Said goodbye to our lovely deck spot at the KOA in Natural Bridge and headed for a thru-hiker overnight backpacking trip. So this is what most people do before deciding to walk from Georgia to Maine, interesting. "I don't normally backpack, but when I do; I thru-hike the Appalachian Trail." For anyone who doesn't know; I had weekend car camped a lot, and day hiked-but I had never backpacked/overnight hiked. So I packed my bag with two days and one nights worth of food, full water, and what I would need for that time; everything else stayed under the motorhome. Papa and I headed for the trail a little after 6am and once we got there I was confused by my compass. I would go where the trail North should be, and it read South or East. I ran up the other side and it said North but I knew it was South. I must have walked up and down the trail 3 times before putting on my pack and setting out. We looked at the AWOL, we looked at the other guides and maps and finally agreed this was the way and off I went. Only wasting about an hour...oh well. Off I went, uphill. The first shelter I came to; I heard "Cheeky Chi!", Ziplock and Rockman were there! I went up to eat breakfast and saw Monkeyman, Pearl, Nemo, Rocky (not south walking Rocky), and some others. We headed out and Ziplock and I walked around the same pace together. My new shoes were rubbing the top/side of my little toe and finally it became unbesrable, with Ziplock behind me I tore off my shoes and walked in socks. I felt every rock and stick under my feet-this couldn't last. I broke down and got my crocs out and hiked in those, I remembered last time in Georgia when I had to do that for two days and messed up my left Achilles. So I hiked in crocs; two girls came Southbound and said "are you hiking in crocs?!" At the moment yes. They wished me the best of luck. After hiking in the crocs and worrying about messing up my Achilles again, Ziplock and I stopped at a camp spot for a snack. I decided to try the Solomon trail runners without the inserts my Papa got me. Ziplock had a cliff bar and I had a slice of leftover Hawaiian pizza. Hiking on with the shoes with no insole was a lot better than with, I think the added insole pushed my foot up too high and it rubbed being a new shoe and all. I felt 80x better. Ziplock and I met Rockman and the others up at the next shelter for lunch. I had my orange I was carrying from the motorhome (man it is nice to have fruit and real food!) I left first and headed on to a lookout which was nothing special, but I ate my second peiece of Hawaiian pizza. Hiking alone, we agreed to meet up at the FAA tower.
It felt like forever of uphill, once up there you could see the storm rolling in. Rockman was up there trying to renew his registration and then called his sister. I sat and had some cashews and fruit snacks. The bugs were horrible, the little tiny black biting wing creatures were annoying. Once Ziplock appeared she wanted to break at the Guillotine so we carried on. The original plan was I would hike 14 miles and camp at the shelter and then the following day I would have 14.6 miles to my grandparents. Since we got to the shelter around 4:30, Ziplock,Rockman, and I decided to camp at a campspot 3 miles further. We stopped at one of the Blue Ridge Parkway crossings for dinner so we wouldn't have to eat once we got to camp. We sat on the edge of the road and made dinner, a few cars and motorcycles passed by. I made 2 packages of Ramen and was more tired than hungry since I had been up since 6am. I got to Ziplock and Rockman at the shelter around 10:00 so our days started at different times for sure. A young couple in a Volkswagen stopped to see if we needed a ride or anything, we thanked them and told them we were all set. Imagine that no thumbs were out and still people were caring enough to stop! I didn't finish my Ramen, I zipped it up and told them I was gonna head to camp to set up since I was exhausted. Walking on, the wind picked up, the thunder crashed, the skies grew dark like it was 9:00 at night and then the skies opened up to pouring rain. On I trudged up the muddy stream of the trail, I told myself it was just up and down this hill to the campspot. My shoes sloshed like water shoes, my clothes were drenched, my glasses fogged up and full of raindrops. I looked left and right for a stealth spot but nothing, there was no turning back-only forward. The storm was bad, I finally neared the top and looked to the left to a small stealth spot. I'm not going any further. I went to the spot, tried to put up my tent in the pouring rain and muddy ground and failed miserably. Once it was up, I put my full pack in my tent and sat on my sleeping pad. I took off my rain jacket and hung it outside my tent under the rainfly. I took off my soaking wet gators, compression, and socks. I took off my shirt, bra, and shorts-thankfully I brought my base layer long pants and tank top so I put those on. I sat for about 10 minutes soaking up puddles in my tent with my socks and ringing them out. I left all of my wet clothes outside of my tent on my pack cover under the rainfly. I didn't have a full clothes bag to use as a pillow so I actually slept the opposite way I usually do, using my pack as a pillow. The lucky part-I had service to talk to family before I fell asleep and called it a night. This is my third really bad thunderstorm on the trail, I was not a happy camper-but I wasn't angry either. I knew I had to set up camp, get into dry clothes, ring everything out, and get some sleep; and that is exactly what I did.