APRIL 21 – 25 Standing Bear to Hot Springs with a zero.

4/21 – Leaving Standing Bear

I wake up at Standing Bear for the second night in a row. This time I had a lower bunk, yay. Also instead of sleeping in my bag I used their blankets. I was freezing and used 3 blankets to stay warm. We had a man, Epsilon, staying with his poodle newfie mix, named Zeta. They were flip flopping so he’s currently a SOBO. The rest of us were NOBO maybe 10 hikers in all. The night before there were about 2 dozen thru‐hikers but most of them moved on rather than staying for the party. Anyway, Zeta would chase the gorgeous orange cat away if he got close… too bad, missing kitty love. But at least we got to play with the pup.

I was up and moving around by 7/8am but it was raining and unlike the morning before nobody in this group was in a rush. I eventualy headed over to the Hostel store and bought 2 eggs for a buck. Then got my food bag and took out torilla wraps, spam, pepperoni, cheese and bacon. And cooked breakfast burritos.


From there I finished packing and grabbed a grape soda while I went to pay for my stay. Eventualy the rain stopped and many folks left. But I was hanging out by the fire and chatting and getting contact info so i was amongst the last to leave and even found a 4 and 5 leave clover on the way out. Tragically the odds were not in my favor that day because about a mile after I left i realized that I had forgotten my poles and had to head back down. I was not a happy camper. I was not sure if I’ll end up staying at the hostel another night out of frustration but I decided to grab my poles and push on.


So lets talk ailments. My heels are feeling better but my feet are swollen and painful. Even though I haven’t put on my hiking shoes since I arrived my feet were still protesting today. I can’t wait till Hot Springs where I can dip the painful appendages in a hot mineral bath.

The climb out of standing bear unsurprisingly hasn’t changed since the last time I was there about 30 minutes previously. It’s a standard steep climb out of a gap then 2700ft of gain in the next 4.6 miles. Then downhill for a few miles to camp. I make ok time and summitted in just over 3 hours. There is a cool building near the top that helps planes navigate, I don’t know much more about it than there were no trespassing signs on the gate around the oddly-shaped building that was emitting a strange noise.


Anyway I wandered around and took pictures of both the building and the scenery then returned to the trail where I meet Turtle who had also been at the hostel last night. Turtle is mid‐40s from SE NH we chatted all the way to camp, talking about plants, foraging and our lives generally.

Once in camp we’re pointed to a flattish spot by other campers then setup and join them by their fire (ya, camper cologne and a fire I didn’t have to start). Mother/daughter duo Sharon and Peggy, also from the hostel, started the fire. Silver Feather, Multifunction, and Happy also were there.


I gathered my food and some firewood offerings and join them… but first a visit to the least private privy. Yup, it’s a tiny box with tiny bits of plywood covering your privates as you poop (or in my case pee). This eventualy becomes subject of the dinner party conversation. I, for one, think it’s the ultimate power move to stride into the middle of camp drop your pants and take a dump while staring down anyone who might get close. All while having a strip of plywood no bigger than a privacy blur hiding your genitals. Honestly, I didn’t think i could stand up without mooning the camp. Much talk of the preferableness of catholes to the privy were had… and yet after dinner there was a line. And the person in the privy was a larger gentleman so it kinda looked like he was ridding in a clown car. I headed back to my tent and brushed my teeth while trying to avoid seeing the show.

Tonight It’s cold AF… we have a frost warning. I’ve experienced much colder on this trip but the 80’s in the smokies really changed my temperature perception. Oh well, I’m hiding in my warm sleeping bag. It’s amazing how my tent and sleeping gear are now my sanctuary. I climb into my tent for protection from the elements. My sleeping pad provides much comfort and my quilt provides warmth. Once in my tent I’m in my own private world and I forget the world outside it – at least until i have to pee again.


April 22

Today I was weak and tired all day. I only hiked 8.5 miles with 2600 feet of gain. Almost all of that gain was getting to Max Patch about 6.5 miles in then it was an easy downhill. We got trail magic from Colors at Brown Gap Spring (Snickers and Gatorade) and apparently just missed trail magic in the parking lot before Max Patch ‐ which some folks right behind us got.

Colors was doing a fundraiser for soon to be triple crowner Bright Eyes whose triple crowning dog Sadie went missing about a month ago while on the trail near here. The suspicion is that the dog was taken home by a good Samaritan after it was lost for a few days because the sightings stopped. Bright eyes is still working hard with grid searches and drone flyovers with heat sensors trying to find the pup. I hear she is sleeping on trail near shelters and continuing to search daily. I suspect I’m meet her tomorrow. 

Anyway back to my day I hiked with Turtle all day. I kept suggesting he should go ahead as I was slow but he stuck around. We spent most of the day talking about plants and foraging some invasive garlic mustard and non‐invasive ramps. I also snacked on peppermint, bee balm, and spring beauty. As for real food i had snacks for breakfast near the bear box. Three mini snickers from the trail magic, a brownie cliff bar at the same time. Then I snacked on Max Patch just assorted junk followed by a chili mac pack for dinner and the ramps in butter.

Today was cold with frost warnings for the morning and night. I hiked in my sweater at times then hid by the fire to eat. Embers broke off and burned my pants 2x only once did it burn me too. Now I’m in my tent, cocooned in my sleeping bag and finally warmed up a bit. The soles of my feet remain painful and I’m glad to have a dozen hours to rest them overnight. I only wish it wasn’t so cold tonight.

More fun at camp. So once again we have a very non-private privy that is very exposed on all sides. It’s bigger than the last one and down a hill so it actually feels a bit more private as a result. As i was in the Privy earlier tonight a man approached saw me and turned away as i waved. As a power move I came back and sat next to him at the fire 🔥. Ahh, a big awkward family.

April 23

I had the worst night. So there was a frost warning and I couldn’t warm up. And on top of that my insulated sleeping pad sprung a leak. So i kept ending up touching the very cold ground through the deflated mattress all night. As previously discussed being cold makes you need to pee. So I had to get up 4x in the night to pee and 6x in the night to reinflate my air mattress, sometimes around 4 am I gave up trying to sleep and unsuccessfully sought the hole.

Lets just say when I finally rolled out of bed for the last time around 9:30am i was miserable and cranky. I tried to head to the privy but i saw somebody heading in that direction in front of me. So i just peed behind a tree. The tree may have been a touch less private than the privy ‐ but that is a close call.

I told Turtle that i was not leaving for at least an hour as I needed to find and fix the gear malfunction. What I didn’t tell him was that I was in a god awful cranky mood and didn’t want to be around people. Anyway, he said goodbye and headed out. I hid in my tent and fought the air mattress.

It seemed like I searched forever before finally giving up and packing the rest of camp into my pack. Thankfully, it was warming up and I actually had my sweater off by 10:45am. I used the last of my non‐gatorade water to continue the search for the MIA mattress hole on the shelter’s picnic bench. One of the last people in camp came by to commiserate about how crappy it is to have gear failures. I did my level best to not just grunt in his direction.

I eventually got frustrated and just poured my precious water on the air pad and “omg! There it is! Look at all those bubbles, and those bubbles, and those bubbles”. Three failure points!. They’re not even punctures, they’re a failure of the materials at three points along a line. It looks like the pad stretched a bit and stretched it’s weave at this same weakpoint. So I get to work cutting patch strips and patch all three ‘holes’. Of course, I can’t do this until the pad is warm and dry… so I have time to kill so I try to snack.

Finally, everything is done and repacked so I get out of camp a touch past 11. But first I evaluate my life choices and shed a tear or two in frustration. I could stay here today, but I shouldn’t. So I do what any good AT thru-hiker should do, shoulder my pack and keep moving forward. At this point between the phone distaster, forgetting my poles at Standing Bear, and the air pad / awful night of sleep I’m pretty emotionally fragile. I’m almost hoping for an excuse to quit the trail and run away to Europe for a while or to a tropical all- inclusive vacation somewhere.

But, nope, Mother Nature and the trail designers seemed to have conspired to make this section of the trail particularly beautiful ‐ smooth easy downhills, gentle climbs, wildflowers wallpapering the trail. And so many water crossings, many with bridges, that I barely had to carry any heavy water (2.2lbs a liter). I foraged some invasive garlic mustard and also some peppermint and ramps. I need more greens in my trail diet and these make me happy.

The day warms up to a disgustingly perfect temperature. Little to no breeze. I changed into a t-shirt right in the middle of the woods as I rested on a patch of moss near a babbling brook. I really wanted to hate everything today. I shed a few more frustration/ exhaustion tears at the perfect little brook then a hiker Cinderella comes by. She gets water and we chat then she continues on. This gets me moving again.

I’ve been here about 45 minute with a little hiking Devil / Angel sitting on my shoulders. The Devil is whispering into my ears that I should turn around go back to Lemon Gap and ask for a ride to Hot Springs… “seriously F- this, I need a break and a shower”. The little angel is all ‘it’s just another 300 feet of gain to get to the top of this one, you got this”. While the voices in my head fight I’m passed by a guy I has met much earlier in the day. He’s a 10-day section hiker and the trail is kicking his butt today. He comments that he can’t believe he caught up.

Seeing his struggle reminds me of how far I’ve come and how much better and stronger I am at hiking than when I first started. But, I still have my old hiker eyes / mind. Where 1000ft of gain is a ‘big day’ not a casual midday obstacle to be overcome before moving on to the next 1000 ft gain section. I see trees in the distance and tell myself I can’t rest until I get there, then I blow right by the mark with no difficulty. This happens all day, every day.


Once I press on I see that same section hiker sitting to rest maybe 150 feet of gain up the mountain. He offers me a candy bar, pain killers, and even CBS oil to help me sleep. Seriously day, I’m trying to have a bad day here and you are not cooperating. I thank him but turn down the offers and press on.

I get to the top and a rose breased grosbeak, a bird I’ve wanted to see forever, flies into a nearby tree and poses. Ok, so I guess that today isn’t all bad. I admire the beautiful bird then continue passed Walnut Mountain Shelter and through another beautiful forest area. I kind expected to find the woman with the missing dog here, but the shelter was empty.

Soon I’m ascending the 1000ft to the summit of Bluff Mountain the switch backs make it easy. The top is beautiful despite lacking views, the descent is gentle switch backs and right through a stunning wild flower covered mountain. Ok, really this is too much already, Mother Nature is laying it on thick. This place is beautiful.

It’s getting late so I check my cell phone and there aren’t any hostel beds available tonight even if I wanted to hike the extra few miles into town. So after some miles like this I decide that now is a good time to get water and make camp. I’m going to stealth camp tonight. Which is to say, not use a designated shelter or campsite, but just use a trail side flat place. Many clearings like this exist on the trail and some even have fire rings. They just don’t have names and aren’t marked.

I’m about 13 miles from where I started the day with 2500ft of gain. Not a bad day. Tomorrow, I’ll nearo the last 4-5 miles to town. I already booked the hostel bed for two nights. This was originally to wait for my new phone to arrive but I checked Amazon from camp and they reportedly delivered it yesterday. So now, it’ll just be to rest my painful feet. And await a few new packages that I just sent myself here.

The plan for tomorrow is to get to town, shower and do laundry then eat something delicious. I’ll try to make arrangements to visit the spa to soak in a mineral bath for Thursday. But that part remains to be figured out – mostly I want to eat, resupply, and rest my feet.

My food choices today weren’t bad today. I was actually hungry and snacked, albiet lightly, on a few occasions. Then I had mac and cheese for dinner with extra meat added (meat sticks, pepperoni and bacon) followed by a candy bar. Probably at least 1500 calories.

2am update. I woke up hungry, but on an air mattress that still has air in it. I’m ok with how this day is turning out. My foot hurts and I wish I had a nice pillow that I could raise it up on, but that’ll have to wait till tomorrow.

Current distance 270-ish miles.

Hot Springs, NC – 4/24 and 4/25


April 24

So it rained a bit in the morning making my tent nice and wet (and heavy) for the short 5-mile downhill hike to town.

I went to the hostle first and secured a bottom bunk for 2 nights and picked up my phone. I then gathered my laundry, found a loaner dress (blue with flowers and shorter than I’d like) and started my laundry while I showered. I put it on a heavy duty cycle with extra time to try to leech some of the stink from it. I’m gonna have to burn this all when this trip is over. 

My next order of business was food. I needed to get to the diner before it closed at two, but I was also starving, so I hit up the honor fridge for a light snack (and got pizza roles (510 calories) and a yoohoo (160 calories). I love that this is now a light snack – but when you are burning 5000+ calories a day this barely scratches the surface. I hadn’t had pizza rolls before, they are pretty tasty out of the toaster oven. I also probably haven’t had Yoohoo since childhood, but it looked refreshing.  


Eventually, the laundry was done so i get dressed and head to the diner where I promptly order fried flounder, with fried okra, fried green tomatoes and corned bread. It was a lot of fried food and i struggled to finish even after i received a generous pile of lemons and vinegar. Then i went to resupply at the dollar store and the self-styled ‘hillbilly market’. I headed back to the hostel. I was sharing a room with Multifunction, Minnesota, and Happy – their ate two more bunks but they are empty – nobody snores! There was chatting and hanging out for a bit as I organized my food. I pretty much got all candy and crap because that’s all the stores had. I’m not happy but I’m thankful that I ordered some meals from Amazon and they’ll be here tomorrow. 

While I’m there I’m lementing how much my foot hurts. Dr. Dolittle, a very experienced hiker, tells me to work out the pain with a cork ball. I don’t have one and don’t think this will work. She runs and gets me a rubber ball that she found. I do the massage and it hurts like hell. She tells me the more it hurts, the harder I should massage. I listen, but don’t believe, and also wish for death. Eventually it stops hurting. I think this is a new form of explaining to my foot that the beatings with continue until moral improves. Dr. Dolittle swears it has to do with muscle fibers having to be worked to straighten and flatten out.

I eventually head to dinner and join some people at a brewery, but they tell me they’re going to the tavern for meals. So i head back to the tavern and hang out with Woodstock, Bird, and Swami z. Then after they leave I hang out with Peggy, Shannon, and The General. Shortly later Happy and the two guys from MA get there (Prometheus and ?). We hang out and chat. Prometheus, from the Boston area, sheepishly orders a foot long hot dog and it becomes a major joke.

I order a fresh salad with steak but the steak was actually pressed down philly steak but I actually liked it. The salad had blue cheese and blue cheese dressing, I ate with vigor.

We hang out for about an hour after everyone is done but it gets cold out so I head back to the hostel first Then I hang out by the fire with all the other backpackers. Woodstock is there giving out life and trail advice. I’m drinking a beer. It’s a good time. I sit close to the fire and warm my aching feet.

April 25 – Zeroing in Hot Springs.

I wake up and have little interest in doing very much today. I mess with my 3 phones. The original won’t turn on since i got to town, i’d really like another day with it, oh well. I spent two hours in the middle of the night resetting apps and other password so the new phone will be more usable. In the morning i continue this quest with the financial apps. Resetting passwords and mucking around with money. I even close an account and transfer the cash. Just a normal day on the trail.

Today i have a few missions (1) get to the diner before they stop serving breakfast at noon. (2) go to outfitter, buy a cork ball (rubber is too heavy to hike with), buy new fuel, maybe pick up some better food at outfitter, (3) update blog, (4) shower and hang out, (5) pack so i can be out at a reasonable time tomorrow. 


I get to the diner around 11:15 and order eggs and a tenderloin. I expect beef but i find out it’ll be pork. That’s ok. I also get grits and a biscuit i add copious amounts of butter to my grits and then eat my over easy eggs and my delicious pork… i debate ording another tenderloin. The biscuit is fluffy and also gets a generous amount of butter and some jam. I clean my plate. 

Then i head to town. I stop at the visitor center and see a map of how far I’ve come, the proprietor thinks this will be discouraging but I’m happy with the few inches of map I’ve accomplished. Other than the foot pain I’m feeling good and want to hike. But this is a rest day. I pop into the outfitter and buy the cork ball, a cell phone case with neck harness, and some minor food items (protein). Prices are a bit high, but it’s what we have. I break even at a perfect $50.

Next door is the library and I go to read any field guides they might have. I end up seeing a library of things which includes a chromebook i ask what it takes to rent them and it’s complicated, i don’t qualify.

But I’m told they have computers in the next room that I can use. I check the specs on the computers and determine i can use them to transfer date from the micro sd card of phone 1 (currently in phone 2) to new phone 3. One problem, they don’t have cords, so after talking to the Librarian and hiker Tarzan for a bit i have to go back to the hostel. I get broken phone 1 and both cords and head back to the library. I’m hoping i can rescure any extra data from phone 1 while I’m at it.


My sd card plan works, after some semi complicated acrobatics to save time I’ve moved over 150 GB of data. I’ve also been chatting with the librarian all day.


 At one point I’m chatting with another lady that was on a different computer, apparently she was printing something. They were fliers about the missing dog. This is Bright Eyes. I tell her I’ve been keeping an eye put for her missing doggo and she asks if I was with the Wounded Warrier group. She said she heard there were two ladies and one was taking pictures of all the dogs. I tell her I’ve been doing that, and that none of the dogs look like her missing pup. I show her pictures of the trail dogs I met, i even tell her all of their names. It’s wild, I actually remember the dogs better than the people. Her dog definitely was not among the ones I saw. I tell her I saw a dog in town that looked like hers, but didn’t have the right ears, she tells me that she’s been told about that dog 4 times. Poor women. Poor pup.

This is impossibly hard. We talk about her plans, she’s a Canadian citizen so her options to stay are limited by her visa. I remind her that the trail is keeping an eye out and if the dog is out there somebody on the trail will help get her home. Bright Eyes is finishing her triple crown, she only has 250 miles to go, she’ll be done in two weeks or less after she restarts. Eventually, she has to leave as she is chasing up one more lead on her missing dog. I wish her good luck. 

I return to my computers and another patron or two come in

 I find a book on mushrooms and flip through it as a refresher. My brain is a fuzzy mess. The librarian and i continue chatting. Eventually I finish the transfer and start looking for food. I had threatened to buy a steak and cook it over the open fire, but instead I end up getting a pizza.  


It’s funny, I look into the pizza joint and it looked empty then Tarzan ran out to say hi. Tarzan is 23yo from Kansas City, Kansas. He’s amazingly together for a young adult. We talk about life as we eat really good pizza. Conversations about investing, Fire. (Financial independence), boogleheads, living on interest all come up – he hasn’t done these things yet, but he’s been saving as much as he can. He’s looking into real estate – we taking about the benefits and drawbacks. He is also somehow hiking without a phone. I let him borrow my burner to text a friend and then we keep an eye out for responses. Eventually few other hikers come to the pizzeria, they have a 7:30 appointment for a mineral bath. I’m kinda jealous but it’s been a long day already and somehow that just wasn’t in the cards. Despite my love of hot springs. I also read that the water wasn’t all that hot, and I really would prefer a very hot spa.

We go back to the hostel and I set a big fire in the fire pit. It’s a bit tough to light since i just have cardboard and big chunks of split wood. I but i build a loghouse and position some scavanged twigs to get the fire going inside. It works but needs some tending till it really gets going . We talk about hikers and hiking, and the different hiking philosophies – some people are hiking 12 hours a day, everyday with no breaks, some people are zeroing periodically and enjoying themselves, some people are really enjoying themselves and yellow blazing from place to place. It’s HYOH (Hike your own hike) but we both struggle to understand the extremes. Although, i do joke about how pretty much everyone out here is at least a little messed up. Why else would we buy $1000’s in gear and try to hike 2200 miles. Obsessive and intense, (maybe just a lilttle bit). Seriously, this hurts and it’s extremely hard, but we press on nearly every day.

In really wondering what I’m getting out of all this, but right now, all i know is forward.

More folks join the fire and I hang out with Dr. Dolittle. I drink my leftover beer from yesterday then am offered another. I sip on that. I don’t know why I’m drinking beer, sometimes it hurts my stomach, but oh well. Eventually, I decide I want a giant fire and build a loghouse with a second loghouse next to it, we joke it’s the mother-in-law suite. Surprisingly, quickly, the dual houses go up and put out some intense heat. The day before I was sitting on top of the fire for warmth, today I’m on the bench several feet away and I’m roasting alive.


I decide its time for a shower… I take my beer and head to the house. Shower beer time. But first I need to quickly pack and organize my stuff, since I’ve been carrying a giant cardbord box and a plastic bag around for the last hour. I set a few things aside to mail back. I’m including the tied dyed rubber ball in the return. It somehow has sentimental value at this point. I’ll be sending back my older phone but will keep the burner which has phone 1’s sim card in it until I’m sure i have everything i need. Probably another week or two. It weighs 7oz. So it’s annoying to have to carry it, but for now it’s a safety thing. 

Between packing and the shower I’m back in 30 minutes, we have an hour till lights (and fires) out. So we all hang out. Dr. Dolittle is talking about her various trail experiences here and on the PCT. She also has a very light pack and set of gear that’s very customized. She been telling us about the different pieces for days. It feels too spartan for me but it clearly works for her, and that’s what matters, plus she has an amazingly low base weight – I’m kinda jealous.

Eventually, a woman I met a few days earlier who reported at the time to be mute comes out, but now she’s talking up a storm and tells us she has multiple personalities and that she has been intimate with all the AT shuttle drivers between here and Maine. This is the same woman that I’m told drank too much and had to be put to bed earlier. I fake being cold and bow out of the conversation. Another person follows me as I leave, once inside he thanks me for giving him the excuse to leave. On the scale of weird stuff I’ve encountered on the trail this woman was a bit too intense for me. I went back to hanging out with the ‘normal’ crazy people.  

Then it was bed time.


Picture note, many of these were taken with the new cell phone. I’ll have to login with the burner to add some of the photos before Hot Springs

By the numbers

Ok, doing this with the numbers from Hot Springs, NC.

Miles Hiked: 275.2 (12.5239%)

Elevation Gained: 66998 (14.8884%)

Elevation Lost: 69429 (15.4287%)


Note:There are a lot of different numbers thrown our for total Elevation gain/ loss on the trail. AllTrails says 453,000 so I’ve rounded to 450k. Some other numbers go as high as 520k.

Everest is 29032ft. So I’ve passed my second Everest. (Of 16)


They keep telling us that the trail gets easier (less elevation gain daily) but that’s much more clear when you see we’re significantly further into the Elevation gain than the distance.

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