I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I am all in when it comes to backpacking l. The sky is still dark when we left for the mountains of Hot Springs, North Carolina. I took a nap while my friend is behind the wheel and the three-hour drive flew by. We made it to the trailhead at Davenport Gap to hike to Garenflo Gap. The adventure begins.
There are three of us venturing off on this backpacking adventure: Cindy, Hannah, and I. When I first met Cindy, I knew right away we were going to have fun. At 6 am, she has more excitement than some people have in their whole life. She is a ball of energy. Hannah is my best friend I met in college who equally matches Cindy’s upbeat and positive personality. Those are the best kind of people to adventure with. Cindy is an ultra runner, fitness instructor, and health and wellness enthusiast. Needless to say, she knows what she is doing when it comes to fueling properly and backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, and I was so glad to learn from her expertise.
You can tell this picture (above) is taken at the beginning of the trip.
The 16-mile hike up
Coordinates to the parking lot:
We parked our car at Garenflo Gap and drove about an hour to begin the hike at Davenport. The first few minutes went quickly, and in no time, we had covered five miles, then six, and then seven. It wasn’t until around mile 8 I started struggling and realizing my body was lacking something. Eating a peanut butter jelly sandwich tasted like a gourmet creme brûlée because it was exactly what I needed. Gradually, we began climbing up and up. The trail would reach 5000 feet in elevation at its highest. I couldn’t tell you if we were in North Carolina or Tennessee because we passed the state line several times.
What we ate on the trail & what I am bringing next time
Each time I go backpacking I learn something new. I did not realize how important fueling is while on the trail. Previous backpacking trips have been much shorter, so I didn’t have to worry about how much I was eating. This trip is different. You can only get through a thirty-mile hiking trip by fueling properly. These are a few of the food I will now be bringing with me on the trail.
- Banana chips- Bananas have high amounts of potassium, which helps with hydration. Since banana is hard to pack in a backpack without getting smushed, dried banana chips are a great alternative.
- Chomps and Gels- The last time I ate chomps or gels was when I trained and ran a half marathon a couple of years ago. They help keep your body going after exercising for long periods of time.
- Electrolyte packets- You can purchase propel or flavored water with electrolytes at almost any grocery store in the US. Not only do they make your water flavorful, but they had an extra boost of electrolytes that will help you stay hydrated during peak physical activity.
- Luna Bars- Luna bars are packed with protein and taste simply scrumptious. To me, they almost taste like candy bars.
- Beef Jerky- I don’t eat meat, so beef jerky wasn’t an option for me. Afterward, I looked into vegan beef jerky, and I found some that were delicious, and I will be bringing on the trail next time.
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich- Peanut butter is full of protein and healthy fats your body needs for long-lasting energy.
- Dried fruit- Always a much for quick energy.
- Squeezable fruit pouches
- Almonds- Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein. They are easy to eat, and the lightly salted flavor will satisfy your taste buds on the trail.
A sleepless night in the clouds
Less than a mile away, I start to see the views of Max Patch. When we reach the top, it is sunset, and the views are breathtaking. I didn’t have very long to enjoy them because we needed to get our tents up and fast. The sun is going down, and we are going to lose light quickly. While we are setting up our tents, it begins to rain. The clouds rolled in, and the wind and rain picked up. The wind and rain are so strong it made starting the stove for cooking impossible. Our dehydrated meals are crunchy and cold, but the protein and carbs feel good on my stomach. The worst is yet to come.
Rain gets in my tent, and somehow everything is wet. We didn’t bring sleeping bags because normally in the summer you don’t need them. After all, it is too hot. Even though I had several layers, I was cold, wet, and couldn’t get comfortable. The rain and wind pounded my tent, and my rain fly had trouble staying put. I went out into the rain several times to readjust it. Cindy couldn’t sleep either, and Hannah’s sleeping was sporadic as well. Once daylight hit, we decided to get a move on. When I open the tent, I realize I have been sleeping among the clouds. The entire area is cloudy.
The 14-mile hike down
The second day’s hike is easier, but my body is aching. I got a blister the size of a quarter on my right foot, two welts on my back from an ill-fitted backpack I purchased from Walmart the day before our trip. I am sore everywhere. Hiking sixteen miles uphill is new to me, and my body had no idea what was happening.
By 10 am we had already been hiking for three hours, and I was moving so slowly. Frustrated, protein deficient, and running on 0 hours of sleep, I was not doing well. After some time, we stopped for lunch, and I got some protein in me. This helped for a little while, and we started going downhill, which helped too. I honestly don’t know how I kept going because my body felt like it couldn’t continue as soon as I woke up that morning.
The last three miles were the toughest. I was in so much pain and exhaustion I wanted to cry, but we pressed on. I don’t know when I did it, but I landed on my knee wrong while hiking downhill. The last two miles, my knee hurt so badly. When I first saw the parking lot, I couldn’t believe we made it to Garenflo Gap. I am beyond proud of Cindy, Hannah, and myself for completing such a cool experience. Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail humbled, challenged, and amazed me.
This was no leisure trip, but it was an incredible experience I will never forget. Afterward, when I told the story of all that happened on the trail, many people shook their heads, wondering why in the world I would go on a trip like this. Most things worth doing aren’t easy. I am so glad to finish such a steep hike backpacking on the Appalachian Trail.
The funniest part of the trip is on the ride home, and we stop for gas and snacks. I head into the gas station, barely able to move my legs at all. It took me forever to walk a few feet because everything is achy and sore. The looks of confusion I got will keep me laughing for days.