A Day in the Life!
We left off with me being slightly sappy about how I started my thru hike. I was going to continue on to talk about my first week on the trail to explain how I got to where I am now but I had such an awesome day yesterday that I need to share an account of it.
Necessary information to get you caught up to where I am now: First of all, after my first week on the trail I was semi forced into a four week hiatus. I’d had some hike ending knee pain that turned out to be absolutely nothing serious. The solution? To dual wield patella straps. I proudly wear the fashionable knee bracelets and they actually make all of the difference. After this, I got back on the trail around Gatlinburg and hiked north with three other girls. Two of them (Tinkerbell and Goldilocks) also write for Appalachian Trials! They were kind enough to encourage me to apply since I’d been too chicken to do so before I started the first time. So we hiked north to Hot Springs and then Tinkerbell and I went to Trail Days! Which was super awesome, but I was completely burned out the last day. I’d been feeling a bit off in the group environment and I think being off the trail for so long had put me in a funk. Unfortunately the funkiness wasn’t going away and I also didn’t feel that I was hiking my own hike, which is pretty essential to me. The solution? Hike south. An awesome dude named This Guy suggested hiking south back to Hot Springs. Sold. I was super nervous about going solo, but I’m glad I did. Still too chicken to camp alone, but I’ll deal with that another day. Which brings us to… Mountain Harbor B&B/Hostel! Oh! And my trail name is Fruit Snacks, that’s essential.
Yesterday. Such a long, beautiful day!
Since I’m technically at Mountain Harbor, I just first say GET THE BREAKFAST HERE. Oh my goodness, home cooked gourmet breakfast. It is $12, but it’s AYCE and so fabulous that I cannot express in WORDS. Goodness.
But that was this morning, back to yesterday. I had tented at Vango/Abbey Memorial Hostel (free tenting!), which had pizza and Ben & Jerry’s. Literally .3 miles off the trail. And I ran into Snacks and Shaggy there! I’d first met them in Hot Springs and they’re super cool dudes. The back patio at Vango has a piano and it’s very low key, but so so nice. Anyways, that was the day before yesterday. I woke up before 7 am and started packing up. I had 12.7 to get to Mountain Harbor, which was completely doable at this point, but there were places I wanted to explore! It took me over an hour to get out of there since there was running water available. You would think that speeds things up, but no. Less than a mile from the hostel is an awesome bench that has a view of Hump/Roan/Whatever mountains (I believe). I stopped here for a solid 45 minutes, admiring the view and finishing my breakfast (I can never force myself to eat in the morning…) By the time I was finished, it was 9:45am. Whoops.
After this, I started my march. I’m rather proud of myself, less than three weeks in and I can do 2 miles per hour! I eventually arrived at one of the nicest shelters in Tennessee. At least that I’d seen so far. Mountaineering shelter! I ate lunch here with some cool people. One of them had hiked the PCT the summer before, so I grilled her on it a bit. I’ve been reading this kindle book, Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart, about a girl who thru hikes the PCT (It’s pretty stinkin’ awesome and I got it for free). The girl I met at the shelter A. Immediately knew which book I was referring to and B. didn’t immediately ask if it was Wild. Such a winner! She told me that during her PCT thru hike she questioned it daily for the first two months, yet she still finished! This made me feel much better. The off feeling I’d had since getting back on the trail was improving, but I still spend time questioning my existence while I’m on the trail. It was good to know I wasn’t alone in this, even if she wasn’t currently in that frame of mind.
After refilling water at Mountaineering Falls (immediately after the shelter if going SOBO, like a cool kid), I finally started hiking again. It was… 1:30pm. Oops. It was downhill a bit, so not too shabby. Eventually I came to a side trail, I thought it must be the one marked in the AWOL guide to Elk River and a campsite. I’d heard it was neat, so I decided to go check it out (nevermind that I still had 9 miles to hike that day, a significant amount for me). There was a campsite, and it was completely trashed! Leave no trace, people! But just after it there were some boulders and Elk River. A pretty intense, albeit short, waterfall was also present! A couple of women were swimming and I decided to join them. Thru hiking was about these moments, right? The water current was somewhat fast, but if you swam to the side there was a still area. The water was cold, but felt so so good. Worth it.
Turns out that campsite and side trail was NOT the one listed in the guide. Oops. The river campsite was another mile down the trail (I thought I’d been moving awfully quick…). This led to some conflicting emotions and definitely some of the “I’m the worst hiker on the planet, why am I even out here!” thoughts. From the marked campsite to Jones Falls was supposed to be relatively easy terrain over .6 miles. I realized my mistake when I finally arrived at Jones falls, so I suppose I’m not at terrible after all. And surprise, Colorado was there! Colorado is this super rad girl I met in Hot Springs. We’d hung out at Trail Days and maybe had an intense (but awesome) heart to heart! Only got to chat with her for a bit, but it was a pleasant surprise. Actually, that’s one of my favorite things about hiking SOBO right now. I’ve seen everyone I’ve met on the trail, be it the first week in the beginning, or the ones I’ve met since getting back on. Really awesome.
I finally left Jones Falls at around 4:30. 5.4 miles to go, and I was tired. But hostel! Real food! Shower! Motivation! Maybe? And my day was so far from over. I hiked the next two miles in a little over an hour, where I stopped again. Just off the trail was a church that was also a water source! So cool! Definitely stopped and refilled when maybe I didn’t need to. But I didn’t have to filter it! And there was a freshly mowed lawn. I definitely became horizontal for a while on the lawn and snacked a bit while enjoying the warmth of the sun. I didn’t leave until after 6pm. I really did NOT want to hike 3 more miles.
Not far after this I passed a cemetery, where it occurred to me that Memorial Day was tomorrow. That explained the copius amount of weekend backpackers/day hikers. Immediately after I had a small climb, but it was oh so brutal. I was tired and wanted to be done. Suddenly a man appeared, maybe in his 60s. He was just hiking to the top to see the view. This man turned out to be a savior. We talked off and on and he kept waiting for me. I can’t express how slowly I was climbing this. It wasn’t even that long or bad!
Goodness. But the view was so spectacular! We stopped and talked for a moment after this. It was nice. I think I like excuses to take a break. He wished me luck, and we went our separate ways around 7:15pm. Two miles left. Mostly down hill. I can totally do this. And the view on this downhill! So glorious and wonderful!
Such a beautiful view. But it was getting dark in the woods and I was tired. The likelihood of real food was essentially gone was a bummer. Ugh. I was frustrated by this, but the trail was running through some beautiful fields. I even stopped for a minute when I came to a giant puddle filled with tadpoles. I used to catch them when I was little and there were so many! I’m not sure if you can tell from this picture, but I’m putting it in here anyways because I thought it was the bees knees. They even moved as I walked by. So cool!
This is dragging, I apologize. So I ran and it hurt but I finally arrived at the hostel at 8:30pm. Such a long day! The bunks were full, so I paid for a tent site. Was trying not to be devastated. The shower was glorious though! I definitely didn’t feel comfortable enough hitching into town at night in the dark, so no real food =( Such a bummer! But the other hikers were awesome and another thru hiker, trail name Annie, helped me purchase a soda (sugar is so great!) and cheddar popcorn. Not a legit dinner, but so much better than what was in my food bag. Win! Afterwards, we watched Rudy and then Top Gun, which I hadn’t seen before. VHS tapes are the best! Except “take my breath away….” has been in my head alllll day. All. Day. Ugh.
All in all, such an awesome day! Just so so so long. 7am to 2am. Still worth it. There you have it! That’s what a day can be like on the trail!
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