This guest post comes from Justin Bailey, a frequent contributor to the RidePost Blog. Before he left to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail for Spring Break, he told us all about his plans in more depth, here. True to the nature of travel – not everything always goes as planned. Thankfully, Justin and friends still made a trip of it, despite some detours along the way. Enjoy this follow-up from Justin!
Late Saturday, we arrived at the Standing Bear Hostel ready for the adventure to begin. Greeted by Rocket, a temporary worker at the hostel, we were a little surprised that we didn’t see trail markers, or even pavement along this road. The site itself was exactly what we expected from the pictures on their website: rustic. The hostel was the perfect way to start off the trip since it’s complete with privy – outdoor bathroom – and all the fixin’s. I could hardly get to sleep that night.
The following morning just before sunrise, we awoke to check gear, grab coffee and get a short ride to the beginning of the trail. Before we even arrived at the trail, the mountain greeted us with fog, cool air, and a pair of elk lazily crossing what would be our starting point. We took a few pictures at the signpost of the AT, and we were off. With heavy packs and heavy steps, we made a few water stops before reaching the steep part of our first day. This section included a climb of about 4500 feet in less than 4 miles of trail. Needless to say, our packs loaded with food, gear, and tents starting wearing us. Without having hiked much recently, my pack felt like a bear slung over my shoulders. I thought to myself even after passing other hikers along the route, “was 15 miles in a day a little ambitious?”
That evening we set up tents near a shelter, built a fire, and talked about our plans on how to proceed, since we had only covered about half the distance planned for the first day. As I lay in my bag listening to the wind howl over like rushing waves at the beach, I slowly realized that our trip to Fontana was severely overestimated for this time of year.
The following morning we decided to descend to Cosby for various reasons; exhausted knees, poor planning, overstuffed packs, etc. On the way down, we discussed options for the remainder of the week. Luckily, living in South Carolina does have its perks. Our choices ranged from going to Charleston, camping on the beach outside of Beaufort, or heading to Table Rock Park in the upstate, among other destinations.
Defeated by the AT but not done camping, we decided to head to Hunting Island State Park just outside of Beaufort. Hunting Island is a 100% preserved state park with campgrounds, a lighthouse, and a gorgeous beach. Camping lot 73 was our residence for the remainder of the week until our return on Friday. On this island, we were able to do all the camping we wanted but at sea level instead of at 5500+ feet on top of a mountain.
Even though I’m upset we weren’t able to finish our route along the AT, I’m thankful that we were able to still take a little time to enjoy nature without much interference from technology. On our return trip, we plan to do a bit of hiking in Pisgah National Forest and Cherokee National Forest in North Carolina to prepare ourselves. This section of the AT after March will still have some snow at the peaks, but the sloshy stuff will gone below roughly 5500 feet, which will make the hike much easier to traverse 10+ miles per day.
Enjoy Justin’s photo essay from the trip: