appalachian trail

AT Journals: Deep Gap Shelter To Muskrat Creek Shelter

Total miles – 16.4 including water stops

Well, today did beat all. Left the shelter and headed out into a lovely day. However, I ended coming upon another one of these little memorial medallions, and I can’t take it anymore. Let me explain. There was a murder on the trail about a week and a half before I went out, a horrible tragedy that rocked the hiking world. Some well meaning school teacher decided to have her class make these medallions that have been scattered across the miles I’ve been hiking. They contain the name of a hiker who has died on the AT. Geraldine Largay was from Brentwood, TN, and went by the trail name Inchworm. Her story is heartbreaking and a book just came out about her experience. Whoever put these things all over the trail maybe thought they were doing a good thing, but they were not. Not only does this violate Leave No Trace principles, it’s macabre for those of us out here hiking. I’ve been focusing on gratitude because there is honestly no place I’d rather be than out here, sweating up these hills. Today I am most thankful for the gentle breeze, streams that aren’t dried up, and the tiny triple antibiotic pouches in my first aid kit. I am also thankful for my health and the ability to hike.

I stupidly thought today wouldn’t be as hard as yesterday. I now think of Kelly Knob affectionately as a small hill. In fact, I enjoyed today a lot. When I met up with Big Red and two other thru hikers, he even said that yesterday felt like work. It did. But were we in for it…

I stopped several times today to clean my nose as it keeps oozing and looks beyond disgusting. I think it’s healing and is just getting rid of the bad stuff. I’m starting to get a black eye, which is really the icing on the cake at this point. The hiker from Denver asked me if I took a spill, so I told the story for like the 8th time. Rob said I need to say that I beat the shit out of a mountain lion, so that’s officially my new story.

As I was walking today, up and down every freaking hill and mountain in the god awful state of Georgia, I kept thinking that doing this is truly a naturalist’s dream experience. I kept finding awesome caterpillars, saw a garter snake and a ring neck snake, toads, salamanders, mushrooms, weird looking bugs, and so many amazing plants and trees. I’m reading a book about forests right now and how trees communicate with each other, and I keep thinking about it as I’m passing through these forests. If I didn’t love nature so much, I’m not sure what my reason for doing this would be.

The finish line of GA was propelling me forward today. When I got to that sign it was so exciting!!! One state down, 13 to go. Well, hell.

Just past the sign is a water source where a big black bellied salamander was hanging out of the end of the water pipe. He looked so zen. I sat there for a while, ate a snack and then headed into NC.

Well, let me tell you, I was pretty sure this was going to be the hill I would literally die on. I kept thinking “WTF, NORTH CAROLINA?!?!” All of us were ready to be done with GA and thought, I don’t know, that maybe it’d be a little easier? It was almost vertical in spots. I’m not even kidding. And it went on into oblivion. There was no top to that mountain. In these situations, there is nowhere to go but up, and every step gets you closer to the top. Over and over I kept telling myself to keep going. Rest, sip water, breathe, step step step, repeat. I can see why people wear down mentally. GA is a primer and NC is freaking grade school. To add to the misery of the climb, the trail was really overgrown and grass was brushing up against my skin making me worry about ticks and just feel nasty. I put my rain skirt on and it helped a lot. Finally made it to a small view off the side of the trail, all the way down to Fontana, and it was glorious. I feel like a speck of a speck of dust. The hills seem infinite.

After I reached the top of the mountain, fatigue slammed into me, and I had to focus everything I had on getting to the shelter. When I arrived I plopped down on a log next to Big Red who was still processing what the hell had just happened and we cracked up. There is a delirium that hits at the end of the day. There were a LOT of folks at this shelter and camped all around. It was insanely crowded, and all I wanted to do was get away from people. We could barely get some of them to move over so we could cook. Colorblind and Jsquared rolled in and decided to stay here and then camp with us tomorrow. So awesome to be adding fun folks!!

I taught two young girls how to do a bear hang. They came up to me when they saw me hanging my bag, so I walked them through it and they now have a skill I didn’t have until yesterday. We’re all students and teachers out here if we take the time to listen and observe.

Another big mile day tomorrow with a huge 2.5 mile climb, Lord help us all.

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