AT Update: Goodbye North Carolina!

Day 33:

Shortish day today (only 10 miles). We started pretty early, so that we could get into town with plenty of time to eat, resupply, and hang out. And with how light our packs were, we were flying. I had zero food, having eaten my last two tortillas and peanut butter for breakfast. I also drank all my water quickly, so I REALLY had no weight. It took us about 2 hours to get 6.5 miles, which is again super super fast for us. It’s a nice morning, and we had views over Erwin and the Nolichucky river the entire time as the sun was rising. Great morning hike.

Our view down to Erwin this morning

We got to Uncle Johnnys on the outskirts of Erwin at around 9:30. It wasn’t actually open yet, so we couldn’t pick up our boxes. We spent about half an hour hanging outside with Rusty and Celery before they opened the store and we could pick up our stuff. And stuff did we pick up! It made our packs feel insanely heavy after what we had just walked with, and I didn’t even have and lunch or snacks, just breakfast and dinner. After we got all picked up, it was into town to finish resupplying and get some lunch.

Town was a couple miles away, so we decided to just hitchhike it. In retrospect, we should’ve borrowed some bikes from Uncle Johnnys, but you live and you learn. Anyways, after a few unsuccessful attempts at getting a ride we finally got picked up by an old man in a rusted out pick up truck. We would’ve been sketched out, but he put us in the back with a hatchet and two chainsaws, so as long as we had the weapons I felt ok. He dropped us off a little bit outside of town, cause he had to go pick up wood in the other direction. So we walked down the rest of the street to the supermarket.

The supermarket was pretty uneventful, except for the fact that I had to buy a THIRY PACK of corn tortillas. Why corn tortillas? Well, next week is passover, and Im gonna try my best to keep it out here. Of course, I’m ignoring that my breakfast bars all have oats, i’m doing my best. Plus my rabbit counsel (mom and dad) say it’s ok so I’m gonna take that as all clear. But anyways, we got all supplied up, and headed across the street to an all you can eat buffet pizza place.

Bold to have all you can eat pizza in a town with thru hikers, but it was pretty decent. The place also looked like it had fallen straight out of the 90s, and Lindsey called it a liminal space, which I think is pretty damn accurate. All you can eat pizza and salad for 12 bucks was a great deal, if you ignore the fact that they had zero vegetarian pizzas for Lindsey, not even cheese. But when she asked they made her one, which was very nice of them. So yeah, we stuffed our faces and got back on the road. Before we headed back, Lindsey decided to pick up a qurt of ice cream to celebrate her birthday, which is today.

She ended up eating the whole thing herself and passing out in a food coma when we got back. The rest of the afternoon was spent finishing packing, charging devices, and hanging out with friends. We decided to jump in the river really quickly to cool off, as it was pretty hot. Or at least, I jumped in. Lindsey didn’t fully commit which was lame. The river was cold, but really nice. Right after, we headed out to finish 4 more miles to the shelter.

The last 4 miles of the day were straight uphill. With full packs (and stomachs) it was pretty punishing, but we made it ok. Honestly time kinda flew by, it was like 6 before I even knew what had happened. We met a couple really nice people at the shelter, saw a rabbit munch on some grass about 3 feet away, and got ready for the night. It’s supposed to be miserable weather tomorrow, so we’re gonna get up early to try and beat it. Cause that worked SO well last time.

I didn’t sleep the best last night, but honestly it didn’t effect (affect? I literally cannot remember which it should be) me as much as I would’ve thought it would, so that’s nice. But yeah, it was nice to get into a town and get some real food, especially after how tight it’s been for me the past couple days. It’s still kinda unreal that it’s been a whole month in trail, but honestly I think I’m starting to really believe we can do this. We’re about to cross 350 miles and should be over 400 shortly after. The way these miles are going, it feels way more digestible.

The only things that worries me is my body holding up. Everything’s been pretty ok so far, most just sore, but my hip is still giving me some problems. It’s my right hip, which could either be really good or bad news. On the one hand, the facia on that side has always been really tight, so it could just be that loosening up, which should be fine. On the other side it’s always been my weak hip, so I’m worried it’s not going to be able to hold up with all this. But I can’t really do anything at this point but stretch and see.

Quote of the day: “That car sounds racist” (Yes, that was the one that ended up picking us up)

Day 34:

The best way to tell you’re the first ones out on the trail? spider webs! And boy did I walk through a ton of them this morning! We got going around 7, which meant we were up with the sun, and I was the one clearing all the webs for the day. I swear I caught at least 5 flies just by walking. It was something. The weather was looking kinda spotty for the day, so we wanted to try and get moving early, in case thunder storms rolled in and slowed us down or stopped us.

The morning was deceptively easy. We cruised the first 5 or so miles in about an hour and a half, barely pausing for anything at all. The only stop we made was to put on our rain jackets when it started raining, and to grab some sweet treats from some trail magic! What a lovely start to the day! Unfortunately, after that it was all downhill. Or, I guess actually it was all uphill. Straight uphill. Straight uphill for about 4 miles, INTO a rain cloud. Yeah, it was about as pleasant as it sounds. We slowed down a whole bunch for that.

The rain cold we walked into

What always comes after an uphill? A downhill! But unfortunately this one was short and immediately followed by an even steeper uphill. The second climb of the morning nearly ended me. It HURT. But at the very top we at least spent a bunch of time walking through a very thick spruce forest. It was really cool, and very pretty. It felt almost like waking in the redwoods, mini version. Shortly after the climb we reached the first shelter. 13 miles done by 12:30. Boy oh boy were we hungry. We devoured some lunch, and decided that the weather was clear enough and we were feeling good enough to push to the next shelter, 9 miles ahead.

I would love to tell you all about the next 9 miles of the trail. I really truly would. But to tell you the truth it reached the point where I was so zoned out from waking up early and hiking about 22 miles that I barely even remember anything but wanting to be done. We did walk through a very pretty apple orchard, but apart from that I remember very little. I do remember being insanely hungry, and fantasizing about all the food I would eat when we got to camp. I think I’ve realized that I haven’t picked enough snacks so far this trip. I’ll fix that in the next town.

Anyways, we finished up the 22 miles (painfully) at around 4:30. When we got the shelter, we were ecstatic to see Bibo, Molly, and Ziggy were all there. Will had pushed ahead, for some strange reason, but it was nice to be with friends again. We did a little bit of planning and set a schedule that should put us in Virginia by the end of next week, which is really exciting. Oh, and we DEVOURED some food. It was good stuff.

Like I said, I was kinda zoned out a good chunk of the day. Not even in a bad way, I was just simply so mentally and physically tired that I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular. I spent a lot of the morning worried about my hip, which is WORSE, per day, but it’s not really better? It was feeling ok until I slipped on a rock, and then suddenly it felt like someone stabbed me with a hot knife. So yeah, not great. Buuuut continuing to keep an eye on it.

We lucked out big time with the weather today. We were told 80% chance of thunderstorms all day, but we pretty much got one good storm in the morning and then just a few sprinkles that weren’t even worth putting a rain jacket on for. I am shockingly dry, and very happy about it. Tomorrow should hopefully be a good day, it’s much shorter but lots more climbing to do. oh booooooy.

Quote of the day: “I can always give you the shots in the morning!”

Day 35:

Firstly, happy holiday to those who celebrate

Whatever lucky we had with the weather did not hold up today. Today we woke up to rain, and cold. In fact, i woke up, realized it was raining, decided to wait it out, and went back to sleep. When I finally got out of my tent, it was not longer actively raining, but everything was quite damp, myself included. So with no other way to stay warm and dry, we picked up and started moving.

It’s a relatively short day today, but with a serious climb in it. Roan Mountain is designated as the coldest spot on the southern AT, and also features the highest shelter in trail (and what a day to get to it). But getting up to that height is quite difficult. Getting up to that height is both difficult and annoying when it is cold, damp, and off and on raining. Not little enough to leave your rain jacket off, but not heavy enough to leave it on and justify the sweating. It was tough going. I’m sure the views at the top are usually quite lovely, but we couldn’t see a single one because again, we were literally IN A CLOUD.

At the shelter we ate lunch, discussed plans, and generally did our best to stay warm. There were a bunch of people there with us, and the general consensus was that this weather stinks. But we’re all living with it, and isn’t suffering more fun when it’s communal anyway? So yeah, longer than usual lunch and then we got on our way again. Except we were only

on our way for about a mile or so when we ran into some trail magic! And what lovely magic it was, with breakfast foods, sweets, and some PBR for the road. We filled up on second lunch and then continued our way to our shelter for the night.

The last 5 miles of the day were uneventful. Not only were they flat, but again, we really can’t see the views, so there wasn’t anything interesting to look at. Hence why both me and Lindsey went music mode. My left foot was quite wet at this point, and I was in a good deal of discomfort by the time we got into the shelter. But i got my sock off and it was all good. Of course, everything was damp, but shortly after we got here the weather finally broke and gave us at least a little sun to dry our things with.

I felt pretty good today, despite the less than ideal conditions. My hip felt a lot better, only a small flare up about half way through the day. The soaked out foot was less than ideal but it should be ok in the long run. We spent a lot of time walking through damp pine forests, which reminds me a lot of the pacific north west and really had me thinking about what going out there would be like after the trail is done. Not unpleasant thoughts at all. Plus, having trail magic right after lunch made it so I was only normal hungry instead of starving by the time dinner came around! Only damper on the day (besides the weather, literally) is that i’m pretty confident my sleeping of has developed a slow leak. So, that’s gonna be fun to try to figure out, and I’m sure is gonna lead to a great night sleep tonight!!!

Quote of the day: “I like your butt chin”

Day 36:

Last night was miserable. Miserable miserable miserable. Ok so first of all, it got cold. It got cold QUICK. Apparently we’re still in the mountains or something. THEN it started raining. Cold is fine. Rain is fine. Cold AND rain is not fine. Last, that slow leak in my sleeping pad became a fast leak in my sleeping, so i woke up on the floor, every 2 hours, having to rei flags my pad. At about 2am my tent floor finally soaked through with water, so I was cold, wet, tired, and all together miserable.

The rain was supposed to end around 10, so we decided to hang out in the morning and wait it out. After all, it’s only a 10 mile day. That sounded lovely before I was cold, wet, and running on very little sleep. Unpleasant morning, but finally around 10 we got on the road and warmed up a little bit.

Spooky forest we walked into

10 short miles, but two big balds to climb

in the middle. I decided to go for it without my trekking poles today, because my fingers were too cold to have my hands out of my pockets. The downside of this was that it was very muddy, and I was slipping and sliding all over the place. I was, in fact, the first in our group to slip and eat shit. Fortunately, my backpack took the brunt of it, and I stayed mostly unhurt and unmuddy. After about 3 miles of flat, we started our climbs.

We have had zero luck with views of off balds since the smokies, and that simply did not change today. Up the first bald we went, directly into a cloud and rain, and we could not see more than 10 feet in front of us. It was actually kind of cool to be honest, it felt like we were walking through a mystical enchanted forest. But the climb was certainly not easy, especially with no poles. I didn’t realize how much I leaned on them when I go up, but apparently it’s a lot. On top of the second bald, the clouds broke for a moment and we got a pretty good view for a few minutes.

Clouds off the top of the bald

Today is the day we leave North Carolina for good. For the past like two weeks we’ve been playing jump rope with the border, but today we finally turn fully into Tennessee. We ate lunch just across the border. “Lunch” is a strong word, at least for me. I at peanut butter and potato sticks. It tasted good, so don’t sue me. About 4 miles after lunch, we arrived to a major road crossing, and our big decision of the day. I made it for us. I needed to be warm, dry, and in a bed. So, we went to a nearby hostel to get good food, a shower, and some nice sleep. And that was a LOVELY choice if I do say so.

Apart from the miserable start, the rest of the day was pretty good. I mean, I’m tired, and stressed about my sleeping pad, but all things considered not an awful day. Getting into a hostel for the night was definitely the right call, I don’t think I could’ve tolerated another night in my tent. We’re also slack packing and staying at a hostel again tomorrow, so it’s gonna be a relaxing few days. Clearing NC was a big milestone, the miles are really flying now. Almost to Virginia, which is absolutely CRAZY, but yeah, we’re doing this damn thing!

Quote of the day: “We are liberating these women!”

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