Exhausting and Exhilarating

After sitting out a couple days in Hiawassee, Georgia to avoid the 15-degree nights, I pushed on refreshed and conquered a few milestones.

Brad Saum on the Appalachian Trail at the Georgia – North Carolina state line.

First, I have hiked all of the Appalachian Trail (AT) through Georgia and passed into North Carolina on Easter Sunday. One of 14 states completed. The first three miles of North Carolina were several brutal uphill climbs that went on for miles, but the fun of passing a stateline was motivating.

Second, I summited Standing Indian Mountain at an elevation of 5,478 feet. This is the highest point thus far on the AT. The trail essentially follows the ridgeline of the Appalachian Mountains, so the ups and downs are to be expected.

Third, was fighting up Albert Mountain to an elevation of 5,249 feet. The last half mile was intensely vertical, and at times I was tossing my hiking poles up on a rock and scrambling with both my arms and legs to summit. It was without a doubt the absolutely most exhausting and challenging climb thus far. It was also the most exhilarating and rewarding. This climb and magnificent view have actually been my favorite section of the trail. The fire tower at the peak provided the most impressive and beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding Appalachian Mountains. I’m grateful for the perfect weather on this day after missing other scenic views, notably Blood Mountain last week, due to rain, haze, fog or other poor weather conditions at elevation.

The Appalachian Mountains stretching to the east from Albert Mountain, North Carolina.

Fourth, I passed the 100-mile mark on the AT! I’m energized and motivated with my progress, but also keeping careful and deliberate perspective with still well over 2,000 miles to go before I can summit Mount Katahdin in Maine. I’m just getting started.

Celebrating the 100 mile mark on the AT.

Fortunately I’m feeling well, and more importantly I’m having fun and enjoying the adventure. It has been an interesting mix of solitude and being disconnected from the outside world, to social interactions with other thru-hikers while forging friendships, to an intense immersion into reality during town visits for resupply.

The natural beauty is constant. Still early spring, so lots of little budding leaves just starting to peek through. A few isolated wild flowers occasionally appear.  The forests remain leafless opening the view through the woods and across the little valleys.

Spring is trying to emerge in the mountains.

Occasionally the forest opens and the scenic views extending for miles and miles from one mountain to another and beyond is awesome. Looking back knowing I climbed some of those mountains is quite satisfying. Looking north to the mountains yet to climb is intimidating and humbling.

I’m hiking areas of the trail that are several days from a road, no cell phone signal, no powerlines and not even so much as a farmhouse visible on the horizon – and there’s unexpectedly been no significant wildlife.

My Social Media connections:

I’ve heard several woodpeckers, heard an owl one night, saw a little mouse scamper across the trail and I gave a wide berth to a small snake sunning on the trail. Even squirrels, I have probably seen only five or six total. I look forward to some safe wildlife encounters from afar.

Next up is trekking north and entering Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the coming week to ten days. I’m posting on TicToc (@rvingrevealed) as cell service, battery charge, and time and energy permit.

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