Days 17-20: Why is it So COLD in the SOUTH???

I spent the first two weeks on trail smiling bigger and brighter than I ever have before in my life. Life has been incredible, beautiful, fulfilling — all in ways I never knew possible.

A photo of me outside Outdoor 76 in Franklin, taken by Achilles

And then, there was snow.

After we left Franklin, we hiked up to Silar Shelter. Obviously, we took a group pic at Swinging Lick Gap on the way. (Peep my trailstagram for an incredible reel of Achilles)

Prince, Achilles, and I enjoying the joke.

We decided to take it easy after a zero (a double zero for me), plus we wanted to meet up with Silas and Cheese Plate! We love hanging out with them and meeting up with them. Some of the best conversations and most interesting perspectives come from when we get to chill with those brothers.

I finally got to try out my new thermals. They’re SO comfy and toasty! Sensory HEAVEN for me, a little AuDHD sprite. And a good thing they were, because we weren’t going to see warmth again for a few days.


I haven’t seen so much snow all winter in NYC.

It started Wednesday night with a light flurry. It was cute! We played “Christmas Time Is Here” from Peanuts and “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman” from Frozen. We built a fire and Achilles and I huddled for warmth while singing in the shelter (it was only a few of us at the campsite and everyone was down with our Glee Club-ass antics) as Moss did what Moss does best and chatted with the gang.

Then Moss and I went into our tent. At some point, Achilles (tenting next to us) heard me say “Moss, if you are not touching me, we are not sharing body heat!”

With the wind chill, my clip-on thermometer read 6 degrees.

I immediately decided that, if it was this cold again, we were making a Spark Sandwich with Achilles in my tent.

And we did.

It was, as we say back home, “Brick T*tties McGeeky” out there.

Two nights in a row, we slept all three of us together in my Fly Creek. A snug, toasty fit where I siphoned all the body heat my friends had to offer. (The second night, we were camped far enough from everyone else that we watched Aladdin together. The original, with Robin Williams, obviously. We’re cultured.)

It was so freaking cold that I was back to my truest New Yorker vibes. I was grumpy, I was complaining nonstop, I missed the sun. I had a moment where I thought to myself, “All that joy and all those smiles, just GONE with the warmth. I didn’t sign up for THIS! If I knew it would be cold, I would have stayed north!”

Moss and I. I’m obviously so happy with the temperature…

All jokes, for the record. I knew that there would be Weather and I was honestly happy to overcome the challenge of the cold — especially with two pals to keep me warm at night.

That being said, it was far too cold for me to take my hands out of my warm mittens and take photos.

My new mittens (dropped my Cotopaxi gloves in the 76 hiker box — which Sharky picked up!) were TOASTY and the outside was FRIGID. Luckily, Achilles took some pictures while I was doing my best to power through the freezing temps.

Me telling Achilles to open the door to his tent so I can put my damp sleeping bag in there to dry out

There was a morning we woke up to far more ice and snow than we expected to. It was absolutely beautiful, but it was horrendous to exist through.

There was no “Be Bold, Start Cold”

It was “Be Bold, Be Cold” for three mornings in a row.

Day 19, we walked into Burningtown Gap to the coolest trail magic I’ve seen so far. The Frontiersman Camping Fellowship appeared in the distance, with canvas tents and pioneer-esque clothes. It felt like I walked into Red Dead Redemption 2.

Best. Trail magic. Ever.

I don’t remember doing this, but apparently I was so excited that I ran down the hill to the trail magic. They were basically LARPing, bro. I was fascinated and elated.

We had chilli and a warm fire and blackberry cobbler and happiness again.

The sun’ll come out tomorrow

The next day, the temperature finally got back in my happy place. I went from having my thermals and fleece on to being back in my shorts and sports bra — my most preferred hiking ‘fit. We sang Disney songs as we climbed up to the Wesser Bald firetower.

The Glee Club

Firetowers have been scary for me. Man-made heights are not my thing, I’ve learned. Wayah’s firetower doesn’t count — that was more like a “The fire is lit, Gondor calls for aid! Rohan will answer” type of firetower. But Wesser was more like what I’m scared of.

So I went up and overcame.

Me, panicking

I laid on the floor atop the tower and called my mom as I talked myself through my expected anxiety attack… and then I stood up. I looked down. I looked out. Everything was okay. I felt immense pride in myself for doing something scary in order to enjoy a beautiful view.

Looking down
Psyching myself up

Eventually, we saw the NOC in the distance.

Achilles and I (we’d let Moss go at his own pace a few miles back) bounced down to the NOC singing “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana, which was perfect as the light was hitting the river in a way similar to that in the lyrics of the song.

We had an amazing tramily dinner with Silas and Cheese at River’s End, and parted ways to get to the cabin we rented for the night.

Yummy yummy yummy

After two years, I finally had the opportunity to go in a hot tub again.

We had one on the porch of our cabin. All three of us stayed in there for nearly four hours. We only got out because the sensitive parts of our bodies started stinging from the chlorine. My muscles melted into noodles. It was miraculous.

The sunset from the hot tub

We listened to music and sang and told stories. I read Achilles’s birth chart and sent it to my friends — my god. Reading Moss’s after I finish writing this.

I’m joyous and smiley again. I’m happy with the temperature, my body, my strength. I have the dopest friends to hike this crazy distance with.

The same song we listened to comes to mind for the past few days, and carries us through many hard sections:

See the line where the sky meets the sea?

It calls me

And know one knows how far it goes

If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me,

One day I’ll know —

If I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go

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Comments 3

  • Grandpa Hodag : Apr 7th

    Good writing. Godspeed north!

  • Corey Lewis : Apr 7th

    Hey Scout!
    I have really enjoyed your perspective on things. You are making great progress! You should level up soon! You’re racking up x.p. like crazy. I guess you’ll know that you’ve reached the next level when your strength, agility and wisdom increase. Keep rolling for that natural 20! Maybe you will find a decanter of endless water. Wouldn’t that make things easier!

  • Nature Boy : Apr 13th

    Spark, I’m glad you’ve found such boon companions – which includes the sleeping bag, tent, and mittens, exceptionally wise choices for an Appalachian winter (yes, definitely still winter in March, as you’ve found. Into April as well. Sometimes May). Keep the tales coming – we’re all with you!


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