Monday, February 24, 2014

The Worst Day

Day 5: Slaughter Creek to Tesnatee Gap
Our fifth day on the trail started beautifully. We woke up around 4am, looked at each other, and said "Let's do this!" We were packed and on the trail up to Blood Mountain by 730am. There was a heavy fog that enveloped everything, making the trail seem more magical and mystical than normal. Chase got a great shot of me walking up to the old Blood Mountain shelter. The fog makes it extra eerie and awesome. No views for us that day, but I wasn't concerned about that. FOOD. Hot, delicious food was waiting for us at Neels Gap. The wind was ripping across Blood, dragging the clouds behind, but I wasn't interested in sight seeing. The rocks were slick with the dampness that comes from touching the clouds, but I paid it no mind. I trugged on with a singular goal; reach Neels Gap or die trying. I even ignored the burning pain in my leg that was becoming worse by the second.

Reaching Neels Gap was a great feeling. The climb down Blood seemed to last an enternity, but we were there right on schedule. Chase went in and ordered a pizza and started a tab. Starting a tab at an outfitter is really amazing, and I'm very glad that Mountain Crossings offers such a service. We ate one Red Baron pizza, 3 bags of chips, a turkey sandwhich, some beef jerky, and I had an apple juice while Chase chugged a Coke. We stocked up on Ramen, peanut butter, trailbars, and Snickers to get us through the next three days before we would head into Hiawassee. 

We left Mountain Crossings with full bellies and a head full of worries about the impending severe thunderstorm that was forecast to hit the trail that night. We decided that we needed to stay in a shelter to stay safe from what promised to be torrential rain and lots of lightning. With all of the down and weakend trees in the area from last week's ice storm, we were worried about being crushed while we slept. We decided to push our longest day yet, and try to reach Whitley Gap Shelter. 

I was okay with this plan. We had to push hard and fast, but I thought I was capable of it. We stopped to get water and I set off like a bat out of hell to make up the time lost. My leg was burning, but I wouldn't accept defeat. We zoomed past many a pretty site and I lost interest in my surroundings. Finally, on the way down into Tesnatee Gap from Cowrock Mountain, I lost it.

I stopped for a break and was getting up as Chase was hiking up behind me. He is normally much faster than I am, to give you an idea about how fast I was moving. My leg was in burning pain and Chase was commenting that it was only 0.7mi from the Gap to the entrance of the shelter, and then another 1.2mi to the shelter. I spit at him, "This must be just SO EASY for you!" And I trugged off without another word. I made it to the bottom of the gap, berating myself for lashing out at him, but also feeling sorry for myself because I was weak. I thought about all of the people I was proving right by not being able to cut it, by not being able to handle another step on the AT. I broke down crying on the way up out of Tesnatee, which is a very steep climb. My leg was screaming at me, I was feeling soft and weak and foolish, and I couldn't go on. Chase, being who he is, just hugged me and took my pack off. We sat on the trail, and I cried a bit more, and we decided to go into town. I needed to rest, to recoup, and get my head together.

Thankfully, there was service on the road, and we were able to call a shuttle. While we waited, we cooked up a pot of Ramen and ate. A wonderful woman named Sally picked us up and drove us down to Hiawassee, a good 30 miles from Tesnatee. She was a fisherwoman from the Tampa area, so we all bonded over the ocean, and that miraculous feeling you get when you wade into calm waters at sunrise. Remembering that feeling made me a bit homesick, but it also brought me back to a centered place in my head and my heart. I remembered why I was hiking in the first place.

Sally drove us to the ATM, pointed out the all-you-can-eat (AYCE) buffet in town, and dropped us at the Hiawassee Budget Inn. We checked in and threw all of our gear in the room, made sure Sheila was settled, and headed up to the Dairy Queen for a burger and a sundae. After eating, I opened up to Chase a bit about why I was feeling so down and why I felt like I needed to press harder. I wanted to keep up with the few people we had met and I wanted to meet more hikers. I wanted to belong to the trail. I wanted my hiking legs now. We made a pact to communicate more and to take it easy when we got back on the trail. We also decided to take a full zero in Hiawassee the next day to help the strain in my leg get better.

Back at the motel, we met some other thru-hikers as we sat on the porch drinking a Fat Tire, two guys named Asshole and Blackbeard. Both had hitched in from Dick's Creek Gap and were a little crazy. Asshole had some great stories from the trail and some good advice. It was nice to talk to them about their experiences. Talking with them made me feel like an actual member of the Appalachian Trail community. 

We feel asleep happier and more experienced than the day before. It's true what they say; a hot shower, a hot meal, and a warm bed can heal all wounds from the trail.

I'm writing this post on our ninth day on the trail, and I can say that day 5 was the worst day so far. I've learned a lot from it though, and I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. You learn so much about yourself on your lowest days. I'm not hiking to prove that I can to anyone and I don't owe an explanation to anyone. I'm doing this for me and to get in touch with myself. I looked at my Appalachian Trials lists that night, and I'm sure it won't be the last time.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

First Impressions: Days 1 - 4

Hello world! We are blogging from a beautiful spot on the side of Blood Mountain. The sun is about to set and we are in for a show for sure. We'd like to take this moment and catch the world up on what has been happening on our hike so far!

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who voted for us in the Appalachian Trials 2014 Badger Sponsorship! We took home 3rd place which means we will be recieveing some sweet free gear, including some dry dacks, Bedrock sandals, LARABARS, and some chocolate! We couldn't be happier with the results!

Secondly, a BIG thank you to Chase's parents, Debbie and Mason, for getting us to where we are today and making sure we were well fed and rested before setting out! You guys rock!

Thirdly, we will try to share some photos here, but a majority will be shared at our facebook page:

Let's get started!

Pain & Gain - Kelley
Our first day on the trail started out fantastically! We had a hearty breakfast at Amicalola Lodge, jogged up the stairs to Amicalola Falls, picked up our packs and hit the Approach Trail from the top of the falls. When we logged in at the visitor center, we were #50 and #51! It was kind of cool being the among the first 50 hikers to set out to Katahdin. It seems like such a far off goal (and it is) so I've been trying to focus on the short term. On the Approach we met our first fellow thru-hiker, Teddy Bear. He told us later on that he had flip-flopped a previous year, but this year he wanted the pure NOBO experience. He passed us pretty quickly and we've only seen him once since. We hiked through a lot of snow to get up to Springer, but it was really beautiful. When we did get up to the top, it was just before sunset so we hurriedly signed the register and hiked down to the shelter. We chose a campsite on thick snow near an evergreen tree. Neither of us had camped in snow before, so it was pretty exciting. Sheila seemed to really love the snow. We made sure to keep her feet warm with these little fleece booties from We will be ordering more as they proved to be the only kind of booties to stay on her feet! After we got camp set up, we popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate the beginning of an adventure. I figure everyday on the trail is a reason to celebrate!

The next day we got up and out of camp by about 9am. My feet were freezing and they didn't warm up until a couple of miles down the trail. We used our microspikes to get down Springer because all of the slush from yesterday was now ice. They worked great, but they made our feet tired. We met some more thru-hikers at Three Forks as we filtered water; Turtle, Figgy, and we saw Teddy Bear again, who gave us some beef jerky in exchange for water. We hiked all the way to Horse Gap and stayed with another couple. The gap was cold and windy, but we got through the night safe and warm. We realized that we didn't plan our meals very well in the last minute scramble, and we only brought dinner for 3 days when it looked like we were going to need 4 to get to Neels Gap. This lit a fire under me and encouraged me to push harder than was needed.

On Day 3 we hit Sassafras Mountain first thing. This is a beast of a mountain if you've ever looked at the elevation profile. Right after Sassafras is Justus Mountain, which is just as beastly. It was nice getting these two big elevation gain/loss peaks out of the way, and our hike for the rest of the day was relatively smooth. Because of the hard early morning, I was feeling pretty beat, so we made it a short day and stopped at Liss Gap early. Early camp was nice. There was plenty of time for all of the chores to get done before night fell and it started cooling off. It rained a little through the night, but with my face 6 inches from the tent ceiling, sleeping was hard. Not to mention this was our warmest night so far, and I was sweating half the night.

Day 4 started out really well. We got out of camp at 730 and hiked through some mist and fog to Woody Gap. There were real bathrooms! But sadly, no Fresh Gounds Leapfrog cafe, which we encountered back in November. We kept passing and being passed by Ibex and her group (another entrant to the Badger Sponsorship, Alexis Eliot) through out the day. On the way up Preaching Rock, I had this terrible pain in my upper thigh and had to slow way down. I remembered that I had the same pain yesterday coming down Justus Mountain, so I'm guessing I just pushed too hard that day. We decided to cut our day short of Blood Mountain so that I could rest my leg. This meant cold dinner and minimal breakfast tomorrow, but I know that I need to take it easy.

It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mail Drops! And an update on our contest! + more!

Hello interwebs! Right now we are on the road to Amicalola Falls State Park! I'm sorry for the inconsistent postings! You wouldn't believe how busy we have been these past two weeks.

Word to the wise: don't try to pack and move your entire apartment in one day.

Here's some quick updates!

Appalachian Trials Sponsorship Contest

We are currently in 3rd place in the Appalachian Trails 2014 Badger Sponsorship Contest! If you haven't voted for us already, please do! All you have to do is click the link, hit the Facebook "like" button above or below our video, and share with your friends! Third place wins some free LARABARS, dry sacks, and some sweet sandals, in addition to an e-copy of Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis. The 1st and 2nd place folks are hundreds of likes ahead. Like 400 likes or more. It's absurd.

Appalachian Trials has been an incredible source of information on how to prepare for an Appalachian Trail thru-hike and really, life in general. Zach is a great guy too!


So with the crazy winter, we have switched back to the Gregory in order to bring our 0 degree bags. And good Lord our packs are HEAVY now. Especially with 10 days worth of Sheila's food. But, better safe than sorry. We can always send stuff home.

That being said, I won't be updating our gear list until we get back. We just won't have the capabilities. If you have any questions about what we are bringing, send us an email, or leave a comment.

Mail Drops and Trail Magic

If you're interested in sending us some trail magic while we are out there, we posted a Mail Drop page where you can find information on how to send us stuff while we are out there! We will update this list periodically when we have a better idea of where we would like to stop, and about what day we expect to arrive.

Blog Updates!

If you'd like to sign up for an automatic email list that will let you know when we make a post, please send an email to We will be posting hopefully once a week! I won't be using this format to upload pictures because it's difficult to format, so you can view all the photos of our adventure at

Feel free to ask us any questions! We are more than happy to try and answer within the week. :)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Chase and Kelley want a 2014 Badger Sponsorship because!

Hi! We've been very busy getting ready to leave (4 DAYS!!!!) and in that time, we made a video! Please follow the link below, watch us be silly, and hit "like" at the bottom of the page! Every "like" puts us closer to winning some great gear and support, curtesy of Appalachian Trials...

Thank you everyone!
Kelley and Chase

Sunday, February 2, 2014

13 Days: Gear and Cake!

It is a truly surreal feeling realizing that you are in the process of selling off and packing up your entire life in order to set out on a 6 month journey to find your self, your passion and your purpose. Maybe I'm putting a little too much faith in how life changing this experience is going to be, but I have these butterflies in my stomach and this hope in my heart that everything is going to be different when we come back down to the real world.

Last night we hosted a group of our closest friends and family for an intimate goodbye and support-group meeting. We covered topics ranging from our gear and our winter worries to how to address a mail-drop and our itinerary. We drank and ate and talked into the night, and I can't be more grateful for their support. Our dear friends, newly engaged Anthony and Felica made us the most AMAZING cake in the world.

This was really just too much for my poor heart to handle. I am going to miss these folks so much.

We watched the NatGeo Appalachian Trail documentary on mute and narrated it (hilariously) ourselves. We planned visits on the trail. We even busted out a very special bottle of Stone Vertical Epic 09-09-09 to share with these great people. It was the best way to close out a very special evening. I only wish I had thought to bring out my Polaroid camera to capture the good times.

Things have been a little hard the past couple of weeks what with trying to pack and organize and make sure we didn't forget to order any gear. My dad has also chosen to be unsupportive of the hike, so it's been really tough for me to deal with, but surrounding myself with loving and supportive people makes everything easier. Next weekend is our big, final farewell bash. If it goes half as well as last night did, I will be so elated.

Let's Talk Gear!

As a result of our last shakedown on Standing Indian we made some big decisions and we are changing out our Big 4 and adding a few extra items.

Pack: Gregory Deva 60 and Baltoro 65

These packs are Cadillacs! You hardly realize you're carrying 30lbs. At a massive 5lbs 11oz, these guys weigh twice as much as our Osprey Exos packs. Why? Because we decided to carry heavier, bulkier gear to combat the winter weather and we need the extra space and extra comfort of the bigger packs. We will be switching to the Exos in April though, if the weather normalizes.

Sleeping Bag: Mountain Hardwear Lamina 0

Yeah, we decided we needed a zero degree bag. The night we were on Standing Indian, the temps dipped into the teens with 35mph winds. It was cold! We were able to stay warm and to get some sleep, but Chase had trouble keeping out the drafts. We will be switching back to our Zpacks Twin Quilt when the weather warms.

Sleeping Pad: NeoAir Xtherm

This is a warm pad! And super comfy! And it weighs almost nothing! And it takes up half of the space that the ProRest pads took up! Overall we love this pad and we are confident that it will provide all the of insulation from the frozen ground that we will need. We plan on using these the whole trip.

Tent: TarpTent Stratospire II w/ solid interior

We decided to also purchase a solid, windproof interior for the TarpTent, so hopefully with the combination of the warmer bag and windproof layer, we will stay nice and toasty even in the worst conditions. We will be switching back to the mesh when the weather warms.

Other Gear:

In addition to all of the above, we also purchase a couple pairs of down booties to keep our feet warm in camp, we are ditching gloves for mittens, and we also picked up some items for Sheila. She will be getting a fleece blanket and fleece booties to wear in camp to help protect her from the elements. We think that with these additions our winter camping experience will be much better over all. 

I will be working on updating the gear spreadsheet today and tomorrow so that it reflects these changes. I will also be posting a new page with a list of mail drop locations if you want to send us some magic!