field of cows I was busy trying to photograph one that I did not hear the hiker approaching me and almost jumped out of my skin.
Sorry Snail didn’t mean to scare you!!
I left the cows and continued climbing, after about an hour I was  at the top with amazing views .
This is why we climb mountains.!!
I continued climbing until I met all the girls who were at the previous shelter. They had  camped on top of the mountain.
We’re you not cold I asked?
Bloody freezing came the reply.
I laughed and carried on
The trail snaked down then around  the mountain before climbing once more
As I walked I noticed a sign for water, so stopped and  filled up it looked and tasted good that i didnt bother to filter.

As i crossed over the road there were some bags of crisps and home made cakes (Trail magic) I grabbed a muffin and bag of crisps. thanks you x.
The trail today was horrid or rather horrid for me it was rocks and  roots or sludgy water. When it’s raining I would normally plough straight throughthis stuff.
Today seemed just hard work and my foot being fragile and tender was not helping.
The hours ticked by, I should be at the shelter by now ?
At last the trail  began to decend  and soon i entered  a  car park, with  toilets. Such a treat when your hiking  lol.
I decided to have a break and take lunch. I had almost finished when it began to rain.
I quickly put my food away , put on my pack cover before  visited the loo. INside the loo was a trash can ,so I quickly returned with my trash.
I pushed on , my  next climb was mount Robert’s,  which was  the mountain that i  thought that i had climbed earlier.! Once again it was more rock and slushy mud , I think I crossed about 50 streams,There was so much  water , water every where and I was still climbing.
I stopped an checked my map, the shelter was  still miles away . I must admit to becoming a bit angry with myself , my foot and the terrain as I had left early and still has miles to go.
Then I noticed horses, these are wild in Virginia. then a deer bounced out in front of me scarring me to death a d I sloped and fell into the boggy stream . dazed a d sho ked I picked myself up .luckily now damage. and walked o . sat on a rock I. fro t as toast surrounded by ponies and several very young foals. it waz lovey to see.

I moved on and eventually arrived at the shelter. it was o lyvwhen k began to look at my maps that i realized that this shelter was much further away than normal. in fact this one was almost twice the distance away .so that’s why I hadn’t reached it by 11.30 Doh Stupid Snail. I took off my shoes and had a proper break . ate some more snacks .

This was the shelter with the Bear issue. a bear had before rather clever and was managing to steal peoples food bags . he had broken off 8″ tree limbs yo steal the food and so the rangers had, had to install bear boxes (Big tool chests) for people to put their food into.

I studied my maps the next shelter was 6 more miles away ….. Yes I can do that so set off. passing several of the new bear boxes.

As I dropped down into the next meadow I could see more horses and longhorn cows

As I walked through the gate I noticed a very new foal lying in the grass oh bless.

But I needed to push on . again out of the meadow and back to rock and some crazy climbing unroll I came to

500 miles whoop whoop just under 1/4 walked I felt so good and began to.push on with a great smile on my face

I I dropped down I came to a stretch of tea that the trail guys have been working on Thank You so much . rocks had been flattened . steps installed the trail bed graded and filled with varying sizes of stone it was amazing and no easy feat.

So thank you so so every much as it was s joy to walk down . Toast had once again caught me up . well she’s younger and fitter. we chatted as we counted fown the miles to the next shelter. she asked me question on the PCT. the shelters the water a d I gladly answered. we were chatting so much the miles flew and soon we had arrived. it was all very near and tidy 2 privys but there was only room for one and no camping aroundcthe shelter….. Weird. I let toast have my spot and I decided to hike on . I had just left when booom went the thunder. oh dear I thought need to find somewhere quick.

I stopped by river and filled up my bottles. then headed out I ended up alking for about  2 miles before spotting a place.
I dropped my pack and my tent was soon up and tea was on

7pm and my day is done.

mile 504.5. miles hiked 18.5

Start 486
Finish 504.5
mileage 18.5 miles
Remaining 1686 Miles

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Chores

I slept really well.But it was no good I need to do my chores.
First on the list Walmart. Google said that  it was a  22 minutes walk,so off i went and soon arrived at the store. I zipped up the aisles dropping stuff into my trolley. The problem with large stores like Walmart  is that the packs  are always far bigger than the amounts you actually needs only my want a so  you end up buying a big box .oh well.
I was pleased with my shopping . oh gas I need gas, typically they only  sell the medium size which is not a problem as it will last longer. Okay all done. Next my phone.
The lady in the phone dept. was really good and allowed me to try a Verizon sim, it gave us Wi-Fi but nothing else so I reluctantly went with AT&T
Once paid I made my way to a bin and discarded all the outer wrappings to make my shopping lighter for the walk back

In my shopping i had purchased 2 x 1.5 liter smart water bottles as these are the prefect  bottle  to carry as they  fit easily  into the side pockets of  your pack. But  why the hell did i not  pour the water away rather than struggling back  with  the weight !!!!!

As I got to the road I noticed that I had lost my necklace, bollocks but I was not going to stroll back to look for it, as it was a long way back to the hotel carrying my heavy shopping. I was so pleased when I finally arrived  back to my room..I put on the air con and collapsed on the floor.
Once revived I began to decent my food into zip-locks and then into my pack which began to grow in weight. Too much stuff Snail .too much.!!
Once done I re organised my bounce box before sealing it. Typically once sealed I came across more gear that needed to be inside it . bollocks I said to myself ,I  will just dump the excess gear.
OKAY post office, I put my bounce back into it’s suitcase and headed for the post office. As most people drive it was  not an easy walk.
I eventually arrived all sweaty and hot, passed over my box and other items paid the postage and then could relax

NB

When you post an item in the USA
DO NOT LOSE  THE TRACKING NO!!!

Maybe even take a Photo!!

I will explain about this later

My chores are now done apart from a shuttle I will do that later.
On the way back I decided  to explore the town as I really fancied a beer
Eventually I came across an Irish bar called Shenanigans. It sounded perfect to me and it was. My first beer was 7.5 % that’s rocket fuel for us Brits but god it was so tasty. I ordered some chips with bacon and salsa which was delicious. I chatted to several people at the bar as it was so friendly . So check out Shenanigans in Dahlonega a Great place.

http://theshenaniganspub.com/

once back at my hotel I arranged my shuttle, Appalachian trail here I come whoop.
I best have a  early  night

3 Days to GO!!

3 Days to Go

OH MY GOD its Saturday and I fly out Monday where have those months gone .
It’s been a long time coming but it’s now here

I  have Georgia on my mind , sing up every one . And you Ray

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glggureA_Kk

I  repacked my  pack for the last time , Yes it’s all in there , at  last I can put  it into  its  own bag or “Transporter” as Osprey call them.
My Bounce box is packed and I have a cheap suitcase to put it in , I’m hoping that I can be able to get that on as  hand luggage otherwise, it’s a few more shillings to put it in the hold,
I  need to check my  locations  , where I am sending my bounce and resupply points for the first weeks and then i may relax ..

Sunday I can chill,  have many hugs with my Dog Taylor, who I will miss dreadfully , even when the bugger eats my  dinner (fucker!!!)
He knows something is amiss as has not left my side, Bless.
I have Checked my flights I get in around 5 pm I estimate an hour to clear Immigration  then it’s an hour on the train to North springs

I will need a ride, Lift or Taxi to my Hotel in Dahlonega from North springs , But again I will worry about that later.
Once in Dahlonega , I plan to have a chill out day ha ha , That means shopping and the post office  nd then to the trail the next  day

Next post From Atlanta  Whoop

Transporter

My  Pack  in its  Transporter

 

Getting the Fidgits

Beginning to get fidgety now, I’m not one for waiting around, I just want to set foot on the trail.
I must admit I have been looking at a few hikers blogs, mainly their first few days. I really like a hiker called Amanda Bess, what I like is her pure honesty, from talking about taking a dump to working out what day it is by checking her birth control pills, She is such a Cheerful person which i love

It was whilst watching one of her videos I heard the expression “Snot Rocket “!
I thought I knew what it meant but googled it just to be sure.
( Yes it is as I thought.)
It’s when you hold a nostril and blow sending a jet of snot out of the open side then  repeat with the other side… This really made me laugh. I have done this many times when I hiked in the past but didn’t think that it had a name and in deed there are several YouTube videos showing you how to perfect such process.

Backpack

My  pack  is  ready, it just  needs hoisting onto my  back  and  for me to begin my  adventure. I am so stoked , not long to go now Whoop

 

A frustrating day,

20 days to go

Today has been a frustrating day,

I am planning to take my Samsung S7  phone with me , But  trying to  get  the correct information regarding  US sims  cards  is  driving me  nuts .
Before I brought this phone, I had long conversations with Samsung UK about being able to use it on a CDMA network. (It is what Verizon use in the US)
They  assured me  that if it was unlocked and had  been used in the UK  for at  least  48  hours  then it should  work, I also  checked with Samsung USA  and  they said  the same
However, Verizon the network that I was hoping to use say NO!

However, I cannot find anyone to confirm this,

It’s  all about coverage as I used AT&T when I hiked the PCT and they were worse than useless. So maybe I will sprint or T-Mobile …. Although I could buy a cheap compatible phone and hot spot it to my current phone ..

Oh well there’s no point worrying now until I  fly  in …

What else have I been doing , mainly avoiding gear shops.
But  I have packed and  unpacked my pack,  and I am happy with what I am carrying.
I have several extra bits of clothing, which I may shed, when I have a week or two under my belt.
I am planning to take a bounce box , but I am now having reservations
On the Pacific Crest Trail it was a necessity , but that isn’t the case on the AT,

Logistics

I have spent the day going through my plans

As I said, I am sending a bounce box that contains spare gear including two new pairs of shoes…
I plan to send it to Franklin  , this  will be  my shake down, so any items of kit I no longer need  I will place  in the box  or  grab  an item  from it  if needed.
I will then bounce my Box to  Damascus  mile 469,  This  is when I may require new  shoes , again if  I don’t need  I  will bounce  it  on to Harper’s ferry,
Later  if I change my mind I can then get  it back  or delivered to another location .
I have planned   4  bounces  after  that  I  may  not  need  it. Alternatively, I  may have abandoned it before the fourth bounce.

Proposed Bounce Box Locations

First Bounce, Franklin, This will be my shake down. Miles 118

Second Bounce, Damascus, Replace shoes. Mile 469

Third Bounce, Harper’s Ferry, Replace shoes. Mile 1019

Fourth Bounce, Great Barrington, Possibly last bounce. Mile 1520

Dahlonega

After flying  in to Atlanta  I  plan to  catch  the Marta  which  is a light railway. This will take me to North springs that should reduce my costs of getting to Dahlonega
From here to Dahlonega  is  still TBC, the  Uber seems a good choice, maybe I can split a ride  with someone  when I get  there !
I hope to get to my Hotel around 8pm, grab some dinner and a beer and get a good night sleep,
In the morning I plan to  find a phone shop  and   get a US sim,  I would like to use Verizon  as  this  company seem to  offer the best coverage, so this will be my first choice.

Next  will be a visit to Walmart, to buy  food  for  the first few days that I am  on trial before heading back my hotel  to  decant   into  zip locks and loose  the packaging .
Finally to the post office,  to  send  my  bounce  box  and   maps  to various  locations up the trail
Once back at my hotel I will look at  possible  rides  to  the  trail  for the morning

And  relax !!!!
In the morning  my adventure will begin !!

Food Drops

From my research, it is recommended to send food drops to the following locations

Nantahala Outdoor  center (the NOC)  mile 137
Fontana,  mile 164,
Bland VA mile 587
Harper’s Ferry mile 1019
Caratunk mile 2034
Monson  mile 2070

From Franklin  I will send 3 days to the NOC  and 4 days  to Fontana
The  rest  I will  decide  as I get nearer  to  those  other Towns

Expensive, exciting, exhilarating

 

Georgia

The Appalachian Trail has moved a step closer

Flight to Atlanta   booked, I am flying in  on the 9th April,

Airplane

Hotel in Dahlonega Booked

Hotel

Hiking Insurance   Paid

Insurance

This may be optional for some people but maybe I am older and wiser

I am hiking in the elements for  up to six  months , hopefully  I  will make  it without incident.
But in the event of an issue I am covered, 5 million for hospitalisation , Repatriations and of course   Search & rescue, again it’s something I hope never to use

From the airport i plan to grab the Marta to North springs.Marta

This  is as far as my planning goes, as I need to get to my hotel in Dahlonega from this station. I will ponder than once I  am on the train.

What am I bringing?

I am bringing my Pack with all my gear in plus my bounce box

I am bringing a bounce box as I am from the UK so don’t have the luxury of  help in the US. I  will use it until  I no longer need  it . Yes I could buy these items in the US  But as the contents of my  box were acquired Free I will use it.
To make  my box cost effective, I will use Post offices, again these can be a pain due to their opening hours. But then if I  do not need anything  I will not have to pay again.

My Bounce box is a 9 liter Tough box containing

Two pairs of trail runners
Spare head torch & battery
maps
few treats
spare Clothes/ socks
my transporter (my bags, bag)

Counting down  the  days excitedly

 

Counting Down

 

The days seem to be whizzing by and my proposed start date is getting ever nearer
I am still aiming for April 10th -/+

I keep looking at my pack, unpacking and packing it. I know so much more now after completing my 2014 hike of the PCT, but I still have reservations.
Most of them are to do with my fitness and weight Oh dear!!

I plan to hike the Approach trail, an 8-mile trail. In the scope of 2,189 miles, 8 miles is a mere drop in the bucket.  Approximately 50% of starting thru-hikers begin their hike at Amicalola Falls State Park and walk the arduous 8-mile approach trail before their official white blaze adventure even begins

I am told that by hiking this trail   you get an accurate picture of what the Appalachian Trail is “you’ll simply be walking through the woods.”
But it’s hard the first mile is an 800-foot elevation increase up 604 stairs.
But I will arrive with a positive attitude and belief that hiking the approach trail will be a benefit to me with a no regrets
For most of us, this adventure is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Take advantage! Embrace it all…the natural beauty, the forest silence, the slow pace of using your legs as your transportation and embrace the parts that suck too.

Remember that all moments are part of the journey. I am not in a race, so I will take my time to get my hiking legs (and fitness) and the time to get to know myself as a hiker

You begin your journey at Amicalola Falls State Park famous archway
This beautiful memorable starting point photo. It also made its way into Bill Bryson’s movie, A Walk in the Woods. Robert Redford posed here!

 

Flights

I am yet to book my flights, which I will do shortly,
Flying into Atlanta  is straight forward, It’s  the flight back from Boston which I’m still pondering
Of course, it’s cheaper to buy a return, but then it’s a guesswork  on how many days will  it take me to  hike  the trail
It is  far  easier to slow down,  than it is to speed  up. And yes, flights can be moved but again that then cost money

I will worry about this later

Transportation

I am independent   and so I like to get my self about   and to the trail, so I thought it would be easy to get from the airport to   the trail
There appear to be two main towns Gainesville and Dahlonega.   Gainesville has public transport but doesn’t appear to have all that I need,
The bigger town of Dahlonega does but does not have public transport which is brilliant.

My initial plan depending on the timing of my flight.

If my flight gets in late, I will  stay over in Atlanta
Get to Dahlonega  next day, Book into  hotel,
Resupply, food  gas, post  items up the trail get phone  sorted   Sleep  zzz
Next day  get  from hotel  to  the trail

Sounds easy doesn’t it, my initial response was put it on Face book.
But all I got was use the shuttle, Use the Shuttle, you should use the shuttle

But on contacting these guys they are not cheap   well not to me   They charge varying prices around the $150. Obviously if you split one that would be a better option.
There must be a better way but sometimes it’s better to just pay up and be done.

But not me, so after more googling I find that there is the MARTA which is a local rail system, I can take this to   North Springs. Hopefully I can get a ride or hitch to Dahlonega   from there .
Then someone recommends Uber  so that’s is interesting … well its certainly cheaper .
I may wait till I am on the train and then see what happens,

Preparation

Well December has been and gone   and I am filled with anticipation and a little doubt
I am still shooting for late March early April,  that’s if I can go at all ,as I am still waiting for some personal stuff to be sorted.

My Pack sits in the spare room, its packed and ready to go,
It weighs in around 25lb I have never been a light hiker, but I am a warm and happy hiker. I always need to hike for a week to see how my gear behaves before giving my pack a shake down and bouncing gear ahead

Replacement gear

To be honest nothing is wrong with the gear that I hiked the PCT with, except my clothes as I dumped them all in Canada
But if I can get some shinny gear at a good price I will,
So, I wrote and pestered several gear suppliers and have been pleased with my haul so far , 40% off a camera, solar panel and new tent. I  now have a new Fly creek HV UL 3
I loved  the UL 3   when i hiked the PCT  so  i  am  excited  about  the HV

I have also swapped my faithful Exped Sim mat for a down mat , again there was nothing wrong with my Sim mat, except when I first went hiking I was a bit green and did not really know what I wanted, so it’s a little large. It’s a great mat, it  has never let me down on the Pct, but it’s just a little too bulky.
I think I drove the people mad at Exped as I wanted to try out all the current mats before I brought a new one . The problem is Exped seem quite picky who they sell too, and so I couldn’t find any local shops that stocked their products., the nearest being in Cambridge yes, its  a bit far from Oxford so I arranged to visit a relative, “killing 2 birds with 1 stone so to say “

The shop was called “Open Air”.  And wow, what a great shop, they hold a good range of hiking and outdoors gear and they knew their stuff   and so they  are not just

“Box shifters”

So, I would certainly recommend  a visit      https://www.openair.co.uk

Open Air  11, 12 & 15 Green Street, Cambridge, CB2 3JU

I like  how they left me to play with all the Mats at my leisure,until I  needed help . I was really interested in the SynMat UL7   or maybe the Syn Mat HL matt but instead just loved the Exped Down Mat UL Winter, it’s may be over kill for my hike, but it ticks all my boxes,

Exped

 

 

Its Light   
It packs small  
Its smaller that my current pad 
easy to inflate 
Easy to pack 

The UL 7 came a close 2nd but it was still a tad noisy.(for me)

What I also like about Exped is there inflation system the “Snozzel Bag”
It comes with this pad and when not being used doubles as a lightweight stuff sack, another tick

So, a fruitful journey to Cambridge, this pad wasn’t cheap, but I am a firm believer in you get what you pay for,

Snozzel Bag

Once home I inflated it several times with the “snozzel Bag” as there is a knack and I like to think I have mastered it and now can inflate my pad with about two puffs with the snozzel.
I like this method as 1, no moisture enters you pad, 2, Easy & quick to inflate (great when you arrive hot sweaty and exhausted   at camp, Bonus!

Pocket Rocket,

Pocket Rocket2
again nothing wrong with my pocket rocket, but the Pocket Rocket all packs down even smaller and will now fit into my pot.

 

Solar Panel

Solar expedition

Sadly, I lent my last one to  my Son and it was never seen again. So, I have gone for the Solar Monkey Expedition, Unlike the adventure it does not have an internal battery.  It  charges your devices live.  I’m keen to  try  this  out

AT Planning

How do you go about   planning to hike the Appalachian Trail?

In my experience   DON’T …….. Okay  you have to do a bit

when I  came  out  to  hike the PCT  , I came  out  with reams of  paper spread sheets  that  I promptly  put  into the bin after the  first  week

So in No Particular Order

What will the weather be like?

Bad weather can completely ruin a long-distance walk – not to mention making it more dangerous – so make sure you know what the local weather conditions should be for the time of year, and prepare yourself accordingly

What maps and guidebooks do I need?

Maps are essential (as is a compass), There are several official guides  that  AT  hikers  take , Some  are  broken down  and  sent  up  the  trail  tso  your not carrying the whole guide , Also electronic  apps  for  smart phones are widely  used

Awol Guide

What distances do I need to walk, and over what terrain?

So what mileage can you do? Are you a seasoned hiker or green, The AT unlike the Pct. has straight ups rather than switchbacks, and so if you cruised doing 25s on the Pct.  you may  struggle to do 20’s

Below are three useful planners 

Northbound 12 miles per day

Northbound 15 miles per day

Northbound  18 Miles per day

With all these plans  they  ease  you in gently  so  you  get  your  hiking legs   slowly   and  so  don’t burn out by week 1 ,

Be flexible  when  using these plans ,
if  you   get  to camp early, THEN STOP !!
There is an urge to go on DON’T
Make camp let your body rest

What about rest days? 

Only you can know your limits, but it’s wise to build in too many rest days rather than too few. Rest days out in the countryside are always rewarding, but having to walk when you’re exhausted is another matter altogether.

Resting Hikers

Have I got the right equipment?

There are so many  pages and  blogs  of  what  Kit  to  take , should I  be Ultra-Light .
I wouldn’t advise being ultra-light unless you are a seasoned hiker, Otherwise this can be worse than being too heavy.
You want to be comfortable, warm and well fed not cold, miserable and hungry
but what you take is a personnel thing. The At is a long way  so  you will have plenty of time to  try  kit swap  out what doesn’t work  or  buy  what  works  well .

Resupply

The AT  goes  through Many  towns  unlike the PCT  and  so  there is no need  to  carry  more  than  five  days  of  food  and  the  faster you hike  this  can  drop  to  four  days
But like many trails , your  main concern  will be water .

My Plans 

I will do a rough plan
concentrating on the first 2 weeks , and   resupply, Normally by  the second week you are in your stride(well almost)  you know what  you’re eating and know what mileage  you are comfortable  with .

I also   with do a spread sheet with the towns, and resupply points.
as  in coming from the UK, I like to use a bounce box  so  I will then guesstimate  where  I need to send  that  too,
I normally send  it  to a point around the 100  mile  mark,  this way  I  can swap any  kit  shake   down   etc. and too  a Post office , that way if I don’t need it  I’m not paying again . My next bounce point will be when I guesstimate my shoes will die    say around mile 600/700…
I then research  places  where I may   need to send  food drops, although  I believe the AT  isn’t  bad

So that’s my Draft plan,
Next……

where am I flying too?

The airport is normally fairly easy ,followed by where am I flying home from.
Then its  guess the trip duration ,Always  better  to allow  more  time as then you can change  your  flight  .

Where am I staying?

Hotel, Hotel, Trail Angel ,I like to unwind after my flight, resupply, chill, recheck my gear, Buy any last minute items, organize my Phone sim,

How do I get to the Trail?

is there a shuttle , bus train ? 

What shall I do in an emergency?

Hopefully you’ll never need to use it, but it’s essential to have a plan in case of emergency. Do you have a mobile phone that works on the trail? If so, do you have the relevant number for the emergency services? It’s also important to leave your itinerary with someone you know, or the local park authorities, so they can track you down if you don’t check in on your return. Other things to take are an emergency bivvy bag, a whistle and a basic medical kit.

 

The best way to become a good walker is to go out there and walk.
There’s no better way to learn about what to do than by actually doing it.

AT Trail