Day 39: Chihuahuas and Swimming Holes

Rotisserie Chicken

Last night was an experience. I am a rotisserie chicken a.k.a I constantly roll around in my sleep. With no sheets and the mattress being plastic, I had to unstick my legs and arms before turning. Constantly. It was warm too and I was overheating in my ten degree quilt. I just wanted a shower after that experience. The good thing is that I slept until 7:30. I only woke up when Fine Young Buck turned on the lights.

I asked if everyone was up and he said yes. I guess I should get up too. Packing didn’t take long and I was soon reheating my leftover Mexican food. I took it outside and sat next to Kea and Sweeper. It was so good. It just wasn’t enough. I ate an apple too, but that didn’t put a dent in the hunger.

Tramily Appreciation

I was in the midst of eating when Sweeper asked me, “How many days of food do we need?” That question was directed towards me and it made me really feel like I was a part of the group. As I was breaking down the possible day by day schedule, Fine Young Buck, who was turned around, turned to face us and intently listened. There were no disagreements and they took what I said and rolled with it. I have been hiking with them for over a week. It may be two weeks. Time has no hold while out on trail, so I’m unsure of how long it has actually been. While I don’t know everything about them, they are people I can connect with and are very much a tramily to me.

I remember a week or two into this journey that I feared being alone. Hiking alone is fine and is most times preferable. It’s when I get to a shelter that I want to know people and be able to really be myself. I occasionally think about the people who I started hiking with. I hiked with Aaron for a moment and met Nick at the first shelter. I have no idea where they are on trail or if they still are. Where is Clan Topos? I haven’t seen most of them since Franklin or the NOC. What about Pete or Grace? Nothing is constant, but I have found a moment of consistency with Fine Young Buck and Sweeper.

Morning Resupply

Before heading out on trail, we needed to do a resupply. The shuttle left at 9:00 and at least ten people and a dog climbed in. Besides the first row of seats in the van, there were none. Most sat in the back on the floor. It was a look for sure when we got to the grocery store and people just poured out of the van.

We had slightly over an hour to shop and do what we needed. I had three places in mind: the grocery store, McDonald’s, and the local outfitter. I quickly gathered what I needed (and wanted) for food including garlic bread sticks. At the checkout, one of the workers knew I was a thru-hiker right away and she gave me the thru-hiker discount. It was probably just the typical savings card. It saved me fifteen dollars though.

Chicken Nugget Crisis

Sweeper had just finished shopping too and we started to walk to McDonald’s together before he realized that the outfitter was farther away than he thought. He headed there and I continued on. I wanted chicken nuggies.

I show up and was absolutely devastated that they don’t serve nuggets before 10:30. An absolute travesty if you ask me. I reluctantly recrossed the street to go to Bojangles. They served chicken strips.

Before paying, one of workers comes up and says that the strips will take about six minutes and the biscuits will be another seven. In regards to the biscuits, the worker asked “Is that okay?” And before I could answer, she asks again “Are you in a rush?” I smile apologetically and say, “Yeah, kind of.” I needed to get to the outfitters. She said I could get one of their sweet biscuits instead of the regular, so I accepted.

Erwin Outfitter and Stickers

While waiting, I recalled that Fine Young Buck wanted salt packets and that he was nervous about time. He needed new shoes. His had only 300 miles on them and they were falling apart. I figured he didn’t grab any. I filled my pocket with them. That should be enough. When the food was ready, I thanked the lady and sped walked to the downtown. I needed an Erwin sticker. The outfitters in towns I’ve been to previously always had local stickers.

On the way there, it became very apparent to me that it was hot. And humid. Love that. The hike should be extremely sweaty. Passing several closed stores, I finally made it to the outfitters with twenty minutes to spare.

I set my stuff down by Fine Young Buck and Sweeper and barged into the store. The first thing I noticed was that it was sparce. I saw a sign saying stickers and headed there. Nothing. It was only outdoor brand labels. One of the workers told me I should try the pharmacy a block down. I left the building and sat down on the ground. I told Fine Young Buck and Sweeper that there weren’t any Erwin specific stickers there. I asked what time it was and they said 10:15. I had fifteen minutes before the shuttle came. I had time. I got up and ran. An older lady and her chihuahua were walking on the sidewalk and as I ran past, the dog barked in a way that sounded like it thought I was going to kill it. It filled me with laughter. It was a funny and unexpected sound, for sure.

That’s What Friends Are For

I reached the pharmacy and saw a sticker stand. Out of all the stickers, only one said Erwin. It was mine. I paid and walked back. It was time to eat my chicken strips. Fine Yound Buck, who looked sadden, said that he wish he didn’t rush to get to the outfitters. He didn’t get something to eat. I offered him a chicken strip and then dumped a handful of salt packets into his hand. He barked a laugh and said that I was going to make him cry. That’s what friends are for, though. We look out for each other.

In the Bags

The shuttle came and we headed back for the hostel. Once again, we poured out of the van. Everyone headed to a table and began dumping their new food on the table. It was a scene. There were trades and wishes for ziplocs. I packaged all my food up and was finally able to pack my pack properly. Some just throw their stuff into their bag, but mine has a specific order.

By 11:30, Hawaii, Kea, Sweeper, Fine Young Buck, and I were ready to hit the trail. Putting on the pack sucked. It was heavy. I weighed my bag and the scale showed 31.7 pounds. Not bad for five days worth of food. It still sucked though.

Damn, it’s Hot

From left to right: Sweeper, Fine Young Buck, Kea, Hawaii, and me. Photograph credit: DunkAroo

We headed out. The trail was mostly flat, but I was sweating buckets. It was hot. I think it got up to the high 70s. It made me fear what it will be like once the humidity really kicks up and the temps reach the 90s. That’s a problem for a later date.

Out of the five of us, I was second. Hawaii was up front and the others were behind. I continued hiking and noticed that Hawaii was stopped and starring at the creek. I stop next to her and she goes, “That looks deep enough to fully submerge, right? I am debating on getting in.” I looked too and was also very tempted. “I’ll do it if you do,” I say. We both hesitated and starred some more. After a minute of internally debating, Kea walks up and asks, in his New Zealand accent, “Is that a swimming hole?” We say yes and he immediately throws his pack down and starts undressing. That was motivation enough for Hawaii and me. We stripped too.

The little swimming hole we got into.

I was the first in and I gasped at how cold the temperature was. I saw a crawdad and walked to the deeper part of the stream. I squatted down and the water rushed over my shoulders. I jumped up and saw Kea get into the water. He bellyflopped into the water and went under. Hawaii was next and fully went under too. We were laughing and shouting as we rushed back up the steep embankment. We were shaking off as Sweeper walked into the area and saw our lack of clothing.

“I was wondering why there was all this shouting,” he said. I asked if he was going to get in too and he responded by taking off his pack and next his shirt. We all got back in the water, this time, with phones to record. I stayed in the longest and my legs were red and tingling by the time I got out. We were all out and trying to squeeze out the excess water when Fine Young Buck appeared. He wasn’t doing too well. He pulled a muscle in his back and was struggling with his pack.

Back Pain and Turning Around

He sat down and looked utterly dejected. This hike has been hard on him. He had a decision to make: go back to town or take some medicine and continue going. He decided to keep going. Before departing, he gave me a hug and we continued on. We were all on the search for another deep water spot.

About a mile from the shelter, the grade became steep. Stupidly steep. I drank the rest of my water and hopped from shady spot to shady spot. It was a long section. When the terrain flatten out some, the shelter was nearby. We stopped, had a snack, and waited. And waited. We gave it thirty minutes before making the decision that Fine Young Buck did turn around.

The Hunt for More Water

While we waited, we noticed some FarOut comments say that the upcoming water sources were deep. We desperately hoped it was deep enough to submerge. We hiked on another mile to find out it was deep enough to fill up water, but not deep enough to float in. The AT really hasn’t had many places to swim, so the likelihood of seeing two swimming holes in one day was close to nonexistent.

The others continued, but I turned off airplane mode and saw that I had service. Fine Young Buck did text saying that he turned around. He would stay in Erwin for an additional two days. I wished him well and told him that we would hike his miles. It was sad to see. His wife gave him two rules when coming to hike. The first being, ‘do not allow your ego to exceed your abilities’ and the second, ‘do not share a hotel room with a single female’. The first came into play. Hopefully he’ll be back out soon.

Campsite Mile Marker 351.4

There was a dispersed campsite that someone commented was at mile marker 351.1, but it was actually at 351.4. I saw that everyone was there and Sweeper and Kea were setting up. Hawaii was going to hike on. I debated doing so too, but my feet were hurting and I didn’t want to continue hiking with three litters of water. The next water source was four miles away, but was up in elevation. I decided to stop.

I set up camp and immediately went to find a tree to do a bear hang. None were particularly great, so I had to hike further down the trail. I found one and it only took me three times. It was dinner time.

I made food and sent my family the photos from today. My dad called and I told him how today had gone. After he showed me how my very clean room before I left was an absolute mess, we hung up. If they lose my stickers in whatever heap they made… Yes. That is a threat.

The bugs were getting bad, so after the bear hang was up, I retreated to my tent. I did some reading before going to bed early. I was tired.

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