Thursday, April 19, 2012

I hiked the Appalachian Trail!

My dad and I set out for our Appalachian Trail adventure Monday morning.  After a stop at Dunkin Donuts (of course), the Post Office (to send some goodies to my husband), and Wal-Mart (for the ever important Almond Joy), we wound our way past Dahlonega to the start of our hike. 

Before we started
Notice the sun is still shining at this point
We started at Neel's Gap around 11 and planned a two-ish mile hike up to Blood Mountain, the highest point of the AT in Georgia.  The climb there was completely uphill, with a combination of trail switchbacks, gentle (and not so gentle) inclines, and stone steps.
See that incline??

The white mark to prove we're still on the AT

An action shot up the stone steps
My dad is a good sport, so we stopped for lots of photo opportunities along the way.

Almost to the top of Blood Mountain
When my dad first checked the forecast, Monday was supposed to be sunny with a 0% chance of rain.  By Monday morning, the forecast called for afternoon showers.  By the time we were on the trail, the forecast became "Gray skies with off-and-on rain all morning."  We got showered on a little bit, but fortunately it was while we were still warm.
It had stopped raining at this point, but there were still heavy gray clouds above
We reached Blood Mountain in about an hour and a half.  It gets surprisingly chilly and windy as you close to the top, and I was glad my dad had insisted I bring a long-sleeve shirt.  Fortunately, the CCC built a hiker's shelter back in the 1930's at the peak, so we were able to warm up a little bit.  We stopped there for a picnic lunch (expertly packed by my dad!).  There were a few other hikers up there, but they seemed to be thru-hikers just stopping for a rest, not day-hikers like us.
The stone shelter

Our delicious picnic lunch
After a quick stop by the bear-proof privy, we were ready for our climb back down.  The whole time up, I was looking forward to some downhill hiking. However, my thoughts on that quickly changed when I realized the ENTIRE hike back down was at a downward slope, and our knees were none too happy about that.  We took several "knee breaks" on our way back down to prevent serious injury.  I definitely got my knees from my dad!

We made it back down and stopped at the Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center, which is a hostel and outfitter. Hikers frequently will purchase new hiking boots at the Center and leave their old boots hanging from the tree out front.  It was a pretty neat sight to see!

We did NOT add our shoes to the collection
  Overall, we had a great hike.  Our total distance was around 4.5 miles there and back with about an 1800 foot elevation change from Neel's Gap to Blood Mountain.  We were both exhausted when we finished (turns out we're not in great hiking shape!), but I'm looking forward to hopefully doing another hike with my dad sometime or checking some more of the AT.

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