12 days of Trail-mas


12 days on the trail went by fast. Now I’m on break. My parents picked Nikki and I up at Rock Fish Gap Thursday morning. We dropped Nikki off in Blacksburg so she can do her ‘side quest’ and go to Utah for a music festival (Kilby Block Party, I’m kinda jealous). Now I’m in Gatlinburg Tennessee feeling luxurious on my pull out sofa bed and smelling like azaleas rather than callery pears (which smell like dog butt if you’re not yet aware). I plan to soak up the almond lotions and calories for the 3 days I’m here, and for once in my life I’m actually somewhat enjoying the super cheesy attractions. The past 2 weeks have been so down-to-earth that the absurdity of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge which used to be kinda gross to me is now just entertaining. Maybe being removed from our absurd society is allowing me to find humor in it. 

My parents and I going up the SkyLift in Gatlinburg.

Anyhow! The trail!

I’ve decided that writing a day by day account of my journey is excessive and probably boring – plus I have not been journaling a whole lot – so I’m going to sum up all the entertainment, horrors, and mushy gushy feelings in one non-chronological blurb.

Hiking Alone Together

The 12 days hiking with Nikki was crazyyyyy and I have been learning a lot from it.

I got food poisoning (maybe?) last Thursday (April 25) and I suffered lightly for 5-6 days with stomach cramps, bouts of nausea, fatigue, headaches, and (worst of all) diarrhea. I’d say I was at least not in peak physical condition. Meanwhile, Nikki was full of energy and was (literally) bouncing off trees. We were not inclined to hike at the same pace. Yet since I was Nikki’s ride off the trail, she needed to stick with me, so she slowed down and I pushed on through the best I could. 

The tensions arose because I was holding her back and she was pushing me forward. Neither of us like to be pushed or pulled around. While we didn’t openly argue much about this dynamic, we both felt constrained by the other. We also both like our alone time and it’s hard to truly have alone time when we’re consciously aware of each other and matching pace. 

So what do we do?! Well it turns out that just because we need to be in the same place at the end of the day, we don’t need to be in the same place all the time! Duh! Detour helped us figure that out by providing a little trail magic and hyping us up. Hike your own hike! I’ve heard this before but it can take a bit to figure out how. So Nikki sped off down the trail on her metaphorical crack cocaine and I lumbered along digging shit holes wherever I pleased. I think we both felt so much more at ease.

True alone time is important! We might be good friends but when you spend so much time with someone you start to become the same person. It became apparent that we needed some distance when we started saying the same crazy shit at the same time. 

Trail friends

There’s so many cool people to meet on the trail. Everyone is so friendly, the trail community has so much camaraderie. There’s two kinds of thru-hikers. The ones you’ll run into for a few days in a row, and the ones you meet for a night before they (or you) blast off again down the trail. It creates a nice balance of those you grow close to and those who you get to ask after and look through shelter logs for – the shelter logs make for a sort of prehistoric social media, please write in them hikers!!

F***ing hang bags

(giant government balls are not okay)

Hanging food bags at the end of the day became both the bane of our existence and the most hilarious part of the day. We sometimes spent over an hour looking for a suitable branch, throwing and missing rocks tied to our rope, breaking branches, breaking ropes, bleeding, and eventually hoisting bags to a pathetic 7 feet high. If a bear really wanted our food, he might’ve been disappointed that one night we got a proper hang. Good thing mr bear didn’t seem to care for my quart of olive oil. 

Despite the challenge hang bags brought, it ended up being a lot of fun doing it with someone else, and it still seems better than carrying a giant bear canister which requires destroying your credit card to open. Whatever way people choose to store their food, I just ask PLEEASSSEEE don’t sleep with your food. I don’t want mr bear to investigate the shelter along with mrs mouse and miss raccoon. I enjoy sleeping with human company, not our extended mammalian family. 

In conclusion

Big bugs love your head torch. Parties are for shelters with a front porch. Privies are a blessing when your tummy’s sore. Hike your own hike not less not more. 

Happy trails! I look forward to a new round of friends when I get back on the trail. Toodles!

PS shoutout Nellie the cute doggy and Stanimals hostel! They were very helpful to pick up my ‘breadcrumbs’ in Glasgow and shuttle them to the Waynesboro location. And staying there was so much fun! 

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