Blister Recovery and Rain: Dick’s Creek Gap to Franklin, NC
Bring on the milestones!
Before jumping into this I would just like to say that it is way, way, way better getting a blog post out on an actual computer than it is through the phone. If some of you were wondering why I sounded pretty matter of fact coming from the last post, it’s because I uploaded the whole thing from the WordPress App on my phone when I was at the Top of Georgia Hostel (little to no computer access). I’m writing from the Budget Inn in Franklin, NC, at 10:30am with a whole day of Nero opportunities ahead of me, but more on that on the next post. Can’t spend all day blogging, you know…
Day 7: March 7th: 2015
Distance Hiked: 4.5 Miles
AT Distance: 74.1
Top of Georgia Hostel to Plumorchard Gap Shelter
Deciding to take a Nero or a Zero is a tough decision for me, at least at first. It’s a clash of mind vs. body. Mentally, I want to keep going all the time. There’s this irrational feeling of guilt that I keep getting when choosing between pushing on for more miles or taking a Nero/Zero day. Logically, I can understand that I have until August 20th or so to finish, which is plenty of time (and it’s only the beginning of March after all!) Still, though – I get worried, like time is slowly ticking down despite the vastness of this trail and this experience. A lot of guides and websites talk about this – AWOL, Appalachian Trials, Whiteblaze, etc. – they emphasize going slow early on, reminding the eager hiker that the miles will come. In my head it seems pretty easy, but whenever I see friends or fellow hikers moving faster I get to thinking “wow – I should be going that fast!” and I try to keep up with t hem even though I’m not at that level yet. Today I made the right decision though. After battling some pretty serious and difficult foot issues (blisters, blisters, blisters) for the first week of the trip, I was able to get off my feet for an extended period of time at the Top of Georgia Hostel, and the four and a half miles today felt great. I listened to some great podcasts (the new NPR program Invisibilia is pretty interesting, and as always I wish there were more episodes of Planet Money for me to choose from). I’m also finding that physically I’m adapting to this lifestyle on the trail. Climbs are not as demanding. Long days are not as exhausting. Aches and pains in the morning still come, but they come in diminishing waves, no longer a stark consequence of the previous days activities, but a gentle reminder of the physical challenges that I had overcome. Consequentially my vitamin I (Ibuprofen) usage has gone down as well. I was hoping to use not too much of it to begin with, but most mornings I’ve taken one or two in order to get going at a quicker pace.
Another positive dividend to taking a slower pace is that you can sometimes meet a whole new set of people, allowing for the continuous expansion of this social circle that I have entered upon beginning this hike. At the Plumorchard Gap Shelter I met Drift, Big Country, Houdini, Recon, Tribute, and Hopper & Bismark – a real nice couple who have Thru-Hiked four of five times between the two of them. Hopper granted me my trail name – Seeker, on the account of my inability to keep track of my own possessions. Bismark also has a great depth of knowledge about the trail itself, from towns to shelters to great hostels and everything in between. I’m hoping to see a lot more of them during this hike as there is definitely a lot I can learn.
Tomorrow I’m planning to make the 12 miles to Standing Indian Shelter. The idea is to get into Franklin later this week, to Nero Thursday for the day and leave Friday morning mid day sometime. My feet are doing much better, but some good rest before the approach to the Smokies can’t hurt.
Day 8: March 11th, 2015
Miles Hiked: 12.2
Total Miles Hiked: 86.3
Plumorchard Gap Shelter to Standing Indian Shelter
Werewolf let me have some of the Melatonin he had, so tonight will be shorter as I feel sleep calling my name, louder and louder. My nero experiment worked! At least, to a degree it worked. My feet were definitely hurting a little bit, but this wasn’t from blisters – just regular foot pain and a little bit of pain in my right ankle. Aside from that though the days hike went great. The rain did pick up, but it only picked up about 30 minutes prior to my arrival at the shelter. No room left there, but it was a 7 person shelter so I’m not too upset by that. I also was able to do my first bear bag tonight, with Hopper, Bismark and the rest of the crew pretending to be watching with baited breath to try and make me miss the first couple of throws. No such luck though – I got it on my first try. Lots of people in the shelter tonight – Sparkle Bag, Plissken, Hopper, Bismark, Francie, Peter, Werewolf, Yellow Beard, Little Goat, Houdini, and a few others I haven’t said hello to yet. Tribute is a little ways behind somewhere, and Banana Boat is nearby stealth camping as well, though I’m not sure where. A whole bunch of us are planning on descending Franklin for a zero day full of food and craft beer and rest, as many of us haven’t zeroed yet. I think it’s well deserved. I’m running into my same worries about miles and making sure that I’m on a good pace, but it’s definitely forcing me to overcome that voice in the back of my head that shouts “keep going, keep going” at the end of the day. Even though I physically am usually tired to some degree, the same part of my brain that likes when I color-code my gmail calender is urging me to push forward. The key is to ignore that voice, and ignore the calls for more efficiency. Just take a deep breath and repeat: The miles will come. The miles will come. The miles will come.
Tenting tonight as the rain picks up right by the shelter, but it’s a very comfortable tent and pretty easy to pack up so I don’t mind the slightest. Lastly, I hit a big milestone today: Goodbye Georgia, Hello North Carolina!
Day 9: March 12th, 2014
Miles Hiked: 16.5
Total Miles Hiked: 102.8
Standing Indian Shelter to Long Branch Shelter
More milestones today! Compared to my previous attempt at a 15+ mile day (Day 3, when I tried to get over Blood Mountain to avoid the incoming storm) today was a completely different story. I woke up around 6:15 to the sound of werewolf making coffee – he’s always making coffee before he get’s going in the morning (“nobody comes between me and my coffee, he says”). Despite how it might sound with the coffee need, Werewolf is actually one of the nicest people I’ve met out here, or met ever. That’s one of the nicest things about the trail so far – everyone is incredibly nice and welcoming. There’s a whole different connection with people on trail, far removed to what I’m used to in New England and Boston. I still love New England and Boston with all my heart, but it’s real nice to be able to have a half hour conversation with someone I’ve never met before just randomly out of the blue.
The hiking today was pretty good overall, but the focus was really to get those miles done so that I could go into Franklin the following day (since I’m writing this all from notes I’ve taken over the past few days, I haven’t quite decided what tense to use yet, so just ignore that…). The first 8 miles flew by. It’s amazing how 2 or 3 miles changes in terms of the relativity with your day. Earlier on I thought used to think that that was a long time – a whole days hike perhaps! But now I’m finding that I can really push it and zone out if I need to in order to get through those miles quickly. Rain began to start coming down around 1:00pm, and it didn’t let up until much later. By the time I ran into Long Branch Shelter I had found that I was pretty much soaked, but I was able to get a good spot in the shelter and get a good nights rest. Two milestones were reached today! I passed the 100 mile mark, and perhaps more importantly, I ate two dinners for the first time. Completely worth it.
Day 10: March 12th, 2015
Miles Hiked: 3.5
Total Miles Hiked: 107.1 (could be a little off, I’m going from memory)
Long Branch Shelter to Rock Gap
I’m going to go through this quickly as Houdini is waiting on me to go do laundry. Most of us were up by 7:15am and sprinted to catch the first shuttle into Franklin, where Houdini, Banana Boat and I are splitting a hotel room and waiting for Tribute who will hopefully join us as well. I’ll do a part two to Franklin (really looking forward to the brewery and the coffee) tomorrow morning as I update this and wait for my mystery mail drop that hasn’t come through yet, so I’m going to hop off now. Everything is going great so far though. Couldn’t be happier to be out here, and I’m having the time of my life. Let’s keep it going.
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