Resupply in Hiawassee!

We’re at mile 62 (I think) and doing great! We hiked 7 miles this morning and got a ride into town about 12 miles down the road, but not before we were surprised with amazing trail magic!! A former 2003 thru-hiker named Switchback and his family grilled cheeseburgers, hotdogs and had a whole spread of snacks! People like this make the trail community an amazing thing to be part of!

In town we resupplied at Ingles, got LOTS of food and some beer at a local pub, did laundry, hung out with other thru-hikers, then got Dairy Queen 🙂 I went to DQ in my rain clothes while all the rest of my clothes were drying. We’re headed to an all you can eat hiker breakfast tomorrow then back into the mountains. We eat A LOT. Shooting for a 9 mile day tomorrow to cross the GA/NC border!

Aside from some blisters and a few aches here and there, everyone is doing great!

We have seriously lucked out on the weather this first week! Rain is in the forecast for Monday and Tuesday, but looking good again after that. So far, I can genuinely say everyone I have met out here is insanely happy and having the time of their lives! Let’s see if the rain changes that…

I’m realizing these posts are very scatter brained but there’s so much to say, so little phone battery, so little service, and so much to do! Sorry no pictures this time – taking forever to upload!

A reminder to myself…

Taking advantage of the signal. Just finished up a 14 mile day! We hit the 50 mile mark! Amazing day – not too many climbs until a killer one at the end to our campsite. Hiking with Steve, Anna, Cody and Andrew (Prometheus). Here’s a reminder I wrote to myself the morning I started the trail:

Sydney (Rocket) –

Today you start your AT thru-hike.

Be strong.

Be vulnerable.

Be patient.

Be purposeful.

Listen to your body and your mind will be your biggest obstacle.

See you in Maine.

⁃ Sydney (Rocket)

^view from Blood Mountain, just south of Neel’s Gap.

Alive and so so well!

Hi! Just posting to let you know I’m alive and having a blast! A ton has happened! I ended up starting a day early (on Sunday) and made it to mile 38 today! I have a sweet camp spot with 4 others I have been hiking with. Lots else, but to name a few exciting things, I had my first resupply at Neel’s Gap, have a trail family (tramily), have met a ton of awesome people, got a gnarly blister, lots of amazing views, moons, and stars, got some trail magic, hiked early morning before sunrise, hiked during sunrise, saw sunsets, and most excitingly I got my trail name courtesy of Steve and Anna! I now go by Rocket!

Lots more pictures and updates to come when I have more time, but for now here’s a view from yesterday morning shortly after sunrise 🙂

Everything is going great!!

– Rocket

Feeling most and least confident about…

In 6 days my lifestyle is going to radically change. Most everything in my day-to-day life will be different than the way I have lived the past 24 years. New environment, new people, new entertainment, new challenges, new clothes, new food, new tasks, new routines, possibly even a new name (thru-hikers typically acquire trail names while hiking). Naturally, I feel more confident about some changes than others and I think certain things will be more challenging adjustments for me. Of course this is completely subject to change the moment I get to Amicalola, but less than a week out these are some trail life characteristics I am feeling most and least confident about.

Feeling preeeetty good about:

Look at those sexy crocs!
  • My pack weight and gear! My body has become accustomed to the pack fit and weight at this point and I have tested all of my gear. I will hopefully shed a few items on trail, but at this point I am confident with my gear and it all fits in my pack woohoo!
When I don’t have a resupply box I will be resupplying in grocery and convenience stores in town.
  • My resupply boxes! Thanks to lots of advice from friends, a few trips to Walmart, and a weee bit of OCD in planning, my resupply boxes are very (possibly too) thorough. I packed 8 resupply boxes, which my Mom will mail to me along the way. I will receive most of these in towns where resupply options are super limited or too expensive due to the town being more of a tourist attraction. In these boxes are things such as: segments of my trail guide, homemade dehydrated meals, first aid supplies, toiletries, cash, fresh bandanas, and lots of other goodies.
  • Being disconnected from technology. I am definitely not the best at limiting my tech time when it’s readily available, but I do every now and then try to put away my devices for a while, which always feels refreshing. Of course I don’t need to go into the woods for 6 months to do this, but it will sure make it a lot easier because there won’t even be the temptation to check Instagram or Facebook on a daily basis.
  • The routine of setting up and taking down camp. This is something I will have to do every day except on zero days and I really think it will be alright. Sure the rainy days will suck, but overall I like the idea of setting up a little home, my own space, and then putting every piece of gear in its place in my pack. It’s a cool feeling to have everything you need to survive on your back. I hope this routine and the minimalist lifestyle will translate to my abundant (and somewhat materialistic) lifestyle when I return.
  • Pooping in the woods. I’ve mastered it.

Some things I’m feeling eeehh about:

  • Hitchhiking into town. It’s probably a good thing I don’t feel confident about this. I’m a decent judge of character, which will be important for safety, but I can’t say I have done much hitchhiking in my day. Any tips…shout ’em out!
^That’s a lie
  • My homemade dehydrated meals. I made ten different recipes and tasted one of them (edible, but not the greatest). They look like dog food. It helps to know the ingredients that went into these, but I’m not even that great at cooking hydrated food, so setting the bar real low for these.
  • Being wet…constantly. I typically like to dry off after I take a shower and put my clothes in the dryer after washing them. I’m a diva, I know. These aren’t exactly options on the trail and it does rain quite a bit (like every 1 in 3 days), so expecting everything to be wet a good chunk of the time is very realistic.
  • Night hiking by myself. The idea of hiking in the dark by myself does not sound great, but that’s a different story if hiking with other people. Will try and avoid doing this solo this as much as possible.
  • Hanging my bear bag. It’s just friggin’ hard.

What am I most scared of?

I’ve been asked this a lot.

There’s a bunch about thru-hiking I am worried/cautious about, but I think that’s different than being scared. I’m worried about running low on water, but not scared. I’m worried about being cold at night, but not scared. I’m worried about running into a bear with cubs, but that’s more exciting than scary. Sitting in a house right now, with the fridge 20 feet away, a water faucet right next to it and my comfy bed downstairs, it’s hard to know what about thru-hiking truly scares me. No doubt, come game time, this could change.

I’ve had a handful of surprisingly vivid nightmares about the AT (some have been ridiculous like everything I eat tasting like peanut butter and not being able to tie my boots), so for now I am deeming the more realistic nightmares the things I am most scared of. Here they are:

  1. Getting stuck in a lightening storm. Even though I probably have a greater chance of getting hit by a car than getting struck by lightening, this still freaks me out.
  2. All of my gear getting ripped to shreds by raccoons while I’m sleeping. Honest nightmare, very unlikely to happen.
  3. Mount Washington. By the time I get there I’m sure I will feel fine, but I’ve heard lots of stories and been warned of the weather dangers, so right now it feels very daunting. Plus, in my nightmare I fell off the side of the mountain…one of those kick yourself awake situations.
  4. Someone stealing my pack. Probably just the cynical New Yorker in me.
  5. Getting injured or getting sick. That would suck. Leaving the trail, if really necessary, would hopefully be on my own terms or for weather safety reasons.
  6. Feeling so lonely that I can’t enjoy the trail. In this nightmare no matter how quickly I hiked, I could never catch up to the hikers in front of me. Though I hope to have some personal reflection time, the goal isn’t to spend 6 months alone. Meeting people on the trail and having visitors will surely be highlights and some of my best memories.

Here’s to overcoming worries and to nightmares remaining nightmares.

Nothin’ to see here, BEARS!

Hanging a bear bag is deceptively quite a pain in the ass, but something I will want to do most nights. That said, if you ever find yourself needing to hang your food from potential bears, here’s my strategy:

Said kit ^^
  1. Get your bear hanging accoutrements. You will need a loooong rope, carabiner, small rock bag and food bag. I’m using the Zpack bear bagging kit.
Said knot ^^

2. Tie one end of rope to carabiner. A bowline knot seems like a good option.

Rock bag can be substituted with filled water bottle, shoe, anything heavy

3. Attach carabiner to rock bag and fill bag with some…you guessed it…rocks!

4. Find a relatively sturdy branch about 12-15 feet off the ground and not super close to your tent.

Try keeping unused end of rope organized to avoid tangling

5. WARNING: POTENTIAL FOR EMBARRASSMENT! Now “simply” throw the rock bag over the branch (if five failed attempts and a rock almost hitting you on the head is simple). It’s a good idea to make sure you aren’t standing on rope when you throw it.

Voila!

6. Take rock bag off carabiner and replace with food bag, then lift food bag up.

You may want to weigh down spare rope so a raccoon or other creature doesn’t come mess with it.

7. Now find something located diagonally from hanging food bag (not directly under). Make sure it is heavy enough to counteract weight of bag. Tie the rope to this, making sure there is little slack so bag doesn’t slide down. In this case I used a grill, but rocks, branches, tables are all good options.

Begone bears!

And that’s how to hang your bear bag!

Here’s a handy way to store the rope so it doesn’t get tangled up. Wrap it in a figure eight through your fingers and clip carabiner to hold together.

Special shout-out to the park manager who kicked me out because the campgrounds were technically closed. Not a single other person in the park, but he said I would “attract too many campers.” Glad to know my bear bag hanging is that intriguing!

Top Ten Thru-hiking Tips

I have found a lot of comfort in gathering as many thru-hiking tips as possible. It’s reassuring to hear other hikers address aspects of the hike I anticipate to be most challenging. I have read, listened to, and watched videos of experienced thru-hikers as well as 2019 AT hikers who have only been on trail for a few days. I have hiked exactly zero miles thus far, so I can take exactly zero credit for these tips – you’re welcome 🙂 Here’s a list of ten tips I will remind myself of during my thru-hike:

  1. Never quit on a bad day
  2. Learn to rest, not to quit
  3. Remember your why
  4. Don’t sweat gear picks too much (“It’s the Indian, not the arrow”)
  5. Don’t pack your fears
  6. Hike your own hike
  7. Hike for today, not tomorrow
  8. Slow down
  9. Keep a daily journal
  10. Take pictures of people, not only nature