Written By: Emily Ginger
After day one on the trail my ankle gave me intolerable pain with every step. How could this be happening??? I spent $200 on a pair of hiking boots and they did nothing but injure me! When we finally rolled up to Neels Gap, 30.7 miles into the trail, we found a haven equipped with a hiker's hostel and a gear store. I walked into the gear store, sat down in the shoe department and said "can you help me fix my ankle?" They set me up with a new pair of shoes that alleviated the pain entirely, and I shipped my muddy boots home. I felt like I was given a new pair of feet. We stayed the night in Neels Gap where I got to know all the staff, they filled my head with tips and advice for how to load my pack and keep my body weight up. Everyone there was friendly especially Baltimore Jack, and their hospitality/ encouragement gave me a huge boost of confidence.
We trudged on from Neels Gap (in the rain) and when we arrived at our destination for the night, the shelter was full and we had no tents. I thought we would have to spend the night sleeping in the mud under the shelter, with all the mice. No way! There was a young man who had arrived at the same time as us and was assembling his 2- person tent. I invited myself to sleep in his tent with him for the night, and he obliged. Based on his reaction, I think it's rare for a woman in these parts to be so bold. I was thankful to have a dry and semi-warm place to rest my head for the night. Temperatures that night and the following two nights went below freezing- it was so cold!
The longer I am out here, the more apparent it becomes that the thru-hiking community is predominantly composed of men, many of whom neglect to show me respect and aknowledge that I exist. Some have implied that I shouldn't be out here, and that long distance hiking is a man's leisure activity. After three nights of tolerating these fraternity house attitudes, and enduring the skeptical glances, I decided to show the men why I am out here. On Wednesday morning everyone packed up and moved out to hike the ten miles to Dick's Creek Gap (where we had our box of food hidden). I waited until all the men had started hiking, and then I took off like lightning down the trail. Within five miles, I passed every single one of those men, and I left them eating my trail of dust. I was hoping to show them that I am just as physically and mentally capable as they are. I finished the ten miles in record time, so I sat around waiting and watching as all the men I had passed hours ago arrived. When the man who had been sending dirty looks in my direction arrived, he finally asked me "what's your name?" It worked! I put them all in their place and gained their respect as a fellow thru-hiker. Now they were interested in knowing who I am.
When the rest of our "Traveling Circus" arrived, Kate and I wandered into the woods to find our resupply box full of food. Much to my surprise, the box was still there- the bears somehow overlooked our stash and we lucked out! I took the box under my arm, and headed to the road crossing at Dick's Creek Gap, raised my thumb up in the air and we hitched a ride into town.