3/14/18 – Day 5

Neel Gap to Low Gap Shelter – 11.5 miles

Very cold and windy to start. When I got to the opposite side of a mountain, the wind would be blocked and vice versa. Could not decide what clothes to keep on or take off. Got a spot in the shelter! Someone made a fire and I played my p-bone for the other hikers there – Stick Man, Just Shawn, Buckeye, Smiles, Penguin, Wrongfully Charged, Snicker Bear, Honey Badger, Theo, Laptop.

The wind was intense this morning. The main thing I remember about this day while hiking was how quickly the wind changed. There were multiple times when I would go over a ridge and down the other side of a mountain and the wind suddenly stopped only to put me back in the wind going over the next ridge. Even without the wind it was so cold. I am from South Carolina and have never been a fan of cold weather. At some point on the trail, I found out that the beginning to the 2018 hiking season was colder than it has been in past years.

At the shelter, I was happy to find extra space so that I did not have to set up my tent. I was one of the first hikers to stop at Low Gap Shelter and I had a lot of extra time to spare before dark so I spent a lot of time talking with other hikers who ended up hiking on and snacking on my food supply. By dark, we had a fire going and I had my pBone out to play for the other hikers. Since finishing the trail, I have been sent a few pictures and videos of me playing my pBone that afternoon.

When I wrote in my journal that night, I wanted to remember the people I spent the night with at that shelter which is why I have a list of names at the end:

Stick Man – carried sticks with him that he used to start the campfire that night

Just Shawn – did not seem to want a trail name

Buckeye – hiked over 1,000 miles with him in my trail family later on in the trail and the more I learned about him, the more confused I was to who he was. He will forever be a mystery.

Smiles/Penguin – 2 friends from Pennsylvannia who I am happy to have spent a few days hiking with

Wrongfully Charged – He told me the story of his trail name and I really wish I could remember it. He was an older man compared to the rest of us that night, but we all still bond as thru hikers

Snicker Bear – An amazing, energetic, talented singer, and new found snickers lover who I am so happy to have spent part of my hike with.

Honey Badger – An equally awesome person that, “don’t care” and I was also able to spend a few days with.

Theo – An 18 year old taking a gap year and hiking the AT with a can of beans. Don’t remember why he kept the beans with him, but I do know that he eventually got the trail name Beans from that.

Laptop – A guy from the Netherlands that I had been keeping pace with on the AT for most of it so far. He carried a laptop with him to help him contact home.

Photo credit goes to Smiles. Playing the trombone and sitting on the ground is hard…also had to keep dodging the smoke from the fire, but overall a great time spent at this campsite.

3/13/18 – Day 4

Lance Creek Campsite to Neel Gap – 7.3 miles

Climbed up Blood Mountain and played my trombone at the top. Stayed in a hostel at Mountains Crossing. A missionary group came to give us trail magic by way of a hot meal – pasta, salad, and bread. Also had pizza. Also had my pack shaked down and lost 2lbs of weight!

At the beginning of my hike, there weren’t a lot of private places to relieve myself at a campsite without a privy. This campsite especially. I always wake up having to pee really bad because I refuse to get up in the middle of the night to take care of it (at home and on the trail). I was awake before most of the other hikers, so I went part way down the trail towards the water source – making sure not to get too close to it – and took care of my business just before 2 hikers walked by.

The climb up Blood Mountain was brutal. It was cold so I had on my puffy, but I was also working hard to get up it that I could not decide whether to take it off or leave it on. I usually would end up opting to take my jacket off and just be a little bit cold. This sounds like a trivial problem, but I can guarantee that it’s something every thru hiker has had to deal with on a daily basis.

At the top of Blood Mountain, the view was amazing and I found a great spot for a bit of pBone playing. It was a little bit out of sight of the main trail so when I started playing a few people came around to where I was to find out what the music was coming from. I didn’t stay at the top long because my hands were frozen from only 2 minutes of playing the pBone. When I reached Neel Gap, I was the first one to check in to the hostel so I got first dibs on a bottom bunk and was quickly able to take my first shower since starting my thru hike. Attached to the hostel is the Mountain Crossing Outfitter where I resupplied and got pizza for dinner and then took my pack in to get a ‘shake down’ which is where one of the staff members there look through everything you have in your pack and tell you what you do and do not need with you. I ended up getting rid of 2lbs of weight! I called my mom and dad while I was eating and filled them in on my hike so far.

Not much later, a missionary group of college students in Georgia came to the hostel with a hot meal for all of the thru hikers there. It was delicious and all the students there were so nice to hang out with. I am forever grateful to any and all trail angels out there that helped me on my thru hike.

3/12/18 – Day 3

Gooch Mountain Shelter to Lance Creek Campsite – 8.2 miles

Woke up to rain that quickly turned to snow. Very cold and windy. Stopped just before Blood Mountain. Going to Neels Gap tomorrow.

When I woke up this morning, it was already raining and of course it was cold. I lost all feeling in my hands trying to put my tent away and when my tent was put away, it had started snowing. I prefered the snow over rain because the snow won’t melt into my clothes. Either way I’ll be cold, but with snow I will be dry and cold. Thankfully, the rain and snow did not last for very long. Today, my real enemy was the wind. Part way through the day, I really had to pee, but there was no cover anywhere with the trail being up on the ridgeline for most of the day. I eventually came by a shelter that was a quarter of a mile off the trail. I really didn’t want to walk that far just to pee, but I went that way anyways. Halfway to the shelter, I stop and notice that I am out of view of the trail and out of the wind, so I just squatted and relieved myself right there. Not the best spot, but I was too desparate and cold to care. Feeling much better – but not any less cold – I continued on and decided to stop at Lance Creek Campsite instead of trying to make it to Neel’s Gap today. I was the first hiker to stop there so I got to pick a good spot. After a few hours, it was completely full and then some. There was no empty space anywhere. There was a family with 2 kids section hiking that invited any hikers to come hang out at their fire pit. I went and took my pBone and that was the first time I played it on the trail. The first 2 days, I was too cold to want to even attempt playing my pBone, but with a fire it worked out great. That became a common thing for me to play my pBone with other hikers sitting around a fire.

My view of the trail in the early morning when I started hiking.

3/11/19 – Day 2

Stover Creek Shelter to Gooch Mountain Shelter – 12.9 miles

Little bit longer day with some harder climbs. Woke up to rain, but it did not last long. Started raining again when I was a mile from the shelter. A ridge runner said there might be snow tomorrow…we’ll see. Hoping to make it the 15 miles to Neels Gap tomorrow.

I wasn’t very good at documenting the people I met at the beginnging of the trail. There were so many people and it was so cold, all I had the energy to write was the bare minimum. I do remember one woman in particular that I met when I first signed the register as an AT thru hiker at Amicalola Falls. She was thru hiker #827 and I was thru hiker #828. Her name was Merielle (I could never pronounce it correctly) and she would say that she was “hiking home to Quebec.” I saw her a lot – also hiking with her mom for the first few days on trail – because we stayed at the same campsites for the first few days. She was a much faster hiker than me but with her mom hiking with her, we kept pace with each other for a while. I later found her in an interview on Youtube and she had the trail name ‘Zoom Zoom.’ A very fitting name for a very fast hiker.

Hiking to Gooch Mountain Shelter I mainly remember what the weight of my pack felt like. I would stop every once in a while to bend over and support my pack weight on my hiking poles to give my back and hips some relief before standing up straight again to keep moving. I had never backpacked with a pack this heavy – with or without a trombone – and it was definitely slowing me down. Just like the day before, the last mile of my hike that day greeted me with cold rain. I got to the shelter around 1 or 2pm to find it full of other thru hikers, so I went to find a flat spot to set up my tent in the rain. When that was finally set up and my fingers were numb, I took my food and joined the other hikers at the table under the cover of the shelter out of the rain. At this shelter is where I first met Gramps and Sani who would become part of my trail family later on. Talking with them and the other hikers in the shelter, they tell me that they took a zero day in the shelter to avoid the cold rain…I’m still a little annoyed by that, but Sani and Gramps more than made up for it further down the trail.

My second test hike with my Pbone on my backpack. This is how I would attach my Pbone to my pack for the entire Appalachian Trail.

3/10/19 – Day 1

Amicalola Falls to Stover Creek Shelter – 11.6 miles

11.6 miles done on my first day. Only 2.8 miles on the actual AT. Stove Creek Shelter is completely full, with lots of tents set up around it. Very crowded.

The first day of my hike was cold, but I loved it so much. My original start date was March 2nd, but I ended up getting sick and coughing so much that I pulled a muscle over my rib cage. Just breathing hurt, so any chance of hiking in that condition was gone. At the advice of my mom and my sister – who was in grad school and is now a fully liscensed physical therapist – I postponed my start date and went to see a physical therapist. I was given stretches to do to help my pulled muscle heal and even continued doing them the first week or so on the AT. The night before the 10th, my mom drove me to my step dads brother and sister and law’s house that is within 20 minutes of Springer Mountain. The next morning I was up bright and early and my mom and I were at Amicalola falls, ready to hike at 8:30am. The plan was my mom – aka: Italian Ice – would hike the approach trail with me to Springer Mountain and I would continue on my own when we reached the official beginning of the AT. My pack started at 38lbs and boy did I feel that, but the excitment and adrenaline of finally being on the Appalachian Trail made it eady to not think about my heavy pack. I got to Stover Creek Shelter around 2 with the last mile of my hike that day being in the cold rain. That’s definitely something I got used to. I was the only one at the shelter/campsite with a trail name already (got it from a thru hiker in 2017 when I did a section hike on the AT), so I felt weird introducing myself as Slider instead of Amy. For the first few days I would say that my name is Amy and my trail name is Slider. The campsite quickly filled up and thankfully I had a shelter spot out of the rain. As many people as could fit were crammed into the shelter out of the rain and we all hung out, swapped life stories, ate our hiker dinners, and went to sleep at hiker midnight. I don’t think I saw hardly anyone else from that first night again on the trail. That’s not to say that none of them made it to the finish…that’s just the way the trail works. As a thru hiker, you meet so many people and have no idea if you will ever see them again but you still have an instant connection with anyone you meet because of that one common goal of hiking 2,190.9 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia to the top of Katahdin in Maine.

Slider on the AT

From March 10th to July 31st, 2018, I thru hiked the Appalachian Trail northbound with a plastic trombone – aka: pBone. I kept a trail journal while hiking and I wrote in it every day. Now I want to share my journal with you. In this, you will read about the ups and downs of my thru hike with the addition of a pBone to my pack weight. You will read about trail injuries, trail magic and trail angels, animal encounters, my amazing trail family, and so much more. The AT was truly a life changing experience. The people I met and experiences I had have changed me and I would not take back 1 second of those 144 days.

My trail journal started with the bare minimum of information (due to the cold and not being sure what I wanted to include in it), but as my hike went on I added more and more details each day. Each blog post will include my original trail journal entry for that day and will be followed with any details that I remember about that day plus a picture from the trail. I hope you will enjoy reading this!