It seems more than a week ago that Brent’s parents dropped us off at the approach trail in Amicalola Falls. Maybe time moves at a slower pace in the wilderness or maybe it’s just my tired, blistered, unfit feet telling me this. Regardless, it has been a wonderful journey from the falls to our first resting place in Helen, Georgia. We are two days of hiking from our first state line, which provides enough motivation to wake up in the morning and hit the trail again.
Among this motivation, we have witnessed the kindness of many trail angels and the beauty that lies beyond roadways. Trail magic. Wow. It’s been overwhelming how locals and fellow hikers have responded to us straggling thru-hikers. We’ve been offered rides, picked up on highways and given fuel, water tablets and food. Nature. Amazing. We’ve witnessed a momma bear usher her three cubs down a tree trunk, an eerie owl prowl for food below in leaf litter, a rattlesnake (that I nearly stepped on) slither across the trail, a turtle hide away within its shell, and a turkey looking bird dart in front of us.
I’d love to elaborate on the trail angels with whom we’ve crossed paths and acknowledge them by their names and good deeds, but it will have to wait until the next post. We’re already looking at a short night’s sleep, and we have fourteen miles to hike when morning arrives.
There were some strong storms back home tonight. I hope everyone is safe and sound with power! Until next time, happy hiking!
Since thru-hikers rely on their feet to get them to Katahdin (or Springer Mountain when hiking southbound), beginning with footwear seems appropriate. I will refer to my experience in the great shoe hunt as I describe our footwear, but I acknowledge that only a handful of readers may find this useful since all feet are different. Let’s take the problem-solution approach here. Take a peek at my feet. I have the narrower heel of a woman, the flat, wide base of a Sasquatch, and as my dad likes to say, “eagle talons for toes.” I was quite unfortunate in the feet gene pool, which has resulted in many fruitless shoe hunts. I initially sought hiking boots for their ankle support, durability, and sound effects (I like to stomp). I found that all the women’s boots I tried were incredibly narrow and uncomfortable. The toe-box scrunched my eagle talons inside like commuters on a NYC subway during rush hour. The solution was simple: I bought the Merrell Phaser Rush —men’s boots. Once “broken in,” like any other mediocre-fitting shoe, I wore them through the winter and rainy season on a daily basis in addition to week-end hikes. We were in New York City during the snow storm in January, and I sloshed through the puddles and snow piles without ever getting wet or cold feet while all of my miserable travel buddies rushed back to the hotel to warm their frost-bitten toes. As a result of my fondness for the Merrell Phaser Rush, they are already worn and consequently, unfit for beginning the Appalachian Trail.
I debated the switch from boots to trail shoes for a considerable length of time because I feared the loss of support and waterproofing. On my second pair of shoes, and despite the long debate, I opted for a low-cut, trail shoe made of synthetic fabric and leather with Gore-Tex: the Montrail AT Plus GTX. I plan to use the Montrail in conjunction with trekking poles since I’m not wearing the more supportive boot. Additionally, the Gore-Tex eases my waterproofing worries. There are a couple reasons why I selected this combination. I love my boots, but I feel restricted in them and appreciate the lighter weight of trail shoes. Heck, I’m from Kentucky. I’d rather not wear any shoes at all, but if I must, the lighter, the better. The main reason I chose the Montrail is that it was a perfect fit, and I did not have to break them in like the boots. The women’s shoe has a narrower heel than my Merrell’s, so my heel does not slip out of the back, but it is designed for wide feet. So there we have it: I’ve found my solemate!
Brent has more typical feet than I. He will put on the first shoe he sees, and magically it’s a perfect fit. He started hiking with the Asolo TPS 520GV, which is a rough trail boot of full-grain leather with Gore-Tex. His second shoe is also a low-cut, trail shoe with Gore-Tex: the Merrell Continuum. For a camp shoe, Brent is taking Waldie’s Appalachian Trail Clog. This shoe weighs only 3.2 oz. and has antimicrobial ComfoTek to resist odors (something I will appreciate). I’ve been stealing them from Brent to wear around the house, and I must say that I’m a believer. They are extremely light and comfortable.