Sunday, April 10, 2011

On the Appalachian Trail: Unicoi Gap, GA to Cheese Factory Site, GA

These next five posts are probably going to be a bit lengthy for most people who check in with this blog. If so, feel free to glance them over and wait for a more typical post next week.
However, I'm still posting these stories here to help preserve the memories of our hike together. Should we someday finish this hike together I think it would be cool to take all these posts and have them bound into a book to give the kids. A history of our hike.
And their childhoods.

Last summer I suggested we might set out to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trial - 2,175 mountainous miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine. The boys quickly took me up on my offer. The girls weren't so interested; although, they did mention they'd like to do smaller bits of the trip along the way.

I quickly went about devising a plan that would allow us to finish the trail by the time the boys graduated from high school. It was gradual yet ambitious. We'd begin with 50 miles that first summer, grow to 100 within a year or two, and eventually take on 300 - 400 miles a summer once their legs grew a bit longer and their backs a tad stronger.

We did our 50 miles last year with the girls, and Mom, joining us for the final twenty. There were warm days, misguided directions, hard climbs, and a small rain storm. More than that, though, there was a lot of fun.

So this past week the boys and I set out to walk the next 32 mile stretch. This was an important leg of the trip in that we would be passing our very first state border - from Georgia to North Carolina. This would mean one state down and just thirteen more to go.

Each night we sat in our sleeping bags and wrote about our day in our journals. As with last year I'll let the boys help share our journey.

Day 1 Unicoi Gap, GA - Cheese Factory Site, GA (Miles Today: 3; Trip Miles: 3; Total AT Miles: 53)

We left the house this morning around 10:15 to make the four-and-a-half hour drive. Ainsley was sad we were leaving but trying hard not to show it. Along the way we stopped at a rest stop for sandwiches we had packed to bring along, stopped by Ingles to fill up on salad for the night, and hit the outfitter for some last minute supplies.

As always, when we neared the trail head I became lost. I didn't recognize the road we were on from last summer. I had already driven about fifteen miles down the road and feared going fifteen more only to find I was on the wrong road. So I turned around and went back to Neels Gap to get directions. Winds up I was going the right way all along. What a waste.

We arrived at the trail head about 5:15. Someone in the parking lot agreed to take our picture in our nice clean clothes and then we were finally on the trial. About five minutes up the mountain I couldn't remember if I had locked the car or not. ARGHHH. I dropped my pack and ran back down to double check. In what was quickly becoming a theme for the was already locked. I should learn not to doubt myself!

Today was a quick three miles. There were a few climbs but we were fresh and excited so they came and went with little effort. Ty was exceptionally strong. He kept a good pace for us up front and was in great spriits.The sun was quickly dropping below the jagged horizon and the air was getting cool. We had wanted to make it to the old Cheese Factory site. In the mid-1800s an eccentric New Englander established a dairy near Tray Mountain, about 15 miles from the nearest farmhouse. Other settlers eventually sold their land and moved away. The cheese factory remained and evidently did pretty well. There are no remnants of the factory now. Only a story.

As we neared what we thought to be the general area of the factory we were running out of light. We found a small clearing near the top of Tray Mountain and made camp. In the morning we found out that we actually were at the old Cheese Factory Site and didn't know it.Finding out we had hiked more miles that we thought was a nice surprise.

As we sat in our tent Muluken read back through the journal entries we wrote last year as well as what each of us had written about today. Ty had the biggest grin on his face as Muluken read from his own journal "[The climb] kept going up and up but we didn't give up because our good leader Ty was strong and we only had two or three breaks I think."

"I liked the part about our 'good leader Ty'," Ty said.

"Hey man, you were a good leader," I assured him. "You were so strong today!"

(Dad, age 36)

We hiked three miles today. We said a mountain was crying. First we drove to Unicoi Gap. We turned around. We asked two men that had bikes in their truck. We went the right way the next time. Muluken said Dad should have been patient.
(Ty/Flash, age 7)

We drove to Unicoi Gap. There we got our picture from a man. We were in a gap so that told us we are going to go up. AHH! We teased the mountain on the way. Then we thought that we were up to the top. We got fooled and it was not the top. We got fooled twice. That's called stupid. We were aiming to get to the Cheese Factory. That's a cheesy name.

One thing that bothered us was the wind. When we set down it would make us freezing but when we got up it stopped. That's weird. When we had passed a road and a stream we thought the top was close but it wasn't. It kept going up and up but we didn't give up because our good leader Ty was strong and we only had two or three breaks I think. We played [games] on the way up.

(Muluken/Jolly Roger, age 9)


  1. I am so excited that you guys posted your journal entries for us to read. All of the little problems will make interesting memories. Maybe by the last part of your hike there won't be ANY issues about forgetting things at all. I am impressed to read what the boys think as well. What a treasure to write about your hike together. In years to come you will look back on all of this and smile. I can't wait to read more.

  2. I just started reading back through these. The different interpretations are so cool to read. Thanks for setting these up this way!