An Unexpected Trade

Welcome back to the thrilling chronicles of my hiking expedition! Today, Day 3, we tackled the Hawk to Gooch stretch. First off, let me confess that I didn’t bring enough water. So there I was, climbing the side of a steep trail-side cliff collecting from trailside seeps.

Note to self: Just because there is pleny of water in one stretch doesn’t mean the next stretch will be as accommodating – always check where your next water source is, also aim to drink all your water by the time you get to that water source. (you don’t have to stop at them all but make it worth it).

To make matters even more interesting, we had to conquer Sassafras Mountain right smack in the middle of our hike. Talk about a surprise workout routine! It’s was only about 600 ft of gain but I could see a lot of folks struggling. It’s super steep in places (someone refered to it as the first ‘endless climb’) and you need to go slow if you aren’t in peek shape (news flash, you aren’t). Don’t yellow blaze this, build your muscles, you’ll need them further along down the trail.

But fear not, dear reader, for amidst the day’s struggles, there was a shining moment. I, your humble hiking hero, effortlessly scaled a gigantic thigh-high step in the mountain with my backpack on, as if it were a mere crack in the sidewalk. Superhuman strength? More like my endorphins had finally kicked in. I actually surprised myself when I found myself on top.

We trudged along, slower than I’d prefer, but still managed to beat the estimated time at some points. Our breaks were packed with activities like collecting water, having lunch, mingling with fellow hikers, reserving a fancy hostel for tomorrow night (where, I made my first on trail blog post), and even rinsing off in a stream.

Flamethrower soaked her feet while I put my adventurous spirit to the test and splashed the cold water on my hair and face. Of course, we made sure to do it downstream. We may be wild, but we’re considerate!

Side note, I’ve seen too many people filling up downstream or right at the rock crossings. That is where there is increased bacteria – always fill up upstream from crossings.

Surviving the Wilderness: Trials and Tribulations

Upon arriving at our camp for the night, we discovered that the shelter was already filled to the brim. So, we pitched our tents instead. Flamethrower’s tent had a small malfunction (cue dramatic music), but mine held up just fine. The only challenge for me? The ground was as rocky as a bad first date, and I couldn’t help but worry about sliding off my sleeping pad all night long. Not to mention the mischievous root that decided to plant itself in the middle of my cozy spot (we got there very late and had a very poor choice of sites). Ah, the joys of sleeping on rough terrain! I did a bit of MacGyvering and slept at an angle. I also used my clothing bag to add stability by propping up part of my sleeping pad; (or ‘sleep raft’ as it was jokingly refered to on my first night (3-4inch thick big agnes rapide pad (1lb 9oz – 78x25in) – as a tall side sleeper I’ve been sleeping well.)

Medically speaking:

In terms of medical updates, rejoice for I am injury-free! Well, except for a tiny scratch on my finger from a failed attempt at breaking a branch for yesterday’s fire. It got a little infected, but nothing a little Neosporin can’t fix. I’m also experiencing some morning soreness in my hip flexors, but other than that, I’m fine and dandy. The temperature is dropping to a chilly 35°F tonight, which means I’ll be snuggled up in my sleeping bag, basking in warmth.


Quote of the day from yours truly: “Your skin can’t feel gross if the cold makes it so you can’t feel your skin.”

Quote of the day from Flamethrower: “If we get to town by 2pm, we can eat two dinners.” (Now that’s a motto to live by!)

Emerging Insights on Wilderness Survival

After days of commune with nature, I’ve come to realize a few essential things:

1. One can never have enough toilet paper. Frugality is key, but let’s err on the side of generosity, my friends.

2. Food choices were almost on point, but I still not eating enough snacks. Apparently, I’m not the only one guilty of this feast or famine approach.

3. Hygiene? What’s that? Nail-biting revelations include disgusting fingernails and a rising stench among our fellow hikers. The coveted shower awaits (maybe two)!

4. Note to self: establish routines that don’t involve fumbling around like a lost squirrel to get my pack together in the morning.  We struggle to leave camp before 10am.

5. I seem to have done a decent job of not lugging around unnecessary items (food excluded, of course). Don’t be like Hulk and carry entire cans of beans, or Gizmo and carry giant bags of white rice. I do admire their strength.

6. Pots and pans deserve a deep cleaning after putting up with days of roughing it. Time for some TLC for my trusty culinary companions!

7. Beware of food packets that taste like gruel disguised as gourmet cuisine. Our taste buds were left perplexed, to say the least.

8. Prosciutto is life. People will envy you for bringing this succulent treat on your journey. Trust me – when it’s 3 days in and you have meat people are jealous.

9. Headphones were a godsend when the symphony of snoring reached its climax. Blissful melodies drowned out the sonic assault.

10. Be prepared for fellow hikers trying to pawn off their ill-advised gear choices on you. Wise words: ‘Just say no!’ And seriously, who brought the etch-a-sketch?

11. Red light as a nightlight is a must. But use it sparingly, unless you want everyone to hate you. Most of the time I actually used my finger to hide most of the light to make it even dimmer.

12. Campfires: nature’s huggable warmth and an essential tool for smelling less like an adventurous-yet-unwashed soul. They also keep the bugs away. “Hiker cologne”

13. Take a moment to savor mountain peaks. Not only do they provide breathtaking vistas, but they also miraculously enable your smartphone to find 5G signal. Simply incredible!

14. Cold nights call for charging your batteries.  They’ll thank you with warmth and entertainment. (Read: your batteries heat up when charging your phone, don’t let that heat go to waste, charge at a time when the extra heat will help you.)

15. Putting your feet into ice cold shoes sucks,  putting them into cold wet shoes sucks about four-times worse.

16. Booking a hostel will result in unparalleled euphoria. Just trust me on this one. I may have found myself skipping down the trail with joy.

Lights Out – The Perils of Slippery Slopes and Other Nocturnal Escapades

Well, my friends, it’s bedtime at a delightful hour of 10pm – most folks have been sleeping for hours. Let’s hope I don’t slide off my sleeping pad like a penguin on an icy slope tonight.

Day 4: Trail Magic, An Unexpected Trade, and A Hostel to Remember

Hello again, fellow adventurers! It’s Day 4 of my Appalachian Trail hike, and let me tell you, there were some unexpected surprises along the way.

The day started with me waking up in my cozy tent at Gooch Shelter. Now, I may be a bit biased, but I have to say, packing up from a tent is easier because everything belongs to you. Unlike the shelter, where it’s every hiker for themselves in a battle for space. Anyway, while I patiently waited for my hiking buddy, I decided to take the morning to be a social butterfly and whip up a gourmet crystalized egg breakfast. Okay, maybe not gourmet, but hey, it filled my belly and only burnt my pot a little.

Trail Magic and Trades

Finally, we hit the trail around 10:30 am. My legs were a bit groggy at first, but they eventually woke up and started marching to the beat of their own drum.

As we journeyed on, we stumbled into Gooch Gap, where a group of Thru-hikers were soaking up the sun and Trail Magic from trail angels, Miss Janet and Thor (’99). I’m talking chips, Gatorade, and full-sugar soda galore! It was like stumbling upon a hidden treasure in the wilderness. These angels even helped fellow hikers trade their ill-equipped gear for safer, lighter alternatives. Because, let’s face it, nobody wants to suffer through blisters, chafing, or cotton.

Now, here’s where things took a turn. While I didn’t need any gear, my heart yearned for some furry companionship. Enter Dexter, Miss Janet’s adorable doggo.

We hatched a plan to do a trade. Our backpacks for Dexter’s company on the 3.8-mile stretch from Gooch Gap to Woody Gap. Can you imagine? Just me, Flamethrower, a day bag, and a dog. It was like a dream come true! Dexter even tried to lend a paw by pulling me up the steep parts. I must say, he was quite the motivator. Though, he did take a well-deserved cat nap at the top of Ramrock mountain. And let’s not forget his post-nap zoomies in a nearby stream – that dog has spirit.

Unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to my temporary furry friend when we reached Woody Gap. Sorry, Miss Janet, for the unexpected muddy paw prints. But she was cool about it and even shared some extra Oreos. Trail magic, indeed!

Above the Clouds

After bidding farewell to our four-legged trail companion, we were dropped off at the art-filled Above The Clouds hostel. Let me tell you, this place was a hidden gem. For just $50, we got a bunk, laundry, and breakfast. Talk about luxury! After washing my hands about 4 times, until the water finally ran clear, I picked out some loaner clothes and ran off to the showers to repeat the process across the rest of my body.

The hostel was decked out with cozy chairs, a foot and calf massager (yes, you heard that right), and we even played thru-hiker,Kitchen Sink’s, travel version of Settlers of Catan. It was a hiker’s paradise.





And oh, the food! Dinner ($10) was a mouthwatering delight. We savored house-made Brunswick stew and cornbread. Legend has it that this dish originated from BBQ houses, where any leftover meat would be transformed into a hearty stew for the next day. Trust me, friends, this stew was divine. Even after days on the trail, my taste buds still know what delicious is and they were waltzing in delight. I shamelessly went back for seconds (and maybe thirds on the cornbread). And let me not forget the snacking from the pantry – a Reese’s($2.50) and an Airhead ($1) that mysteriously vanished before I even got out of the room. Oops! I blame it on the long rambunctious conversations.

With full bellies and happy hearts, we settled in for the night. I climbed into my top bunk, cocooned in my trusty 10’f sleeping bag, and scribbled down my last update of the day. Ah, bliss! Well, except for the fact that I had to pee three times in the middle of the night. Let me tell you, climbing down from a top bunk with cranky hands due to my psoriatic arthritis was quite the adventure. But hey, anything for the call of nature, right?

Morning arrived with a promise of another scrumptious meal – eggs, toast, sausage, and potatoes. The hostel truly knew how to treat weary hikers. We got a bit of a late start, as per tradition, and reached the trailhead around 10:30 am. Before hitting the trail, I decided to weigh my pack (sans water), and it clocked in at 25 lbs (including a bunch of my warm clothes). Oops, still a bit too heavy and too much food. But hey, a hiker’s gotta eat, right? I’ll figure out a happy median as I go along. I’d love to lighten my load but I couldn’t possibly part ways with my sparse collection of first-aid items which are the only items I haven’t used yet. You never know when you might need them, especially when you’re wandering through the wilderness.

Till next time.

So, my fellow adventurers, that concludes Day 4 of my Appalachian Trail escapades. Stay tuned for more wilderness wonders, trail magic, and possibly more four-legged trades. Until then, happy hiking and may the trail be kind to your weary soles!

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Comments 1

  • Nature Boy : Mar 29th

    Caroline – I very much enjoy your writing! I hope you continue posting, and best of luck to you and Flamethrower on your journey.

    Cheers from Nature Boy (very near the southern end of Shenandoah NP)


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