100 miles baby ??
The rain lasted all night and into the morning. We all packed up our wet tents and bear bags and headed into the rain. We hiked and hiked until the 5 mile shelter where we ate lunch. Everything was muddy and wet, no one had anything clean.
We scarfed down some food and headed back out into the cold. We hiked 7 more miles into the Carter Gap shelter where we were hoping to find some space in the shelter. We had no such luck as a bunch of section hikers had decided to take up the entire shelter after zeroing all day. We were sopping wet and we’re debating to push on to the next shelter. We all decided that was a bad idea, so we begrudgingly set up our wet tents. We spent the rest of the night being passive aggressive to the shelter hogs who hadn’t hiked at all that day.
After looking at the AWOL guide, we found that, luckily, we only had to get to Rock Gap in order to get a ride into Franklin, NC. We all ate as much hot food as possible and tried to get even just a little warm and dry. Reluctantly, we climbed into our inevitably wet tents and tried to get some sleep.
Everyone woke up miserably cold except the people in the shelter who complained about being unable to sleep because it was “too warm”. Our whole group was ready to get out of there as fast as possible. We all slipped into our wet clothes and shoes and headed down the trail. We were all in a rush to make it into the Rock Gap before the 3:45 shuttle left.
Climbing up Albert Mountain proved to be a huge challenge in/after the rain. We were practically rock climbing in order to reach the fire tower. Thankfully, we all made it even though there were too many clouds to see the beautiful views. We sat around for a while in hopes of a clear sky, and thankfully, the clouds started to part.
The views from atop the mountain were spectacular. It was definitely worth the grueling climb. Shortly after we headed down the mountain, we had another great achievement: we had hiked 100 miles. There wasn’t much time to celebrate, however, as we had to get down the mountain in less than 2 hours.
The whole gang got to the parking lot by 3:00, except for KitKat. We hoped to see him coming down the mountain at any second when the shuttle pulled up. Luckily, as the shuttle was just about to pull away, he came running down the mountain and made it into the bus just in the nick of time.
We got to Franklin, checked into the Budget Inn, and headed out to get drinks and food. The first stop, however, was Outdoor 76. This was by far the best outfitter on the trail so far. The staff was so helpful and knowledgeable. A couple got fitted for new shoes, and I finally got a new bear bag (do not try to take an Ursack on the AT; it is NOT worth the weight). After getting all the necessary gear, we headed next door to try out some craft beers. If you have the chance, I would definitely recommend going in and seeing for yourself how awesome this place is. Gear and beer all in the same stop.
The next stop was the Lazy Hiker food truck. Here, we met up with a bunch of hikers we hadn’t seen in days, ate huge pork schnitzel sandwiches and, of course, ordered some beer flights.
Some of the extended trail family ended up showing up, and we all drank together. Finally, we got the best and most packed shuttle ride ever back to the Budget Inn (also definitely recommended).
The next day, everyone woke up unready to go back onto the trail, so when a couple of family members suggested a zero day, we all gladly agreed to stay another night in town. We had a family breakfast at the Kountry Kitchen and stuffed our faces with more biscuits and gravy than our bodies could handle. We all left satisfied and ready to relax and do chores for the rest of the day.
No one tells you how glorious it is to do laundry on the trail. Even though your clothes still have a trace of hiker trash stank, it is the best thing to have even moderately good smelling clothes to wear. It’s even better to be able to walk into he neighborhood Ingles and not have people grimacing about how bad you smell. Anyways, everyone had clean laundry and full food bags, so for the rest of the day, we just hung out drinking, smoking, and laughing our asses off. It was truly a great zero day.
Overall, my trip so far has been amazing. In these first 100 miles, I’ve seen so many great views, met so many amazing people, and felt better than I have in a long while. It’s great to go through every day without a care in the world other than where you’re going to put your tent and whether you’re going to eat ramen or tuna tortillas. Some people out here are worried about doing more and more miles per day, but there’s really no rush. We’ve got our whole lives to worry about different responsibilities, so I personally am trying to take this time to slow things down and live a carefree life.
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