Hiking: Updates from Storm's Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike (4/10/16 thru 4/17/16)

Storm (Moe) is making his way through Georgia. His hiking companion who started with him, decided to end her thru hike 8 days and about 50 miles in. Considering this was her very first time hiking for more than a few hours and camping for more than a night, we all think that Sharon (Trooper) did really well! As for Storm, he has continued north after helping Sharon get a bus to Atlanta to get a flight to come back home. Today (4/17) he should be crossing into North Carolina and have one state in his trip done!  Here's a look back at his last few days of hiking in his own words:

April 10, 2016

After a warm, warm, warm night in the hostel we got up and ready for the 9 am shuttle. Well we thought it was 9 but in reality it was 10. So we went into the wolf pen country store and had coffee.

Gonna miss little foot, blondie and timber and Rex. Rex was such a good pup who was at the hostel last night. Made me miss sandy pup a bunch. We got to woody gap at 10:45 am. Same guys were doing trail magic and I thanked them again.

We headed in and started up to preaching rock. It was a slow go for Sharon when we got to the ups especially with the rock scrambles they are hard for her. After reaching preaching rock we had big cedar mountain and more rock scrambles. Sharon did well and we made it to lance creek at about 2:30. I said do you wanna stay or push on trooper said push on... I think she regretted that decision. As there were more ups. I started having my first tough day on the physical end. Not sure if it was stopping and starting or doubling back just to make sure trooper was good. The last mile was tough and I felt famished. I'm eating like every 30 minutes. Trooper on the flip side at one point said she wanted to go home. I said we gotta get to Neels Gap before we can do anything and then you can think about it. Your not quitting on a bad day.
Preacher Rock

We finally reached the sign for the shelter and were like hurray. Then we walked what seemed like a mile long blue blaze to the shelter. Finally made and no one I mean not a soul to be had was here. I guess we are the only bozos carrying a bear canister on a thru hike. I was gonna try and keep mine thru the Smokies and then send it home. It was good having it because for trooper to do lance creek to neels gap would have bee really taxing on her. At least this way she only has 3.5 miles to go. We did chores, filtered water, ate food, food, food.. All with a cold wind blowing. We crawled into our bags at 8pm and are ready to zonk. I wanted to write this up first. Blood mountain tomorrow.

April 11, 2016

I awoke at 4am in Woods hole shelter to Trooper whispering what is that noise? An owl I say! You sure trooper says? Well it's not the Georgia Devil. Needless to say Trooper slept with the head lamp on till daylight. I got up first to a very damp and heavy mist. We were in the clouds at 3700 feet. I gathered kindling and fired up the stove for coffee. We are packed and pushed off. Stopping on our way out to filter water on the blue blaze back to the AT. We had a short 3.5 day but it was not going to be easy. Up and over Blood Mt and down to Neels gap. We started slow and at the junction of Slaughter Creek trailhead I waited for Trooper to catch up.

We saw our first hikers in almost 17 hours. Most people do not carry a bear canister with them just a food bag. You cannot camp or stay in a shelter between Lance Creek and Blood Mt without a bear canister. Everyone stayed at Lance Creek last night. It was good we had bear canisters or Trooper would of had to hike 11 miles from Lance Creek to Neels. We could have done 9 and stayed at Blood Mt shelter but it wasn't that nice. For a tidbit fact it was the first shelter built on the AT in 1932. So it was nice to see other hikers as we were alone last night at Woods Hole.

We went slow any steady and arrived at the summit at 12:30 to pea soup fog. We rested at Blood Mt shelter, ate snacks/lunch, used the privy. I was signing the log book when suddenly it was like the mother alien ship moved off the mountain and we were drenched in sunshine and panoramic views... WOW! Talk about timing. Pictures were taken and we started our descent. Taking our time on the way down was much harder than the way up with lots of rocks. We took several breaks and arrived at Neels Gap at about 4pm.

Trooper went in and bought some snacks and was looking for accommodations. She was under the impression we would be able to get into a motel or hotel. The word we were hearing from everyone along the trail was that Neels Gap was the emerald city. Our choices were the hostel, cabins, or a B+B which had a free shuttle from Neels and back to Neels. It sounded like it was out of someone's home. I called around to see if I could get a shuttle/taxi from Neels to either Blairsville or Dahlonga. Left 3 voicemails and finally one guy said he would do it for $75 dollars. No thank you! Trooper said ok let's just get a cabin and she called the number. We just sold out she was told! Ok I guess the hostel... We just sold out!!! Argh are you kidding. Trooper was about to have a meltdown. Pretzel who was standing by had heard some of this and saw Troopers face and said I'll take you for 40 bucks in a few. Gotta finish up one thing. (He works at Neels Gap) shhhh he is not supposed to take people. We said sold... We were very thankful. It was about 20 miles to the holiday inn express, When he found out we were from the northeast he pulled in to Dunkin Donuts without even asking us. Our faces lit up big time. Iced Coffee Wohoo!! We bought Pretzel a donut and he dropped us off. We paid him and thanked him immensely. He gave us his cell phone number in case we couldn't get back he would come after his dentist appointment. He thru hiked the AT in 2012.

We checked in and had a hot, hot, hot shower, ordered everything on the papa johns menu and relaxed. I went through my gear and took out about 5 pounds worth of stuff. I even went to the gym in the hotel to lift weights for my arms. Legs are good, arms don't get too much of a workout while hiking. Now sleep time. Sharon booked a shuttle/taxi from the holiday inn back to Neels Gap which will be 45 dollars so Pretzel was right in line and he went way out of his way for us. Our plan is to go from Neels gap to Whitley Gap Shelter which would be a 7 mile day.

April 12, 2016

We woke up at the Holiday Inn and had a fantastic nights sleep. We booked a shuttle back to Neels Gap and were on the trail by 10. Oh my god this day consisted of 12 ups and downs. The first 1/2 of the day was good and our spirits were high. The sun broke out and felt good on our skins but quickly turned into an energy draining yellow ball in the sky. We made it to Tesnatee Gap and saw the climb in front of us and wanted to give up. It was 565 feet in elevation gain in only .70 miles. I made it to the top end came back down to where Trooper was to carry her pack and we got her to the top. Ugh! We were spent. What a bitch of a climb for the end of the day. We made it to the junction of the blue blaze trail where the shelter was and it was 1.2 miles. We wanted to cry. We pushed and the trail dropped steeply to the shelter and we thought darn it we are gonna have to come back up this thing in the morning. Ugh. But we have to embrace the suck it will get better. Late addition this morning. I forgot to mention that I met Luigi and Knobbies yesterday. They both have trail journal so here. Ive been following them so it was nice to meet them in person. The plan is to take an easy day and go to low gap shelter.

April 13, 2016
The name says it all. We started the morning at Whitley Shelter and the climb up was to say at least not fun. When Trooper got up to the top she said well that was a hell hole and it stuck. The day was filtered sunshine and the wind died which made for pleasant hiking weather. We had three mountains to summit today. After our 1.2 miles out of Whitley we finally got back to the AT. That sucked, you walk 1.2 miles and it doesn't count for anything. We took our time to do the remaining 4.8 miles to low gap shelter. The scenery today was pretty lackluster but I did see a lot of neat flora. We made it to the shelter about 4:30. Trooper did a nice job today. Everytime I turned around she was right behind me. We got in the shelter again. We have not used our tents once yet. We set up shop and filtered water. We made dinner separately and I had chicken flavored Ramon, some of Sharon's pasta salad, 2 honey cups (from the holiday inn) and a snickers bar. We now are hunkered down for the night at 7pm.

April 14, 2016

We started the day off early from Low Gap Shelter and got on the trail by 8am. The grade was so nice the first 4 miles. The trail was on an old road very similar to what we have back in the Catskill Park. The only difference is many of the old roads in the Catskill Park go up this one was flat and was a very easy grade. We were boogieing and had gone 4 miles before noon.

We rested for a bit as we climbed up Blue Mt. We lept frogged Kate, Ompi, bubble head, no name and Hayden in some form or another. These were the group we spent most of the day with. Trooper was stiff and sore to start but the sun came out and she loosened up and was good to go. The climb up blue was steep but really rocky. This was our first real rocky climb on the AT. I said Trooper what does this remind you of and she said the Catskills. I felt like I was going up Westkill and not Blue Mountain.

I got to Blue mt. shelter first and took off my bag, gaiters and unzipped my zip offs to make shorts it got pretty warm. I walked back to the trail junction to start going down the AT and there was trooper. Holy crap I said. I was coming down to help you and there you are good job. She was spent and beat tired. We walked over to Blue Mountain shelter and rested and ate snacks for about a 1/2 hour. We then debated on if we should stay in Hiawasse or Helen for the night as we needed resupply. My sister is in Georgia and is going to meet us on Friday. We decided on Helen as the hotel is closer for my sister and it had an indoor pool and hot tub. We called and made a reservation and began our steep 1.5 trek down Blue Mt dropping 1000 feet in elevation.

We got to the bottom and were spent and were talking about ways to get to Helen. Do we hitch? Do we call a shuttle and then bam we crossed the street to trail magic. A group of past thru hikers 2010 had driven up from Athens GA and did trail magic since 8am. There were hot dogs, chips, soda, Gatorade, fruit, snacks and COLD BEER. Now I'm not a beer drinker but when I heard cold beer I was pumped. It was a nice surprise after a 10 mile hike in the sun. We sat in chairs that were provided and exchanged stories. Tumbleweed and company were wonderful. We called for a shuttle from a number the hotel provided. Trooper called and the guy who answered said he was sick. That's so our luck... Our shuttle guy is sick we laughed. I then said I guess trooper I'll stick you on the side of the road and pray someone picks us up. Just then tumbleweed says we all have 5 cars here one of us can give you a lift. We were overjoyed at the offering and said yes please. So we piled into the back of tumbleweeds car and Max her boyfriend and she drove us to Helen. She said that she had gotten a ton of free rides and trail magic that it was time to pay it forward.

They dropped us off at the hotel and we checked in. We dropped all of our gear in the room, pulled all our clothes into one pile and did a wash. I had my pair of running shorts which I threw on and went in the hot tub to soak my legs.

When I got back into the room I heard Trooper on the phone with her husband. I heard her say the words I'm coming home. She said goodnight to him and hung up. I looked at her and said its that time? She said yes it is! She said the trail is so hard and I'm in so much pain. In the coarse of 52.9 miles I have watched the pain on Troopers face but she pushed through it. Finally it was just too much for her.?So trooper will not be joining me back on the trail at Unicio Gap. She had said 6 times prior, I wanna go home and I would have her read the list of why she wanted to do the AT. If she had done all on her list then it was time to go home. The last time we stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn I thought she might not return to the trail but she did for another 16 miles. She is sad to leave and loved every minute but her body just is not liking it. Watching her grow over the last 9 days has truly been remarkable. From her first steps of panicked looking where do I put my foot, to me turning around to see how far back she is and she is right at my heels. Trooper was not a hiker or outdoors person before she did this. All of her outdoor experience has been with me and most of that has been since November 2015 when her and I started training for this. I'm going to miss her out on the trail and all the times we have laughed but I know she is still right there with me. She helped me get my trail legs, she helped me keep a slow pace and low miles and she helped me get smitty 52.9 miles closer to Maine. I think her 52.9 mile journey has been a success and has forever changed her. So to my super trooper thank you for the memories. Come visit me when I get to Virginia.
April 15, 2016
So this day was full of emotions. First we woke at the hotel and I went in the pool and hot tub again. Trooper spent most of the time after we had breakfast setting up to have a shuttle/taxi pick her up and bring her to Atlanta.
When she found a driver she had an hour to book the flight and pack before he arrived. We both packed and walked down to the lobby to check out together. We both sat on rocking chairs. Her ride arrived and I put her pack in the back of the van we hugged shed some tears and she was off.

20 minutes later my sister arrived from Ellijay with the whole clan. We had lunch at Big Daddies, my sister brought me resupplies so I repacked my gear in the parking lot. Then went to post office to mail stuff home and mail stuff forward. We then stopped at a gas station so I could buy a bunch of snacks. My sister then drove me to Unicio Gap to hop back on the trail. We said goodbye again tears and I was on my way.

Tumbleweed and Max and the crew were back at it with trail magic. She gave Trooper and I a ride into town the day before. I grabbed a Gatorade and chugged it, thanked them again for everything and started up Rocky Top mountain over 1000 foot climb out of the gap.

I was thinking about Jeff, boy do I miss him and today was his birthday. After being together for 19 years this was his first birthday we weren't together for. Ugh!! I kept pausing and turning to look for Trooper but she wasn't there. This was turning into my first emotional day and I'm sure more to come. I summitted Rocky Top and then dropped 950 feet down to Indian Grave Gap and then back up 1345 feet to summit Tray Mt. Arrived at Tray Mt shelter, was able to get in the shelter. I was way too tired to set up my tent. I made dinner and ate and now relaxing... Tomorrow I'm not sure where I'm headed.. 7 miles to the next shelter, 11 miles to a hostel or 15 miles to the next next shelter. We shall see what I can do comfortably in one full day solo.

April 16, 2016
Woke up early in Tray Mt shelter. Made breakfast and hit the trail before 7:30. Saw the kitty that is hiking with a couple. It makes me laugh. Poor kitty must be tired each day.

Made it to deep gap by 11:30 and completed 7.4 miles. I boogied right along. Didn't see anyone except one man who was packing up his camp. I said good morning and he was running around yelling I'm late I'm late. All I could think of was the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I was laughing inside and never found out if he was headed north or south.

Stopped at Deep Gap shelter and only one hiker there who was taking a zero at the shelter. He was nice and read while I ate my lunch. Left the shelter and stopped in my way out to filter water as I was getting low. I went up and over Young Lick Knob and Kelly Knob. Kelly Knob was quite the climb at 4126. My pack felt like someone had put a cinder blocks in it by the time I got to the top. Met another hiker who I think is called Chris. We kept flip flopping each other the last 3 miles and finally arrived together at Dicks Creek Gap at about 2. We started walking the road back to T.O.P (top of Georgia hostel) when the shuttle pulled over to pick us up. We were thrilled even though it was only a .50 mile walk it felt like 10 miles.

We checked into the hostel and this place is known for being the best hostel along the AT. They gave us a free cold soda and gave us a tour of the facilities. The check in place is in a great room with three large tables and benches, two large couches, flat screen tv. They have a kitchen area for staff which has coffee on all day, snacks and you can purchase pizza and other food. They also have a private bath in the common room with a shower. The big bunkhouse has a kitchen, stove, microwave, sink and a private bath. The big bunk house area has 18 beds. Then the wolf den is for guests with dogs. I got put with all the pups and was in heaven. I took a shower and relaxed. They have a front porch and a back porch with rockers and benches. So nice. They serve breakfast for free (included in price) is offered in the morning and they run a shuttle to the gap every 1/2 hour. It's going to be a nice night here. I'm excited that a whole bunch of familiar faces are here tonight. Little-foot, Luigi, Ompi, Kate, noodles, the librarian and a bunch of other familiar faces are here. Trooper and I met them all on our first 10 days.

Tomorrow the plan is to get back to Dick's Creek Gap in the morning and shooting for Muskrat Creek Shelter. That would give me an 11.8! Mile day. My plan is to be in Franklin in 3 days.


Storm is posting regular updates from the AT on his Trail Journal (where much of this content is being developed from)

You can also follow him on his Facebook Page, Moe Hikes the Appalachian Trail

Storm is also working to raise money for charity as he hikes the Appalachian Trail. He currently has a GoFundMe campaign that is supporting the work of the Catskill Center to protect and preserve the Catskills and the Catskill Park, where Storm lives, enjoys the outdoors and volunteers!

Help Moe Hike for the Catskills!

For more information about the Appalachian Trail

You can visit the National Park Service's Appalachian Trail Park Page, which features a link to the AT brochure and map.  Guides and maps are produced and sold for the AT as it passes through each State between Georgia and Maine.  There are several books including the Thru-Hike Planner, the AT Guidebook, the AT Thru Hiker Companion and the Data Book to name just a few that can help hikers who are planning on hiking the entire AT or sections of it. We also maintain a section for Appalachian Trail Guides, Maps and Books at on Adventures in the Outdoors Online Shop.