Jacob’s Ladder

Today’s going to be a good day!

Yeah, we have to do 16 miles, but we get breakfast! A hot breakfast! At the breakfast place at the NOC!

Great idea right?

I kept repeating that sentiment to myself as I sweat rivers up the mountains of North Carolina. Kal had a point; the breakfast WAS awesome. But this was a hot day.

This is one of those days I fantasize about living in the crick. Let me die there, so long as I am happy and cold.

We start our 16 mile hike at 11:30am and immediately we know it’s going to be a late one.

But we had a real breakfast, so.


5 hours later, sweet and sweaty Jukebox has stayed behind with me. We pass through a campground and see Buzz Lightyear and other friends. “Oh yeah we saw your buddies!” said one woman. “Yeah they passed through hours ago. You got about another 5 miles!” Hours? They were moving FAST.

Shit.

Later we would find out this was Kal’s plan. He asked her to say that they were way way ahead so we’d get freaked out. Well played, sir.

It’s about this time that I start playing songs from Moana.

Juke put out his arms in the wind and put some pep in his step. I yelled the lyrics emotionally. Let me tell you, that soundtrack is INSPIRATIONAL. God DAMN it’s good, it’s so good. Have you seen it? Go watch it. Right now.

So we stumble down the hill, down down down and eventually make it to a valley. Hark! Is that friends? Why yes, ’tis! There at the picnic benches were our dear friends waiting for us to arrive with lemonade from some random dude. That lemonade was the best there was. Nectar of the Gods.

“Good news is we only have 2.4 miles to go!” Kal says.

He keeps his over enthusiastic sunshiney demeanor as he says, “Bad news is .5 of that is going to be straight uphill bullshit!!”

He was not kidding. 1.9 miles in and we’ve reached it: Jacob’s Ladder.

Let me paint this scene for you: you’re walking with your four friends happily trotting until you gather at the base of a steep path. It doesn’t look so bad. “Does anyone need their headlamps out now?” It’s 7:30pm. The sun is rapidly setting. You are together. You are strong. You are ready. 

Then you start ascending and your ankles are at a constant acute angle for .5 miles. If you stop moving, you slip down hill. Sometimes you’re leaning so far forward you touch the trail with your feeble hands and wonder if this really is the worst there’s been on the trail.

When you get to the middle there is a small flat area where everyone is waiting to regroup and you realize there’s no one else you’d rather be scrambling up a mountain with as the sun sets.

Jukebox turns on the Radiohead. Almost immediately into the ascent I feel my soul separating from my tattered body and connecting with the forest. Music can do some crazy shit to you.

For the second half of the ascent, Kal turns on “SOB” by Nathaniel Ratecliff and the Nightsweats. We’re spread out over the terrain screaming, “SON OF A BITCH!! Hand me a drink!!” It’s funny listening to music in that situation because it makes you realize how quickly the climb really is. At the same time, what was such a joyfully quick song became an excruciatingly long, painful reminder that you’re not done climbing yet.

I slowly make my way to the top and the sun is gone. Headlamps are out. And us five amble on through the darkening woods, whistling quiet tunes.


It was in that moment I realized I was feeling emotions I never knew existed. I still can’t quite put them into words. 

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We Are Tramily!

This is probably going to be the messiest calamity of a post, but it’s 6:30 in the morning and I’m just thinking about breakfast somewhere near the NOC. 

I’d like to introduce you to the beautiful humans I’ve been hiking and camping and zeroing with:


Ok not the best photo. Again, we were super distracted by food. You are looking at the best pancakes in the goddamned world right there. 

Anyway! Meet the trail family: Jukebox, Pineapple, Walkamole, and Alex. 

Together we form a hilarious, supportive, exciting, well organized (thanks to Walkamole), salty, punderful squad that takes on the trail day after day.

Of course we see lots of other wonderful people, too! There’s a group we’ve ended up camping with – Gears, Buzz Lightyear (that’s not his official name but I call him that because he camps in a spaceship), Tea Leaves, Bulletproof, Pteradactyl, Piper – and many more that I’m failing to mention, because again, food/lying on a sleeping mat/it’s so early. These are such good people. The days and nights are surrounded with good vibes, motivation, excitement. It’s a goddamned honor to be hiking with these humans. 

As for the knee situation? I’ve been slow. Finally, after advice from Pineapple and Montana, I took some ibuprofen and hope for the best. Sweet Pineapple has been hanging back with me so I don’t have to rush to keep up. The only thing is that we talk constantly. I’ve never had an easier time sustaining constant conversation. Actually, after two 6-hour days of straight talking, hiking, and sight seeing, I can confirm that this kid is the goddamn worst. 


Did I say worst? Oh no, I totally meant best! 

The formation of this squad and the amazing homies we’ve been camping with has just made me fall in love with the trail even more. 


It’s going to be damn hard to leave. I mean, we’re already planning events and reunions for after the trail. How long have we known each other? 5 days. 

In the words of Pineapple, “I’ve never cared about people I’ve known for so little time or missed people I’ve been apart from for a few hours like this before. … WHAT THE HELL, MAN!”

A Day In The Life Of Jake and Therese

Wake Up, Hike. Sit down, Hike.

No seriously, I mean, all we do is hike. Alright, it’s a little more in-depth than that, my friend. There’s setting up camp, breaking down camp, making fires, trying not to die in the middle of a freezing evening.

Sometimes, when we’re walking along a ledge, I’ll look down it and sing, “It’s a long way to the ground if you wanna rock and roooooollll.”

Anyway.

7:45am – Sunrise

Get up with the sun, watch it rise over the hills because you probably camped somewhere with mad views, yo. There are a few ways this moment can go:

  1. If it’s mild outside, you’ll enjoy the hell out of it with a cup of black instant coffee.
  2. If it’s your first morning, you’ll feel so god damn refreshed.
  3. You will stand in front of the views with one hand on your hip while you brush your teeth thinking, “This…this really is the LIFE.”
  4. You will definitely make coffee, slowly eat something, and enjoy easy conversation with your partner.
  5. If it’s freezing and windy, you might get knocked down and you will stay in  your sleeping bag.  You will not make coffee. You will slowly peak through the rain cover of your tent and yell to your partner, “OH MY GOD.”

8:30am-9:45am – Packing Up Camp

There’s a variation of time here because sometimes you move fast, other times you move slow. When it’s nice out, you will move slow. You will relish in all the moments of getting your food and smellables down from a tree. You will fold up your tent and refill your pack with a renewed joy. The trail is waiting!

But some mornings it is cold. Sometimes you wake up inside a tent covered in frost. You will then roll over with a cold nose, complain to your partner, run to get your shit, skip taking a shit, and haul everything into your pack. The worst moment in all of this is having to get out of your bag for the last time before having to fold up everything with cold fingers and no hope of warmth until you get moving again.

9:45am – Resuming the hike.

Get back on the trail feeling positive because this was your choosing, this is all your doing. You are in charge of the ultimate outcome for the day, the week, the month. This is your hike,  your moment. And you’ve got a best friend doing it with you.

Look at the sun shine. Look at all the spaces in between the trees. Even if it’s freezing, this is a beautiful day.

Look for water, you probably don’t have enough from last night. Make a Spongebob joke about how you really need water. You need it. You really need it.

1:30pm – Break and Lunch

You’ve probably had a few breaks now, especially if it’s hot, or if there’s lots of hard climbs. Eventually you will realize you are super hungry and the snacks aren’t doing it for you. You need to sit and sweat and eat some dry Ramen. You should do this on top of a mountain and not in a gap, because making a climb after lunch really hurts the tummy.

3:00pm – Break and Regroup

Where are you? You don’t really know. You don’t have the map, just the guidebook. Honestly, everything kind of looks the same and every time you look at the guidebook you instantly forget all the names of the gaps and the mountains and the swags and the ridges after you close it and nestle it back in your pack. What’s the difference between Steelhead Gap and Sassafrass lalala.

At this point you make a definite goal for where you’re going to end up at the end of the day.  You want to end up tenting somewhere because you hear the shelters are full of people and mice, plus you are OUT here. Might as well camp, right?

6:30pm – Desperately search for a site

You can’t blaze new tent sites, so you need to find one. Except the sun is setting and you are so tired. Your feet and calves are really hurting you now. Every time you stop it gets harder to start again. You have no idea how many miles you’ve actually hiked.

At first it was easy to find a site, but now they seem to be less and less plentiful. You come up with chants to keep yourself going. “Grapes. Are. Awesome. And. So. ARE. YOU!” You look back to make sure your partner is still there. You share a look of delirious exhaustion and disdain.

7:15pm – Hallelujah There’s a Site

You see your partner raise his fists into the air up ahead. Praise be, you found a site. You desperately unclip your pack and peel it off of you. You sit down on a log. You take your shoes off to air out your sweaty feet. You are alive, you made it.

Now you have to set up camp. And make dinner.

You set up the tent in the waning daylight to get it over with. Then you collect firewood and build a setup, no matter how windy it is. Seriously. Nothing will stop you. The fire is a comfort, a staple, a ritual.

Eventually you make your dinner, which tastes so good. You eat any left over snacks from the day and relish in the peace of the woods. As the sun sets, you laugh about how long the day was, how hard you worked, how beautiful everything is.

9:00pm – Peace.

You sit with your partner. You have cleaned out all your food stuff and found a tree with a big side branch with your headlamp on. If you’re Therese, you tie a bunch of sticks together and toss it over. You get better and better at this every night. Your partner ties some master knots and once everything is hung, you sit down in front of the fire.

If it is freezing, you grab your blanket.

You sit and look at the mountains or the woods or the stars. The stars are amazing and bright, brighter than you’ve ever seen before. You can almost see spots after looking at them for so long.

The woods is silent except for the wind. Sometimes you hear a rustle that makes you jerk your head. You wonder when you’re going to see a bear.

In this world, 9pm is late. You start to feel tired. You stare at the fire and have scant conversation with your partner. Everything feels perfectly in place. You are truly happy, even if you’re a little nervous about the wild life.

Each night, you feel better and better about going to sleep.

If it’s cold you’ll keep waking up in the middle of the night. You’ll have delusions about a squad of raccoons stealing your pack. You’ll wonder if your smellables got blown away in the harsh wind. You might even run over to your partner’s tent and say, “Hey…Jake? Jake are you still alive?”

He will make fun of you for this in the morning, but he will also be super appreciative.

Tomorrow? You do it all again.

You meet new people, see new sites, climb new, more painful mountains.

You are a thru-hiker. You are a beast. You are a machine. You are alive. THIS is the life.

xoTM

 

 

Hiawas-see What I Did There?

The Best Thing About A Bed Is The PILLOWS.

Holy crap. Cuddles and comfort a plenty! I cannot explain the elation that came from getting a shower, laundry, and pillows on a huge bed. As Jake and I were trying to talk, his legs kept involuntarily moving around under the covers. You could almost hear them saying “OH MY GOSH we’re FREE from the mummy sleeping bag!!”

I clung to those pillows all night. Seriously wish I could take them with me.

Why was last night so dopely and aptly timed?

There was a thunder storm. Boom shaka laka yeah dude the sky was filled with veins of lightning and the buildings shook like thunder. Did we know this storm was coming? Absolutely not. I dunno if it’s too soon to say, but I think Jake and I are savants.

What Trey Mountain Does To A Woman.

First of all, it’s not called “Troy Mountain” and shouting “THIS IS SPARTA” from the top of it really really doesn’t make much sense.

This mountain was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. We hit the top and could see the mountains around while enclosed in a little rhododendron enclave. Jake has this immaculate talent for picking the perfect song for each moment. He’s been clipping his high-class-super-awesome headphones to the back of his pack while we hike miles on miles on miles. And every time? Perfect tune-age. ‘Tis a quality that is extremely admired in such woodsy times.

All this up and down, though? It’s a knee killer. I’ll probably be in the market for a knee brace. Other thru-hikers see me going and say, “Woah! No trekking poles? I admire people like you, girl!” What I want to say is, “Those were never on my dar, kid. I didn’t know they existed ’til I got here.” But I don’t, because that would take my mysterious bad ass magic away.

In and Outta Town

With a beautifully short stint at The Budget Inn, we make moves back to the Trail. It is, after all, our true home. It feels nice to have these comforts of “normal life,” and I treasure it for the small time that I got it.

Jake just came into the office to get more coffee and said, “Oh wow. What’s that? Is that…a computer?”

“Yeah! See? Here’s where you hit these buttons, and they magically pop up on the screen. And then you can put something on this magical thing called the Eyentern-Net.”

He looked sarcastically dazzled. “Wow.”

Forward, ho, Hikers!

xoTM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night Three 

10pm feels like midnight. The wind is roaring, I mean ROARING through the sky. It sounds like there could be a hundred people outside my tent. 

This weary traveler could not stand to walk anymore. No, not after summiting Blood Mountain. Wow what a walk today. So many miles. 

And yet, as Jake and I sit squished in the same tent playing the poem game with a head lamp propped up and flickering in a ceiling pocket, I can’t help thinking that this is the life. This is truly living. Staying warm with a buddy, playing games….

Wow. Sorry, I got so distracted because a gust came through that felt as though it might uproot my tent. That’s where I am now – we both can’t fit in one tent when it comes to sleeping. Tonight shall be interesting indeed! 

Even after a night like this, I wake up so excited to be surrounded by woods. 

During the day the mountains of Georgia look endless and misty blue. You can’t tell where you’ve been and you can barely figure out where you’re going. You have no idea where Springer Mt is anymore. It’s just…all. 


And then, at night, lights pop up. Civilization becomes a dotted backdrop to the now seemingly scant, dark mountains in your view. It’s shocking, because you can’t see ANY hint of buildings or civilized life in the day time. It’s beautiful. Expansive. 

God I have so much more to tell y’all. But, sleep beckons me and battery life must be cherished sparingly. 

For now, we bunker down in the woods. In three days, it’s off to Hiawassee! 

XoTM 

Day One Was Snow Joke! 

That’s right – welcome to Springer Mountain in Georgia. Where there is SNOW. 

Ok, not a ton, but c’mon! It’s March 16! It’s south! Where’s the warmth baby?! Instead I’m walking out of the car elated that I stuck gloves (albeit fingerless ones) in my pack at the last minute. 

I’m totally alive and loving living inside every layer of clothing I have here. Plus when you start hiking, it doesnt actually feel that cold. We made it through today. 

That’s right – WE! I have a friend who’s name is Jake and he is amazingly cool. In an actual shocking turn of events we were both visiting extended family in Virginia before taking the same train to Gainesville last night. He (and his driver) was super kind enough to offer me a seat in his ride up to Springer Mt. Parking Lot. 

Yeah, I had planned to go to Amicalola Falls and do the approach trail (so glad I didn’t). Just goes to show you how swiftly plans can change! 

But oh my god the DRIVER. Richard was his name. What a beautiful character! Right from the start he was yelling at us to get moving with such cheerful gusto. His back car window was patched up with a Budweiser box (until he had time to put some real cardboard in there, once business calmed down). God, it was just such a hilarious car ride with such a boisterous, happy man. 

Anyway, this is Jake, he’s mad cool. 


And so we trek on, spending our first night on a quaint little camp site with some cool views. We kept walking past the first shelter because it was too early and cold. So now we got this place! Even though now I’m way tired. Thank god for trees right? They’ll almost always support you. 


Time to put all our outdoorsy know how to work! 

It’s so surreal. This is IT. THIS is it! I feel enclosed in the trail, comfy and happy despite the weighty pain of my pack. This is truly a beautiful life. 

For now, goodnight until the next time! 
XoTM 

A Midnight Train To Georgia 

Wait. 

WHAT AM I DOING! 

I am going to Georgia right now. I am going to hike the Appalachian Trail. This is real. This is actually happening. 

From Gainesville, GA, I’ll be finding a taxi or some sort of shuttle to Amicalola Falls, where I will then hike about 8 miles to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail: Springer Mountain. 

Funny, isn’t it? How, despite your endless planning, the event doesn’t feel real until you’re standing on the edge of a platform with your pack that definitely is a little too heavy? 


ARE YOU READY TO ROCK?! 

I guess I just can’t believe I’m actually pulling all this off so far. Mom and Dad, did I make you proud? 

Ok, my head is a tizzy of thoughts. What am I doing? Who will I meet? I can’t wait to see the stars I can’t wait to be so exhausted that I pass out. What’s going to happen in the rain? And yet, I’m not worried at all. 

Sure, I’m nervous. The healthy kind of nervous! This is a life change, y’all. I’m about to take on a world I’ve never existed in before. 

Oh, also? They also haven’t scanned my ticket yet. I could be an imposter for all they know!!! (Imposter? I barely even know her!) 

Bless the people that are getting off on all these stops before me. 9 more hours to go. There’s also a handful of people around me with packs. This guy across from me has the same Z fold Thermarest. 

Oh Therese stop that’s too much. 

Well. 

For now? I am not quelled by the desperate length of this train ride. No! I am pumped. Plus I think I’ve got a Trail name in mind. 

I am Little Wing. Hear me roar.