Crashing On and Off the AT
I earned my trail name a little after a week on the trail. Sitting in front of the Budget Inn in Hiawassee drinking beer with a bunch of other hikers, my dog knocked over a few beers (some full, some empty) and earned herself the name Party Foul. This was both apt and amusing, and we all sat in the parking lot enjoying not being rained on and having plenty of good beer and company. Pretty soon another group of hikers arrived with a dog. Luna had been laying in the middle the group enjoying pets and dropped snacks and I had her leash lazily wrapped around my ankle. When she saw the other dog she leapt over the parking curb I was sitting on and sprinted towards it, spinning me around and dragging me over and off the parking curb and knocking over about 8 beer bottles in the process. Since I was ok the incident was quickly deemed as hilarious and I was dubbed “Crash.” I groaned and said “ohhhhh no, that’s not my name now is it?!” Enough beers had been enjoyed that everyone was in good spirits and didn’t care too much about pinning down a trail name for me so we moved on and I continued introducing myself as Amanda.
I got back on the trail without an official trail name, but as I tripped over my own two feet and dropped things clumsily throughout the day, I started thinking maybe Crash was meant to be. At Dick’s Creek Gap I caught up to Ambush, who had suggested Crash, and told him I’d accepted my fate. He and Piper were happy to accommodate my new name.
From then on I’ve introduced myself as Crash, and people ask me if I’ve had a crash and if I fall a lot. Yeah, I kinda do. At a gap just before Standing Indian Mountain I encountered some amazing trail magic from a family visiting from Athens. I ate about 4 Little Debbie snacks there. They had chairs set up so thru hikers could sit down (in a CHAIR! This was an awesome treat in itself), and because I don’t learn lessons easily, I had Party Foul’s leash wrapped lazily around my ankle again. Some guys got out a frisbee and my playful pup bolted for it, with me unwillingly cartwheeling after her and the chair flying. If there had been any doubts about my trail name, I felt they were put to rest then and there.
Still, I had avoided injury and my crashing about remained humorous. I navigated the trail, covering strenuous slick and dangerous terrain with an equally clumsy dog by my side, and we actually didn’t have a single spill while hiking from Unicoi Gap to Rock Creek. We gazed at the view from Albert Mountain feeling triumphant for completing our first 100 miles and day dreaming about the delicious things we could eat in Franklin (at least, I’m pretty sure that’s what the dog was thinking).
The next day in Franklin, after checking into the furriest hotel room in town, my new friend Two Dogs and I decided to walk to Outdoor 76 with our three hounds in tow. I was wearing flip flops and excited to try on new shoes that would hopefully end the cycle of rolled ankles and blisters and constant aching I felt. The ground was level and paved, yet somehow I managed to step off a curb and fall straight to my knees, holding up small town traffic and confusing the dogs. I got up and kept walking, feeling somewhat embarrassed but mostly mad that I’d injured myself so senselessly. I had a scrape on the top on my foot and could feel my knees bruising and swelling, and though my running leggings stayed intact, I’d also skinned both of my knees.
Once back on the trail (now dog-less), people didn’t bother to question my name after they saw my bruised knees, but they did seem concerned about my balance. I’m actually really good at hiking and getting around uneven terrain, and I’ve gotten a lot better at not falling on the trail (I fell a few times my first week out). I’m used to balancing with my pack on and walking around in hiking shoes and using my poles to stabilize myself. I felt great as I left Franklin, even though Party Foul had left the trail to frolic with her dog friends back home.
I was hiking into a week of rain though, and the trail was part stream/part mudslide. After the first couple days hiking in the rain, my right ankle was sore. By day 4 of slipping and sliding through the mud, my right ankle was in agony. Lucky for me I had arranged to meet a friend at Fontana Dam the next day, and she agreed to pick me up at Yellow Creek Road and let me rest up for a few days.
All that falling, and I managed to strain the tendons in my ankle gradually with no perceptible moment of injury. Such is my life. I’ve been off the trail since Monday resting/icing/compressing/elevating, but I plan to start back early this week with a fresh stock of Vitamin I and a new ankle brace and a whole lot of care and attention to where I step.
The trail can be a treacherous place. Nevertheless I’ve missed hiking this week and I can’t wait to get back out there. Hopefully I’ll encounter less mud in the future (a girl can dream, right?) and this week of rest will have me feeling ready to take on the Smokies. I look forward to the amazing views and hopefully a blanket of green from all the spring rain. Until then I’m crashing (haaaa!) at my friend’s place and trying not to get too used to fresh food and running water.
Tread carefully friends!
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My husband and I ran into PiPer while we were day hiking in the Smokies and would love to follow his journey to Maine as well! Does anyone know if he has an Instagram acct that we could follow?!