By Jeanne I 6/20-6/22/2021
The Triple Crown Hike is definitely a bucket list item. Here are my words of wisdom: do not wing this hike and understand the definition of incline. The Appalachian packs a punch.
As the organizer of the hike you would think I would be the most prepared person. I am the queen of planning but I am human, full of excitement and holy #$%^ am I really doing this energy I brain farted on a few things.
Gear is critical. Less is more. It doesn't matter if your outfits match because in a few hours everything smells anyways. Lesson learned: when hiking in a group all 4 people do not need a roll of toilet paper. Next time we will group share some supplies to save on storage space and weight.
Life Straw you need it. Anytime you hike.
Food: That is the most important thing. I over bought way to much stuff without really knowing what I wanted to eat and I ended up wasting a lot of food. PS if you go with a group share the food. Remember if you don't eat it all you have to pack it out. Personally that is gross. I didn't want my spaghetti sitting in my pack for 3 days. I did not like some of my food choices so yes I am going to make my own test tasting video (stay tuned) so I can buy the food I like and need calorie wise.
Tent and sleeping bag: buy once cry once. Get the light weight gear. If it is twice the length of your back pack it is NOT a back packing tent. Remember what you put in and on your bag you have to carry. Even though my tent, bag, and pad weighed about 12 lbs. all together that was too much. Gives me an excuse to shop.
Water: Lesson learned next time have a bladder built into your bag. I used my running bladder and that was just uncomfortable under by pack. Not only that I had a 73 ounce water bottle since it was summer weather.
Headed to the Triple Hike: ETA 5 hours
Many people joked that I had a contingency plan. Let's just say that plan was executed when it was 85 degrees much hotter than anticipated, no rain, and someone had to drop due to an injury. It allowed them to go and the rest of us to continue on. Want to know my plans in detail? Head to my download for the free guide.
We started the hike with Dragon's tooth with just our day packs. Why carry the weight of the full backpacking gear until you had too. My theory is get the hardest $%^ done first with the most miles so you can enjoy the rest. From the parking lot it is 3 miles of climbing. Boot scooting is completely ok here. When you get to the top you breathe a sign of relief until you realize but "I want to climb on that tall rock and do the Captain Morgan pose". Until you get there and realize you have to physically rock climb while holding on to rocks for support.
Two of us did it because we were bad asses that had to try it. It is not for everyone and it is quite scary says the girl who is terrified of heights.
The plan was to get to McAfee's Knob for sunset and set up camp at the 2nd shelter which is almost 3 miles up from the bottom. The route was actually 10 miles from the top of dragon's tooth. See the guide I followed was misleading. It said 7 miles from Dragon's tooth to McAfee....SURPRISE another lie lol.
All was wonderful and we meandered along. Until we got to a field. A very large freaking field of endless plants, jungle weeds, cows, and more. Beautiful sights but 90 degree sun burning your skin off kind of sucked. We kept trucking along.
We all learned that day bags need to have what you want for lunch because last I checked there is no restaurants on the Appalachian trail. This needs to be food that is ready to go. Many of us saw the "hangry" lol in ourselves and others. My saving grace was some amazing packaged smoothies with all the nutrients I needed.
The first contingency was the McAfee parking lot since we had to cross it on the way. By the time we got there we all were praying for a break. 13 hot miles in the sun. Our legs were sore from some unexpected incline. Thank god I had this plan. One of our hikers had to bail from some significant blisters. You have to know your body and when to call it.
We were all hurting on day 1 and now had to put on 25lb bags for the rest of the trip. Now imagine one lesson I learned. DO NOT WEAR RUNNING PANTS TO HIKE!! Yes imagine rug burn on your thighs and no body glide. I truffle shuffled up the mountain to another contingency plan the 1st shelter 1.5 miles up. Yes we plopped our crap down and opened up our stoves to eat some real food. I will say Mountain House lasagna is where it is at.
Did we make it to sunset? Nope we went to bed at 8pm. Did we make it for sunrise? lol I would have but we left and got to reach McAfee's knob for early morning time. Thank gosh because a group of 10-15 campers woke me us up at 10:30pm and then couldn't figure out how to pack their stuff up properly for sunrise and I felt like I was in a zoo. PS thank god for the first aid kit and that I had a pair of shorts to wear for the next two days.
McAfee Knob was spectacular with all the glory of the clouds above. We met so many people at the top and I love being the personal photographer to get the pose on the rock. I will say this was the hardest 3 miles of straight incline to get here from camp.
Heading to tinker cliffs was supposed to be only 7 miles it was 9 miles to the signs lie. We also knew there was a slim to no chance the water source at Pig Shelter would be available. We had hope but we got there and were sadly disappointed. Also 2 of our lunches had to be cooked with water. We were scarce, it was hot, and we had no refills just what each of us had.
Lesson learned: each time there is a water source fill up no matter what. (life straw and filtration system)
There were no pictures really taken on the way to Tinker cliffs. While we loved the down hill the 3 miles uphill before Tinker sucked the life out of us. Imagine looking up and never seeing the end. Now feeling the hot beating sun on your back and sparingly drinking your water.
Tinker cliffs if you don't know what you are looking for you will miss it. There is no sign there is no off path. Thank gosh thru hikers told us this is the path and it runs all along the cliffs you can go out and sit on any of rocks. We picked the first rock and laid down to slowly die with out water. We ran out only one of us had some water left.
At the top on the rock we met Bruce a 74 year old Appalachian thru hiker who was on his 3rd time of doing the whole 2200 mile trail. He started when he was 64. He told us "you will never reach the finish line if you don't keep walking". He also said "fatigue will make a coward out of anyone". Best twenty minutes talking to him. I was in awe.
We left very humbled and knew we only had 2 miles to Lambert's shelter where there was a stream for water. Bruce said "I will see you there" He smoked us. Legitimately blew past us like the wind even when we had a head start. He said his legs are seasoned. lol.
Never have we been so thankful to see water then we did when we arrived at Lambert's Shelter. Filtered stream water tasted like the jack pot. We didn't even realize we technically had just completed the Triple Crown Hike Back packing style.
So many other seasoned hikers had also ran out of water and they did fill up at every water source. It was just one of those days we were supposed to get 60% chance of rain and we were the unlucky 40%. Camp is amazing at this shelter. Wide open nature all around you with the rushing of the stream right next to you. Almost everyone there was a thru hiker.
The next day we thought we only had 4 miles to our cars at the Tinker cliffs lot but signs lied again it was 5.5 miles of some of the hardest uphill's I saw the whole hike. We thought we were headed all down hill once we got to Andy's Lane. Andy had another plan for us up and down his mountain.
At the end of the hike we really wanted mimosas, bacon, eggs, and the car. We just wanted to hike out. It was tiring and the heat just drained us the whole weekend. We complained most of the time going to the car because the trail didn't stop. We did get to go through another cow field and cross some fun bridges which let us know we are almost at the end.
Then the rain came. Thank goodness we were blanketed by the tree covering and the rain was a gentle mist on our scorched bodies. After passing and seeing a dead cow which was the last thing we saw before we got off the trail we ran into a thru hiker couple. The guy asked if any of us would sell him our sleeping pad because his broke and he had a long way to go. Well, I refused money and gave him mine. I told him to pay it forward. Later I realized I was giving trail magic.
We saw the sign we saw the car and all did the happy dance in the rain. We celebrated the 33 miles later we completed the Triple Crown Hike. We did opt out of the additional 11 mile hike on North Mountain that had no water source because we had a car at the end as a back up plan. Also the ranger told us it was kind of boring and not safe to try it now. We still thru hiked for 2.5 days. We completed this bucket list item.
As much as I cried on the trail, cursed a few times, and somewhat regretted doing a summer hike, I was so thankful and blessed for this opportunity. Watching the girls each overcome obstacles to complete sections of the hike was amazing. Looking at myself and realizing that I just accomplished this hike was mesmerizing. While some say they will never do it again. I will be going back and taking some more people with me (in the fall)
Never say never and realize we are all meant to do great things. There is a strength inside of us just waiting to carry us through. Live your dreams. Conquer your bucket list.