|Beautiful sunset view from our campsite|
So a quick update on "our business" four days in. First things first - we haven't quit yet, and aren't even planning on it. After Anne dropped us off, we hiked to the top of Springer Mountain to start our hike, and were feeling pretty good about life. About five minutes after we started following the white blazes that mark the trail, it started sprinkling, and we pulled over to put on or rain gear after some discussion on whether or not it was necessary, and soon after, it started pouring (pictures to come once we get computer access). Since then, we've had one beautiful day, three rainy days, and about 20 minutes of pea sized hail (ouch!). We also learned the hard way that my "rain jacket" isn't waterproof, and I have a bag of clothes you can literally wring out to prove it.
The good news is, today we climbed the highest peak on the AT in Georgia, Blood Mountain, although we couldn't catch the views through the rain and fog. We've hiked between 8 and 9 miles a day (right on pace with our plan) and not an hour goes by when we don't look up and say, "Wow, this is really beautiful". Today we ended at Neels Gap, where there is an outfitter famous for "shakedowns" where they weigh your pack, dump the contents out, and coach you on what to chuck and what to buy a lighter version of. We went in there for a new raincoat, some food resupply, and a rope, since I lost ours in an unfortunate tangle 30 feet off the ground in our first attempt at bear-bagging (and you know what? I learned something that morning!). They asked us what our packs weigh (mine around 32 and Brian's around 38 with four days of food) and they said we seem "pretty dialed in" on pack weight, which made us happy.
At Neels Gap, there are three options for lodging: camping, a hostel, or cabins. Camping was out of the question given how cold and wet we were, and were trying to decide where to stay when we happened upon some trail magic. Trail magic is a random act of kindness from a stranger, or trail angels, that happens frequently on the AT. It often comes in the form of a cooler of cold Gatorade on a hot day, a free ride into town, or a hot meal somewhere you weren't expecting it. Today, it came in the form of Finn (fellow hiker) putting our cabin on his tab. So here we are, in a cabin eating frozen pizzas with a roaring fire (almost, Brian is working on it), showered and dry and very grateful for it. Thank you Finn!
We've actually been fortunate to receive quite a bit of trail magic, even before our hike began. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has helped us get here. To name a few:
Jacob – for gear advice, dropboxing me 600 songs, and lower body workouts
Robin and Sonali – for sending me off in style FRHG team – for the total domination base layer and taking care of business for the next 1.5 months
TZ – for a ride to the airport!
Anne/the Marshalls – for sharing their home, an amazing last steak supper, and a personal send-off Chicago crew – for all the support and the an amazing last weekend goodbye party full of all the things we love Parents – for accepting this, helping us move, and making a trip to Chicago to say goodbye
Jenna – for all of the support and sending ridiculous childhood photos to Robin
Adam and Grace – for gear advice and coaching!
Rachel, Tom, and Luke – for the books and the bear mace. We just passed our first "bear canister required" country safely!
Nate – for headlamps, water bladders, and hopefully companionship in Maine in September!
Tiffany, Robin, Sonali, and Jacob – for picking up my workload and dominating the last month of FRHG without me
Karen, Rachel, and Brandon – for coming over at 9 pm, straight from the airport, with a cold/flu, to say goodbye!
And thanks to everyone else who we didn't name. We feel so lucky that we have the support to do something like this.
- Bearcub (Kelly's trail name after "hibernating" 10 - 12 hours every night and wearing head to toe black rain gear for three days)