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White Blaze

Hike Reports: Appalachian Trail 2016

Hike with Gravity

In June 2016 I hiked the approach trail to Springer Mountain and then the first 50 miles of the Appalachian Trail, ending at Unicoi Gap.

Shakedown Day 1, Amicalola Falls State Park Approach Trail
Nothin' shakin' on Shakedown Street

There is no better way to prepare for a long distance hike than to hike a long distance. In hiker terms, this is called a shakedown hike. From the start of my training this year I have been thinking about when and where I would do a long hike to test myself and my gear.

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Shakedown Day 2, Black Oak Shelter to Hawk Mountain
I guess you kind of scared yourself, you turn and run

The biggest challenge of backpacking with boys is camp organization. Soon after arriving in camp it often looks as if several packs have exploded, and the camp remains that way until they get it in a Leave No Trace condition just before we depart.

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Shakedown Day 3, Hawk Mountain to Gooch Mountain
I see the bad moon a-rising

The two adult leaders I'm hiking with this week, Dave and Andy, are former military. Dave served in the Marine Corps and retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Andy served in the Army and completed his career as a captain. They both saw action in the battlefield, and I cannot imagine two finer men to defend the freedom we cherish in our country.

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Shakedown Day 4, Gooch Mountain to Woods Hole
Oh, I'm bein' followed by a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow

For as many nights as I have slept outside and for as much as I enjoy being outside, it would seem natural that I would sleep well outside. Unfortunately, that's often not been the case for me. And for this night, when I knew I would be getting up at 3 a.m., it was definitely not the case.

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Shakedown Day 5, Woods Hole to Whitley Gap
I went down to those dusty streets, blood was on my mind

It wasn't 4 a.m. when we left camp today, but it was early enough. We hit the trail shortly after 7 a.m. We left early because we wanted to allow plenty of time to make the long climb over Blood Mountain, with a goal of reaching Neel Gap by 11:00.

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Shakedown Day 6, Whitley Gap to Low Gap
When the dust hits my shoes I got the urge to move

Because we had hiked an extra distance yesterday to reach a reliable water source, we were closer to our pickup point the day after tomorrow than originally planned. This meant we had to parse our hiking for today and tomorrow to shorter distances than we would normally want to go.

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