DAY 1: DICK'S CREEK GAP, GA TO BLY GAP, NC
We could hardly wait to get started on our next A.T. adventure! The ride from where we left our car to Dick's Creek Gap took only a few minutes and before we knew it, we were standing there, ready to embark on Day 1 of our 5 day trek. The excitement in the air was palpable as we did our final gear check and cheered our departure along with several other hikers who arrived at the Gap to stage their own vehicle. There was a mutual, "Let's do this," shared between us all!
And our trek began....
We had nine miles to go before reaching our destination for the night, Bly Gap, NC. I went into this hike completely out of shape, having done very little other than a few knee exercises, so the task I was undertaking loomed larger than life ahead of me. I chose to bring this fact to light now because I know there are so many people out there who use the excuse, "I'm out of shape so there's no way I could ever go for a hike in the mountains, especially not a multi-day hike." Some probably honestly believe this to be true. To all of you I say, "Just do it!" Don't get me wrong...being in good physical condition is definitely a plus when starting out on an undertaking of this nature...but it's not an absolute, do-or-die requirement. The trail will whip you into shape. Trust me on that one. So...I was out of shape from having been relatively sedentary since my section hike last June, but our spirits were high and we managed to keep them that way for the most part.
The terrain that first day didn't let us down. It was quite the challenge to get those muscles we rarely used back at home into the mode of carrying our own weight plus that of our packs for miles at a time. We were met several times throughout the day will large trees that had fallen down across the trail, requiring us to climb up and somehow slip over the massive trunks....all without falling over on our faces. Still, we were met with awe-inspiring natural beauty with every twist and turn of the trail
We've found that it works better for us if we stop for a hot lunch each day. This not only fuels our bodies but also gives us a much-needed break from carrying our packs. In hindsight, I think the one thing we don't do often enough is stop, take the packs off and just rest for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Most of our snacks are eaten during a quick stop where we take only enough time to consume our tasty treat before continuing on. Yes, we do have a destination to reach each night, but I think breaks might be the key to reaching our goal while going a little easier on ourselves....at least until we get our "hiker legs" on. Our lunch stop on Day 1 was at Plum Orchard Gap.
It might sound silly, but I take pictures of all the signs we come to along the trail. I do this so I can remember exactly where we've tread. When we came across these next signs, it began to feel a bit different. We weren't far from the GA/NC state line, the crossing of which I'd been anticipating for a year. It represented a milestone for me....I would be able to check one state off my list of 14.
We were still 3.1 miles from our stopping point for Day 1 and I'd be lying if I said we weren't feeling all that the mountains had already handed us but knowing that I'd be accomplishing a goal of mine kept that smile on my face. Every now and then, we'd just stop and stand there, listening to the birds singing all around us. There really is nothing like the peacefulness that I find all around me when I'm on the trail...it's one of the reasons I seek it out as often as I can.
Okay...drum roll please....wait for it.....wait for it.....
|(Sorry this one's a little blurry)|
The sense of accomplishment I felt as I stood, looking at the rather unremarkable GA/NC state line crossing sign is sort of indescribable for me. In the scheme of the entire 2185 miles of the A.T., it was very small but for me, it was something I'd worked VERY hard for over my 3 section hikes and my Approach Trail hike. I'd finally made it out of Georgia! We joked about how the state of Georgia didn't hesitate to let the door hit us in the butt as we left the state behind. I'd done Georgia. Knowing that kept me smiling for a long time.
Once we crossed the state line, our campsite wasn't far.
With plenty of daylight left, Scott set out on the task of starting a fire while Debbie pitched our tents. My job during all of this is to make us all a hot cup of coffee!
Now, I'm the planner of the group. Scott and I both keep a close check on the weather in the area before we leave Florida. So, I had looked at the 10 day forecast and seen the nighttime temps ranging in the mid to upper 50's. It just didn't register so we were a bit unprepared for the gusty, chilly winds and the 56-59 degree temps each night at camp....
|Yes...I know...I look beautiful!|
|Again, a little blurry, but you get the idea...we were cold!|
|Hey...you do what you've got to do to stay warm!|
We made use of whatever we had to try to at least block the wind. We simply didn't think about the fact that we'd be arriving at camp each night, soaked with sweat, only to be met with wind and cooler temps. Guess that's what happens when Floridians head for the mountains. We learned a very valuable lesson...we'll never leave home again without some kind of jacket! When all was said and done, however, we survived the elements on Day 1. Something else we've learned is that no matter how tired you might feel, climbing into your tent super-early isn't usually the best option. It doesn't take long for the exertion of the day to set in and that ground starts to feel very hard and uncomfortable. I've found ways around most of the other issues the trail presents, but for me, no matter how "high-end" I go with my sleeping pad, I've yet to find a way to spend the night comfortably. On a high note, when I left Dick's Creek Gap earlier that day, I did so figuring that I'd spend 4 sleepless nights in my tent, being terrified of all things that go bump in the night. Not once did I experience that fear so I'm making progress!
We awoke the next morning and went through our typical morning ritual....coffee, breaking camp, and eating our oatmeal. We knew we were going to be hit right off the bat with a formidable climb. Standing Indian Mountain loomed ahead, still a day away, taking us up to 5498 feet in elevation, the highest we would reach on this hike. Leaving Bly Gap, we would be hanging in above 4000 feet in elevation for the remainder of our trek once we reached Courthouse Bald (4666 ft, up from 3840 ft) . The sun was shining bright and the birds were singing loudly as we headed out of camp...almost as if they wanted to cheer us on as we walked head-on into our first climb of the day.
We set our sights northbound....onward weary hikers! Standing Indian awaits but we must first conquer Courthouse Bald and Yellow Mountain!