Day 10 – Tue 2/27/18

Day 10 went from Woody Gap to Neel Gap – 10.8 miles!

Wow, I am so proud of myself! First double digits in the books. On one of the hardest sections on the AT, Blood Mtn!

Whenever we went from Gooch to Neel, we decided to skip that section to keep progressing NOBO. However, after my Nero and 2 Zero’s, this was the first clear day we were going to have, and I knew I had one chance to do Blood Mtn right!

It was incredible! I am so happy I decided to wait until a perfect day to go to Blood Mtn. The views were impeccable!

I would definitely recommend this section to anyone who is looking to have views all day and who doesn’t mind the strenuous nature of the trail in this area.

Okay, I am going to try to do my best to give you a play by play of everything.

About 11 am, Sally was dropping me off at Woody Gap. By about 11:15 am, I was on the trail.

About 1 mile in, you come to Preaching Rock.

Only .3 mile later, I got some great views from Big Cedar Mountain.

After hitting those huge views, I had about 5 or 6 miles of hiking in the woods. I kept hearing everyone say that there are down trees from Irma, and well, I found them! They were just all over the place, massive! Shout out to our trail maintainers because I know this was a lot of work!

After that, the AT wanted to start playing jokes! In the next picture, you can clearly see two trails you can take, but which one it the right one?

If you guessed the trail to the left, you would be correct! Always follow the white blazes! The trail to the right is a BLUE blazed trail.

Even though I was walking in the woods, I still got some pretty wicked views!

About 3.6 miles into my hike, I hit Lance Creek. It crosses the AT. Many people camp here when hiking up to Blood.

From here, I had about 4 more miles of walking in the woods until the next set of views, but I still got some amazing views along the way!

These photos are from Jarrard Gap, Gaddis Mountain, Turkey Stamp, and Bird Gap all leading up to the main attraction – Blood Mountain!

Okay, folks, this is what you’ve all been waiting for, and what I hiked ~10 miles today for… BLOOD MOUNTAIN

A few ascent photos for the dramatic finale!…

This is Blood Mtn Shelter, the oldest Shelter on the AT, built in 1934! Consisting of two rooms, it is made completely of stone, and was built with a fireplace. This shelter is also known for one of the best views from… the privy… hikers believe pooping is a spiritual experience on trail and such things deserve special attention. 😬😅🤷🏼‍♀️

Now, for the views!

Okay, so as you can tell, it was really hard to stop taking photos! After summiting Blood, it was another 2.4 miles back down into Neel Gap where I got a ride from Chief Duffy (904) 562-0008 back to Hiawassee.

I have almost completed my first page in my AWOL book!

Okay, I’m afraid this might not publish since it has SO many pictures, so I’m going to wrap it up for now.

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!

Day 9 – Mon 2/26/18

Day 9 – ZERO’d.

This is day number two trying to heal up my bad ankle.

I got up this morning around 8:30 am to hit up the breakfast and hope to catch Noah and Sleeves on their way out. I missed Noah, but caught Sleeves just before his ride arrived. He was in great spirits! Probably about to pound out more miles!

After breakfast, I came back to my room to get my laundry done. One load and done.

Once I got that folded up, mom told me my package had arrived that morning to the post office, so I went to pick that up. On my way out, I saw Jesse (spelling?) and Don who had just gotten in from Dicks Creek Gap ready to take a Zero tomorrow. Great guys!

When I got to the post office, I learned that not only had mom’s package arrived, my bounce box arrived too!.. which was great, but not great at the same time because it is a BIG box and I didn’t have a ride! Thankfully, I stuck my thumb out and a guy in a big white work pickup truck gave me a ride to the Holiday Inn Express which happened to be right beside his worksite!

During that time, Life Alert and Whisper made it into town and slammed some Hardee’s before heading up to the Holiday Inn to check in.

I went through my bounce box and set out 3 days of food for Gooch Gap to Neel Gap. All I need to buy is a new fuel canister, a large smart water bottle, and a small smart water bottle. Oh, and an ankle wrap… which is where I’m going now! BBL!

I was able to pick up an ankle wrap and waters.

Tonight, I hung out with my Tramily -1, Life Alert and Whisperer.

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!

Day 8 – Sun 2/25/18

Day 8 – ZERO’d!

Today, I had a complete zero day where I completed no positive miles. I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express to rest my feet and ankle.

This morning, I woke up to go get breakfast in the down stairs lobby and ran into Sleeves and Noah! Sleeves was hoping to get to church for the morning, so he was trying to get out the door. But Noah and I had breakfast together!

I haven’t gotten the chance to spend a lot of time with Noah yet, but I stalked him on Facebook yesterday (yes, I already told him about it, ha!) and he is definitely someone I hope to get more time to talk to in the future!

Unlike many hikers, he is hiking with a walking staff instead of two trekking poles. It might seem weird in normal life, but that stuff sticks out on the trail.

After breakfast, we both went back to our rooms. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to see him before he got back on the trail tomorrow morning, but thankfully he added me on Facebook, so we are chatting about how I stalked him. Haha. 🤐

Around 3 pm, I started looking for what I was going to do about dinner because Sunday in a small town isn’t the place you want to be after 6 pm looking for a quick eat. I didn’t really want McDonald’s again, so I had my eye on the Blimpie just across from the hotel. I walked over there hobbled down there only to find they were mysteriously closed. The door hours sign even said they should be open, but they weren’t. It was a total bummer for me because I was trying to walk hobble as little as possible, but the Hardee’s was only a little farther down the hill, so I got a burger there.

Later that night, I decided to change my plan a little. When Life Alert, Michelin, and I got off at Gooch Gap and got a ride into Neel Gap, we decided to just keep going forward from Neel Gap leaving about 15 miles we didn’t hike. But as my mom pointed out, I’m a purist and not hiking those miles is weighing more on me. So, when I get back on trail in two days, I will be getting a ride back to Gooch Gap to hike to Neel Gap, then getting a ride from Neel Gap back to Hogpen Gap to keep hiking the AT.

Okay, that’s it for now.

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!

Day 7 – Sat 2/24/18

Day 7 went from Tesnatee Gap to Hogpen Gap – .9 mile.

Yep, you read that correctly. Not even a whole mile. This morning, I woke up and started noticing some swelling in my ankle. I believe I irritated a tendon or ligament because I was compensating for the pulled calf muscle because I was compensating for the bruised blisters on the inside of my arch. I feel like I knew I should have taken another zero at Neel Gap, but I just wanted to keep going so badly. And now, I’m suffering the consequences at the Holiday Inn Express in Hiawassee, GA while the rest of my tramily is out hiking.

I called Sally and Joyce from Hogpen Gap where Sally picked me up and brought me into Hiawassee. I got a room, then immediately filled up the tub and soaked. I took the rest of the day off until dinner where I made a .6 mile round trip to McDonald’s for dinner… which made my ankle angry again. I’m taking ibuprofen every 4 hours to try to get the swelling down.

However, during my hike, I did get some great views from Wildcat Mountain.

Okay, another Nero in the books!

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!

Day 6 – Fri 2/23/18

Day 6 went from Neel Gap to Tesnatee Gap – 6 miles.

Even though I had new shoes, had Nero’d, and then Zero’d, it was not a single bit easier. My feet were still killing me, and I noticed my calf muscle in my right leg felt pulled (most likely due to over compensating for the bruising and blistering on the inside arch).

However, today was exciting!

When we went up to Mountain Crossings to head out, I got to meet Bethany “Snap” Varner who was doing some trail magic! I watched all her YouTube videos from her 2017 thru hike!

She is so nice! I was so happy I got the chance to meet her! She basically killed the AT single-handed-ly! Like she is awesome!

After she filled me up with chocolate milk, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and bagels, I set out for a day of views!

Basically, these are all the pictures I took going up to Levelland Mountain, Wolf Laurel Top, and Cowrock Mountain.

Levelland Mountain

Wolf Laurel Top

Cowrock Mountain

Tonight, I got into Tesnatee Gap where there is no where to camp except in the paved parking lot, so that is where I tented. I met two other guys Maverick and his son (Maverick is on YouTube, I believe he said Maverick_71). They camped in the parking lot with me, so we made the best of it! Really great guys! Maverick and I have the same tent, so it was nice someone else appreciated it as much as I do! We all ate dinner together, and then passed out!

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!

Day 5 – Thurs 2/22/18

Day 5 was a true Zero (as opposed to our Nero or Near Zero Day yesterday).

We called Suches again and he gave us a ride into Dahlonega. First, we stopped by a different outfitter to look at shoes for Life Alert, but that was a bust. Then, we stopped by the jerky store because I was really wanting to go. After buying some jerky, we headed over to Walmart to resupply. Also, the night before, we decided to test Weeds! He has been a head chef for years in NOLA, so we were going to let him cook for us. We decided on steak and macaroni and cheese.

Once we got back from Walmart, we needed to go pick up our mail drops from Mountain Crossings. On our way out, we passed some friends from the trail – Noah, Racha, Ohm, Kenji, and Rob. Rob came over later and had a couple beers with us. Racha and Ohm came over and used our shower. Kenji hung out while Racha and Ohm showered! We didn’t get a chance to see Noah after that.

Also, while at Mountain Crossings, I got to meet Darwin! He is a YouTuber. He has completed the AT and he was just getting off the trail finishing the Pinhoti which is his training trail for the PCT in one month! I got a picture with him, and will post it as soon as I get it. I couldn’t believe I got to meet him! I watch all his videos!

That night, Weeds cooked a delicious dinner for us where I officially renamed him Michelin!

Tomorrow, we would be hitting the trail again!

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!

Day 4 – Wed 2/21/18

Day 4 went from Gooch Mtn Shelter to Gooch Gap – 1.3 miles.

The night before as I was walking into Gooch Mtn Shelter, I briefly met Fresh Ground who had walked in from Gooch Gap to let us know that he had set up Leap Frog Cafe at Gooch Gap for trail magic. He was planning on making banana pancakes for us all!

So as I set out that day behind Life Alert, I knew what I had to look forward to. However, as hopeful as I tried to be about my situation, the prognosis had deteriorated. I told Life Alert to hike on at her pace without me because I was holding her back big time. She hiked ahead and I hobbled. My trekking poles were no longer trekking poles, but crutches. I knew the only way out was to get to Gooch Gap and find a ride out, so I had to keep pressing forward.

I was so incredibly defeated at that point. I was in so much physical pain, but mentally I was running thin too. I started calling myself a Komodo Dragon because of my near crawling pace.

To make matters worse, I was passed up by everyone who left camp after I did. I felt the tears coming. It was so demoralizing. I remember telling someone as they passed that Fresh Ground might be gone by the time I finally made it!

I had to stop every couple of steps because I just couldn’t handle the pain. About halfway, I put Paxley down to get out some ibuprofen to just get me to Gooch Gap… I took 10 200 mg ibuprofen all at the same time just to get myself there!

I did finally make it to Fresh Ground and his Leap Frog Cafe where all my friends were waiting for me – God bless them. Fresh Ground took one look at me, saw those tears nearly pouring out told me to just take a seat, asked hot chocolate or coffee, and said my banana pancake was up next. By the time I hobbled over to the chair, he was already handing me a hot chocolate with 2 packets – that’s a GOOD man right there.

One banana pancake later, he said “There we go! Got some life back into that face now!” I ended up eating 2 more banana pancakes, a grilled cheese (because yes, it was lunch by the time I finally made it), and fresh cut French fries. It was so delicious! And truly it was something I really needed after struggling.

I encourage you to check out his Facebook page and consider donating to his Leap Frog Cafe! He is donations based ONLY. As the hikers travel north, he “Leap frogs” with them and sets up his cafe along the way (starting in Georgia all the way to Maine) to cook 3 full meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for every hiker that passes by him. His mission is to treat everyone the same no matter where they come from and just be kind and show love to everyone. Please consider donating to his Cafe!

After he made sure we were all fed and full, he gave us the phone number of a shuttler in the area that he knew would be able to pick us up and take us to Neel Gap so we could go to the outfitter to get new shoes and stay at the Blood Mtn Cabins. His trail name is Suches (when I find his full info, I will add it here). He thru hiked the AT SOBO, I think, in 2012?

He picked Life Alert, Weeds, and me and took us into Neel Gap where we split a cabin at Blood Mountain Cabins. We stayed in Rabbit and really enjoyed our time there!

That afternoon, we walked to Mountain Crossings where I got my new shoes and sent my old ones back home. I got a pair of Oboz and a very low profile insole for them.

I really like them so far, I just have a lot of residual bruising from my last pair I am trying to take care of.

That evening, we decided to give Suches a call to see if he could bring us beer and pizza because we had heard he did the same for Chandler and his dad the night before. So, we feasted on beer and pizza.

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!

Day 3 – Tue 2/20/18

Day 3 went from Hawk Mtn Shelter to Gooch Mtn Shelter – about 7.6 miles

I was feeling it BAD this morning. By this point, I knew my shoes were doing me more harm than good. I had started forming blistering bruises along the inside arch of both of my feet. It was going to be a rough day!

These are some selfies and photos from the first part of my hike that day… two are selfies, then the rest are reference points.

About an hour and 45 minutes later, I was on the backside of Sassafras Mountain. However, I needed to have a mini meltdown! I was hurting all over. I looked at my right hip bone and found a bruise from my pack.

During my nice little stop, I took some more selfies… haha.

I was wet, Paxley was wet, everything inside of Paxley was wet. It was awful. And now, here is a picture of the perpetrators themselves! Kicking myself for getting these darn shoes now because as I’m writing this, I’m stuck at the Holiday Inn Express in Hiawassee trying to heal up. 😔

Okay, so I had finally had enough time to mini meltdown, and I was ready to get back to it! Thankfully this was my view *intense sarcasm*.

About an hour later, the most miraculous thing happened – the fog started going away! This was as I was walking around Justus Mountain. I’ll tell you, I needed this encouragement more than you’ll know. I haven’t had the thoughts of quitting, but my morale was getting low since I wasn’t able to get any rewards for my hard work. Honestly, I didn’t even expect it to clear up when it did, I was just going to keep trudging anyway. This was great though!

Look at those! Pictures without fog and mist! Beautiful! I felt like I could have kept on walking for miles in that clear air – which is good because that’s what I needed to do. I still had about 3 more hours of walking to get to Gooch Mtn Shelter.

My next obstacles were a couple of streams I had to ford. They were flowing good because of all of the rain Georgia has had. It’s likely not going to look like a lot in a photo, but it is actually scary to have to walk through them with 40 lbs on your back!

This is Justus Creek.

Then, I believe this one is Blackwell Creek.

Between those two, I got a really nice picture of the AT and why it is called “the green tunnel”. Rhododendrons surround the trail and make a tunnel. It is so beautiful in person!

So that night, I did make it to Gooch Mtn Shelter, but I was barely hobbling in. My tramily really saw how bad it was that night. Thankfully Life Alert (Hiker BFF) saw me coming and ran out to greet me. They really didn’t think I was going to make it, and I can’t blame them. Looking back I have no idea how I made it.

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!

Day 2 – Mon 2/19/18

On Day 2, **it got real. I went from Springer Mtn Shelter to Hawk Mtn Shelter – which was about 8.7 miles.

I was already really starting to lag behind my tramily (Trail Family), but figured it was just normal because I’m from Memphis and mountains are nonexistent. I started thinking I was just a slower hiker (which I expected).

My first sights were from a footbridge of a stream. I was excited, but was a little down because of my hiking speed.

After the streams (going down in elevation), I finally was able to start going up in elevation! Yay! Except it was very foggy and misty, so there were no sights to be had. But, I did try to take some pictures to help you see what everything looks like for me.

This picture is looking downhill to my left.

It’s hard to tell, but I’m actually very high up – in the clouds or mist (probably mist).

This photo is from the exact same location, only looking forward (aka NOBO).

So this is what I’m looking forward to as I’m hiking. Left would be downhill and right would be uphill (not sure which mountain, but a high one – trust me!).

This photo is directly to my right at eye level, like the past two. I’m hoping this will explain what I’m hiking up!

As you can tell, when I look exactly to my right, all you see is the side of the mountain I’m currently hiking up! It is so high, that I have to look up to even see the top, whereas I only had to look out to my left to tell I was in the trees.

This next photo is again in the same exact location, only looking backward (aka SOBO) – this would be what I just hiked.

As you can see, it really is a “trail”! I’m not just mountaineering or navigating. The trail is very well marked and traveled.

Now, here come the selfies because I was tired of hiking and needed motivation. Haha!Selfies showing downhill…Selfie showing uphill…Okay, now this photo, I took 7 minutes later because it was a really good example to show you how I navigated the trail. I follow these signs called “white blazes”. They are 6 inch tall by 2 inch wide white painted rectangles on trees. You can see the trail and the blaze in the distance.I ended up rolling into camp this night just before the sunset, and the shelter was already “full”. So, I decided to tent this night to avoid making anyone move at “hiker midnight”. I had to setup my tent in the light rain, but it was already wet from the night before. In addition, I accidentally setup my rainfly wrong-side out, which didn’t help my already damp/wet situation. But it was what it was, so I took it like a champ!So very thankful for my HikerBFF who started boiling my water for dinner and helped my setup my tent since I got in late!At this point, everything was wet and refused to dry out. At this point, all you can do is embrace the suck. It rained again that night, but I did my best to wipe up all the water with my-already-damp/wet-camp-towel throughout the night. I was hoping to keep my down sleeping bag and down-lined sleeping pad from getting wet. I didn’t fail, it I didn’t quite succeed either.Tomorrow is a big day, so we shall leave it to its own!Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!

Day 1 – Sun 2/18/18

Day 1 started down at the Amicalola State Park Visitors Center. This started the Approach Trail that Hiker BFF would hike up to Springer Mtn. I only took a picture at the iconic arch.

For me, Day 1 was the Springer Mtn parking area to the Springer Mtn Shelter where I set up camp and waited for Hiker BFF to come up the Approach Trail, so we could Summit Springer at the same time.

Originally, Hiker BFF’s parents were going to take me up to the Springer Mtn parking area, but it is a dirt road and Georgia was just hit hard with large amounts of rain causing flooding and muddy conditions. Since I didn’t want anything to happen to their car, I got a ride with Duffy @ Chief Duffy Shuttles (904) 562-0008 to the parking area.

Thankfully I decided to show up about an hour earlier to meet her because she flew up that Approach Trail like it was nothing!

We both summited Springer Mtn where a guy was waiting for his girlfriend and gave us some trail magic… Bud Heavy!

After celebrating, we went back down into camp and set up for the night. We ate dinner with Hannah, a Ridge Runner, and Yogi, another NOBO thru hiker.

This is where I got my trail name – Dragon! I got the name because I was the only person (out of guys and gals) able to start the fire after it had been raining and all the wood was soaking wet.

So, that pretty much sums up day one.

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!