Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Made it to NC!

I made it to North Carolina through the rain and fog.  I've seen my first real taste of bad weather since Hiawassee, with it raining hard two of the three nights.  The days have been filled with lots of cold fog, but I've stayed dry and I've remained in good spirits.  Hiawassee seemed to spread the group I was hiking with out - a couple guys still a day ahead of me and a few behind me, but it's been a welcomed change of new faces and personalities.  Last night me and this other guy got our bear bags stuck up in a tree and we uprooted this huge tree in the process of getting the bags down.  It was scary as the tree came down towards us but then hilarious to recount the events.  I shared the shelter with Pakka from Germany (now Timber after last nights events) and Deva, two incredibly awesome people.  I was starting to feel a little tied down to the group before Hiawassee, so these last few days have allowed me to go my own way a little bit.  The freedom has been nice and the company has remained amazing.

I've completed over 100 miles on the Appalachian Trail and it has been tough.  I knew the first couple weeks were going to be hard, but it's been even harder than I thought it would be.  My knees are in constant pain and I miss my life back home a lot, but this is what I've always wanted and I'm enjoying it immensely.  I get in an auto-pilot trance when I'm hiking a lot, dotted with thoughts about people in my life, my future and what my next McDonalds order will be.  Miles pass without even realizing it out here and the life is pretty simple.  Like I said in my last post, it really makes you appreciate everything so much.

Yesterday I hiked up Standing Indian Mountain and saw a view of mountains peaking out of a vast sea of fog for miles and miles.  I quickly dipped down into that fog and for hours I was cold and could only see 10 feet or so in front of me.  By the end of the day, I was out of the sea and summiting the hardest mountain I've climbed yet, Albert Mountain.  The climb was a rock scramble - super steep, hand over hand, looking for white blazes on rocks instead of trees.  But the view at the top was unbelievable.  After days of being in the fog I could see all of North Carolina I felt like.

I've only done about 5 percent of the entire Appalachian Trail but I feel encouraged and accomplished.  All of the support from everyone has been truly amazing.  It inspires me every morning to get out and hike and every evening if I'm feeling lonely.  So, thank you! Thank you! I love yall a lot.  Now off to do some relaxing in Franklin!  Oh and everyone's been calling me Towns out here.  I pushed an extra 4 miles to get to Hiawassee and while I love being outdoors, getting to the towns is always super exciting.  So, in the tradition of trail names on the AT, Towns it is.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

First Zero

I'm sitting in a glorious hotel bed at the Holiday Inn Express in Hiawassee, GA with Pauline next to me.  It's the end of my first zero day on the trail (no hiking), and it was one of the better days I can remember.  The trail has this really amazing way of making you appreciate everything; a cold drink becomes heavenly, a shower makes you feel like a million bucks, and every second spent with your girlfriend or talking to family members really matters and is cherished. 

I hiked an extra 3.5 miles than my clan had planned to do, and hitched a ride into Hiawassee last night.  I stayed at the Hiawassee Inn, an incredibly seedy, absolutely wonderful room with a shower and a television and a mirror to smile real big into.  It was awesome.  I didn't know what to do first.  I paced the room and turned on the bathroom light - should I take a shower?  I crossed back and threw my pack on the bed and turned the tv on.  And then I ripped out my phone and called Pauline and my parents.  It was sensory overload after only being in the woods for 6 nights.  I had a great night - piggin out on Subway and drinking soda after soda, watching basketball and talking on the phone.  It was all a rush of civilization to the head and I couldn't wait to wake up to spend the day with Pauline.

After yesterday's 13 miles, I have now hiked 67.5 total miles and I have less than 9 miles left to do in Georgia.  I met up with a group on my 3rd day and have stayed pretty consistently right with them.  There's a Sri Lankan named Denham, a British fellow who goes by the trail name "Mayo", a frat kid from Illinois named Adam, an enthusiatic 19 year-old named Ben, and we recently met up with the tattooed Blue Eyes, and Sweet Pea.  It's been great to travel with a group and the sense of community out here is everything I hoped it would be.  The mileage is becoming easier as the terrain is becoming more difficult.  I have developed a real steady, comfortable pace, and can I feel myself getting stronger.  My knees have been sore but I think it's going to be that way for a little while at least, and I'm okay with that.

It's storming pretty bad out there and I hope that it clears up before I have to head back out tomorrow.  It feels like a restart almost, and I hope that my body appreciated the rest.  I should be getting into Franklin, NC Wed. or Thurs. of this week.  See yall up the trail!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

First Four Days

Well here I am at Neels Gap on Day 4.  I've been writing a lot everyday and I'll do my best to sum up what feels like has already been an adventure.  There has been something to contend with every day so far.  Day 1 I started after 1 pm from the base of the falls at Amicalola State Park. It was over 80 degrees and the climb was ridiculously hard.  I started cramping up in both thighs a couple miles in and they would tighten up every couple hundred feet for the rest of the day.  I ended up going 7.3 miles on the 8.8 mile approach trail and called it a night at Black Gap Shelter.  I drank as much water as I could, fearful of cramping the next day.  I spent the night with a 300 pound kid from Ohio, named Justin, who was thru-hiking as well. 

I woke up early on Sunday and hiked the 1.5 miles up to the official start on Springer.  I was able to get texts out and even able to get Pauline on the phone.  It lifted my spirits tremendously to be able to talk to her.  I was on cloud 9.  I left Springer with an easy 4.5 miles down hill and I flew through it.  I was ecstatic.  I ended up passing Justin and haven't seen him since.  I went about 13.9 miles for the day, 12.4 on the offical AT, and camped on top of Justus Mtn.  I was feeling good about my day and happy to be testing out my Tarptent.  I hadn't really slept the first night, so I was exhausted and fell asleep fairly easily.  I woke up at about 4:30am with it raining!  My Tarptent was keeping me dry.  Huge relief.  I hit the trail on Day 3 early, before the sun had come up.  Hiking in the pitch black with just my headlamp was scary; each little noise made me think there was an animal nearby.  I could have sworn I hear a bear growl.  My mind was playing tricks.

Day 3 went great, and I caught up to a huge group of thru-hikers that had stayed at the shelter a few miles ahead.  I was treated to my first bit of trail magic at Woody Gap, when a dad of another thru-hiker brought us iced cold cokes and candy bars.  Heaven in my mouth.  I ended up going about 15 miles for the day and camped with the rest of the crew at Slaughter Creek, just before Blood Mtn. 

Here I am on Day 4, happy as can be.  I got 3 burgers for free and showered and did laundry and resupplied for the next 3 or 4 days.  I'm happy to be with a group and were talking about going a few miles further today and camping somewhere beyond Neels.  Charging up the phone now and bought some Body Glide for the chafing in between my legs.  Life is fantastic.

Keep the texts and calls and comments coming!  Its so great to hear from yall. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Time to go!

Way too many emotions right now to express any of them.  I'm leaving tomorrow morning for Amicalola Falls State Park to start off on the Approach Trail of the Appalachian Trail.  A little while ago I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig.  I set out with this quote in mind; not just to accomplish the goal but to experience the journey.
Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire.  The reality of your own nature should determine the speed.  If you become restless, speed up.  If you become winded, slow down.  You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion.  Then, when you're no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn't just a means to an end but a unique event in itself....  To live only for some future goal is shallow.  It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top.  Here's where things grow.
I'll update as much as I can.  I love you all and I can't thank you enough for all of the support!  To Katahdin!  Hereee I GOOOO!!!

I'm going to miss them so much...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ides of March

8 months ago I posted my first blog entry.  I probably sat on it for 6 months before I told anyone about it.  I have a hard time allowing myself to be an open book.  It's not so much with the people who I'm close to in my life; I think I'm a very open person with people I choose to be open with.  It's more that I have a hard time being open with everyone. 

As I write these entries and gear up to leave on my great adventure, I have thought about how I want this blog to be.  I have the power to slant and romanticize any or all of it, but I don't want to do that.  Too often I am paralyzed by what other people think, or how other people see me.  I think this has been one of the greatest hindrances in my life.  My desire to be well-liked and perfect in the eyes of everyone has alienated me far too often.

As a freshman in high school, I had a bad baseball accident the last month of school.  I took a cleat to the face while trying to cover first from the mound and broke the orbital bone around my right eye.  I had to have titanium mesh screwed in to the bone to support the socket as it healed.  I looked like the Elephant Man.  I didn't go to school and I definitely didn't leave my house.  I didn't want to see my friends; I couldn't stand being seen at not my best. 

I don't ever want to put myself in places like that again.  Being open and vulnerable and not perfect is being human.  I hope that through these entries I can express to everyone who wants to read, the incredible highs I experience through this journey along with the times that I struggle, equally.  So this blog won't all be roses and it won't all be a bitchfest either, it's just me and it's just real. 

I hope that everyone can follow their dreams and live the life that they've always wanted.  Oh and beware the ides of March. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

ready, set

Well, I haven't started hiking yet and my plans have already changed.  The departure date is now March 19th.  I pushed it back a week because I've been hurrying around these last two weeks and I don't want to rush out of here.  I'm nervous, too, so I have that to contend with. 

Two weekends ago I worked my last night at the bar and spent the entire next day moving out of my little room in the house on Oakridge in Athens. Pauline moved into her apartment the same weekend, so I spent a lot of energy moving my stuff down to Atlanta and helping Pauline and Bella settle into their new home.  Needless to say, I woke up Sunday morning with a fever and a sore throat.  The fever went away quickly, only to be followed by awful phlegm and mucus and still a scratchy, sore throat.  I left this past Friday for Newport News, VA with Pauline to visit her hometown and godmother.  The trip was really great for me to see where she grew up and meet someone so important to her, but the 10 hour drive there and back surprisingly wasn’t all that relaxing. 

So, I’m back now and have just a few more things to get done before I leave, but mostly I just want to relax a little bit.  I want to get some good sleep and get completely better and leave feeling refreshed.  I’m going to take a video of all of the gear and stuff I’ll be taking and post it on here, so look for that soon.