We had a blast on the trail, and there is a lot to be told! I will be breaking up these posts according to our pre-hike preparations, the hike, and an overall gear impressions post! Check back for updates!
Thursday, July 18
Today was a boring, uneventful day at my desk job that was only made brighter by the fact that I was leaving an hour early in order to go home and begin packing for our impending trip up to North Carolina. Chase was supposed to be at home gathering all of our gear and treating our clothing with pemethrin and I had already done a small amount of preparation so I thought that I wouldn’t have much to do when I got home. It turned out that we still had a lot of things to take care of and we were not all together ready for what we were about to do! This was stressful since we had talked about leaving by 7am to make it to Standing Indian Campground after lunch on Friday.
My pack was not fully packed until around midnight, and at that point I realized that no matter how I adjusted and fiddled with my pack, it was not sitting comfortably at all. I felt much of the weight on my hips, but the pack couldn’t get close enough to my back to prevent the shoulder straps from cutting into my collarbones. This was not okay. I tried everything over the next hour to get my pack to sit correctly on my frame. I reorganized the load with no luck. I adjusted all of my straps and the height of the harness itself, fiddling with different combinations of lengths but it was to no avail. Frustrated and defeated and more than a little grumpy, I finally decided to just go to bed an deal with it in the morning.
I did not want to start our adventure grumpy and with an ill-fitting pack so thankfully a decent night’s sleep changed my attitude for the better.
Friday, July 19
We awoke around 9am and slowly got the car packed while discussing our options for the day. We had already planned to stop at the Patagonia in Atlanta to exchange a pair of defective boots Chase had purchased on Steep and Cheap for me, so we decided to also stop at one of the REI’s in the Atlanta area, figuring that they would be more knowledgeable of my situation and needs than our local Jacksonville store. With a delicious smoothie for breakfast, we set off on the 6+ hour drive to Atlanta.
The Patagonia ended up being located in a little sketchy strip-mall area, but we were happy to make it there! Their customer service was phenomenal! The girl who helped us exchange my boots was extraordinarily helpful. She let us exchange the size after I tried the boots on again in the store and decided they were not the proper fit, but they didn’t have the next size up in stock, so she called Patagonia Boston and had them ship the correct size to our apartment at no charge! It was really incredible considering the boots are not even being made anymore and we did not even order them directly from Patagonia. What an awesome company!
Next we ventured to the closest REI and proceeded to spend two and half hours or more trying on multiple brands of packs and different combinations of sizes after it was determined that my Osprey Ariel was just a tad too small. I was between sizes, not quite small and not quite medium, and it was endlessly frustrating. I tried every brand with a pack that fit my specifications multiple times, debating over each one. The only bag that seemed to fit better than the Osprey that I had already was the Gregory Deva 60. It took a little bit of getting used to the intense lumbar support, but the pack fit my frame very nicely when adjusted properly. Chase and I wanted to test out one more combination of a medium harness on the small Osprey bag, but the REI we were in mistakenly only had a large harness for the medium Ariel pack. We decided to go ahead and see if the other REI had the correct medium harness for me to try out. We also decided to buy the Gregory pack in case they didn’t have it at the other REI (which was clear across town and it was rush hour) and if the medium harness did not help my situation. I’m glad we did because the other REI had the medium harness but not the medium bag to go with it, and the combination of medium harness/small bag was not working. So I spent $330 on a new pack and got a store credit for my Osprey since it was a gift. It was hard swallowing the cost of this gear change, but I’m sure we will spend that money on something else… like a Palisades Dog Pack!
It was now after 9pm and Chase had spent the last 30 minutes trying to find a cheap hotel for us to stay in, since we were obviously not going to be hitting the trail that day. We ended up booking at America’s Best Value Inn in Clayton, GA, and had a lovely night sleep. It was easy to sleep well knowing that my pack issues had been solved and that we would be finally setting foot on the trail the very next day!