100 Miles and 100 Smiles!
So far North Carolina has treated me well. The first 100 miles have tested me physically and mentally but I’m still going strong!
Getting to Know Myself
I’ve finally started to understand my hiking pace. I am able to go fast, but I prefer to take lots of breaks for views and snacks. I don’t see the point in rushing, especially when some days are so heavily reliant on making the most out of little things. I’ve come to really love bugs, frogs, butterflies, mushrooms, and other forest friends. I’ll never grow tired of watching the fog roll through the mountains.
My First Tramily
I met my first tramily without knowing who they’d be during my first week on trail. I woke up early and booked it to Blue Mountain Shelter to avoid the night’s predicted rainfall. Not long after setting up my bed and scarfing down way too much food, two girls who I’d later know as Bubbles and Giggles walked in, tired yet talkative. Due to the incoming storm they both slept inside a one-person tent on the shelter floor and we got to talking. I met another girl close to my age outside named Snack Pack, who eats a lot of snacks on trail and is very innovative. (I first took notice to her intricate stove setup.) They were fun to talk to and I really liked them, but since I was planning to take a nero the next day I assumed I wouldn’t see them again. After that I began to hike more alone, getting to know myself and take the time to appreciate everything around me on my hike. I was outside the bubble and began to miss talking to people closer to my age.
A week later, after a long 12-mile day, I rolled into camp super late, set up my stuff, wolfed down some potatoes, and went to bed. I woke up the next morning feeling the most exhausted I’ve ever felt on trail and began to think to myself, “Maybe I’ll take a zero today,” when suddenly I heard the dreadfully slow sound of rain droplets hitting my tent. Screw the zero! I thought as I quickly scrambled to pack up all my stuff and keep it dry. (After my first night on trail getting everything soaked, I’m way too paranoid about rain getting in my tent.) I came into the shelter to find another group there, all huddled and avoiding the rain much like myself. To my surprise I found Bubbles, Giggles, and Snack Pack there along with two guys, Baja and Roundup, who I had spoken to briefly the night before. We talked for a while, shared our misery, ate our oatmeal, and clicked in that moment. From that point we began coordinating shelters, going to town, sharing dinners, and embracing the suck together.
100 Down, So Many More to Go
One hundred miles, baby! I spent the whole day outrunning a huge storm that finally caught up to me right after I snapped the infamous border mark photo. Over 5,000 feet is never a great place to be during a hailstorm. I could see my hair standing up from electricity! I dragged my feet for hours in the pouring rain until I finally hit the very full shelter and was treated with an outstanding sunset (thank you, earth!).
Franklin, You Have My Heart
My introduction to Franklin was getting a hitch from the Pirate Chef and being taken to the classic hiker Budget Inn. To my and my friends’ surprise, we learned that we arrived just in time for Franklin’s hikerfest! I’m not a big drinker myself, but I got to enjoy seeing all my trail friends, eating lots of food, and playing games. We wound up staying in Franklin for three whole days to avoid bad weather and loved every second of it. I visited Outdoor 76 and they helped me realize that my foot pain was because I was wearing a size eight when I’m actually a size ten. (OOPS!) I ate way too many pancakes (thanks, First Baptist Church) and much too many sundaes. (Thanks, Motor Company Grill!) I left Franklin with a full stomach and determined mind-set ready to hit the trail again.
My Trail Name
I spent the next days drooling over how beautiful North Carolina is. It’s been treating me so well with beautiful balds, fire towers, views, and kind people. I love hiking by myself and sometimes running into people in my tramily, especially to have lunch together. It’s something that re-energizes me mentally and helps me tackle the day. Oh, and I also got my trail name: Peels. I was dubbed Peels after telling my friends that I eat bananas along with the peel. (It’s good for you, I swear.)
Nantahala Outdoor Center
I began my descent into the NOC early in the morning after hearing that it was a very difficult climb down. Personally, I feel that I was so starstruck by the views that the way down didn’t seem too strenuous. Though steep, there was a view almost the whole way down so I couldn’t complain. I got to the NOC with a huge smile on my face, met up with my friends, and ate lunch. Technically, since it’s not allowed, I “hypothetically” camped with a bunch of friends on Hobo Island, which is located right on the river. It maybe was my favorite night of camping on the AT so far.
Leaving the NOC was very hard. I had such a good time there and wasn’t ready emotionally to break up with it. The steep, six-mile climb upward didn’t help so much either. I left way late in the day and wasn’t mentally prepared, stopping every ten minutes to talk to my friends or eat a snack. I was stalling big time. Eventually I made it to the shelter right before a big storm rolled in and was given a treat of watching the storm safe from my shelter spot. I’m now wet and on my way to Fontana Dam, where I’ll be overly excited about the beauty of the AT once again.
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