Days 3-16: Commitment to the Bit

Sorry for the wait! Been having so much fun out here on trail that it’s been hard to find the time to write (or the service to post).

I’ve decided to try something out.

I want to try and write my trail updates differently from those I’ve been reading along with. Rather than day-by-day, I think you’ll get a more encompassing overview of the real journey we’re all on if I just tell it like I’ve been updating my pals back home. It’ll be a little non-linear, but this journey isn’t about the timeline for me — it’s about the experience, and that jumps around a bit.

Let me know what you think and if you like it! If it’s a little too scattered, I’ll do my next update the way I did the first one.

Spring(er)ing Forward

The first morning officially on trail was absolutely lovely for me. Barb (now Shivers) was chilly — the wind had been slapping around our exhaustedly and haphazardly staked tent all night. But I woke up early and decided to catch first light and the sunrise from the Springer Summit (and sign the logbook).

Sunrise from Springer
Professor Oak and my Snorlax hat – another sign that this was meant to be

It was beautiful. I’ve never made sure to soak in the beauty that the world gives us the way I have out here.

I bounced back to camp to make breakfast and use the privy — there had been a FarOut comment calling it lovely, and it did NOT disappoint. Most beautiful morning pee of my life.

I talked with a few folks by the shelter, which I now can look back on as one of the first times our tramily kinda hung out together. Said folks are now deeply rooted in my heart after so short a time. Connections happen easily when you’re making sure each other makes it all the way to Maine.

On the way from Springer to Hawk, one of those folks met up with Shivers and me. We call him Moss now, and he fit in with our pace and vibe pretty perfectly. It didn’t take long for Moss and me to become inseparable hiking buddies. We decided pretty quickly that we wanted to hike together at least until after our first hostel stay, and then we decided we want to take this friendship all the way to Maine.

At Hawk, we met up with the rest of the beginnings of our tramily, which we would eventually name The Dead Horse Society (for our commitment to bad dad jokes being so serious that we’ll kick that horse way past its expiration date). We had a slumber party in the shelter, after an amazing campfire (which has become a staple for us as well, when possible).

Hawk was the first sleep I had without my headphones playing to make me feel more comfortable with sleeping in the silence of the woods… likely because of the Camp Merril Apache copters doing training overhead, as someone pointed out afterwards.

Me, Achilles, and Eyore, after Spider Legs told us to take pictures of people not places

At Hawk, I got to connect more with someone who has become a trail brother to me as well – Achilles! He got his trail name from the injury that took him off trail last year (two guesses as to what it was). This guy is the ranger of our party because he just takes OFF. Achilles was ahead of us for a while, but ended up meeting up with us in Helen and has been hiking with us ever since.

Speaking of Helen!

My First Day In The Rain

We woke up at 5:00 a.m. to beat the rain at Low Gap and make it to Unicoi for a night in town and out of the rain. At this point, I’d picked up a Fly Creek tent at Neel that Moss and I were sharing (and he was carrying to keep my weight down). We broke down camp quickly and ate breakfast in the dark with Canary and Stillwater (two of our tramily members). They took off before we did because my headlamp hadn’t been charged like I thought it was. We waited for first light to come through just enough before heading out to ensure I didn’t step wrong and fall off the mountain.

We had initially waited for our adopted trail son (Dancing Bear/Disaster Toes – he’s a trip and a half) but told him to meet us on the trail once he’d broken down his tent and everything.

I have never enjoyed walking through a rainstorm as much as I did that day. It was like we were in the clouds. We listened to a Spotify playlist I had made for shifts with my best friend at the bar I used to work at and powered through the downpour. My gloves were soaked, but my $20 Frogg Toggs held up very well. I had sent back my “thermals” since they were utter crap and did nothing to keep me warm, but I didn’t need them that day anyway — I was overheating because I am a FURNACE. “Be bold, start cold” is my motto out here (shoutout to Dave, whose posts you should check out).

After ten miles and a stop at Blue Mountain for a lunch that froze me to my core (stopped moving), our shuttle showed up to Unicoi Gap just as we did. Dancing Bear, Moss, and I headed to the Quality Inn in Helen where we met up with Achilles and had a lovely night off.

Tramily dinner at Hofbrau in Helen with Moss, Dancing Bear, me, and Achilles

That night, we had makeshift s’mores (graham crackers, fluff, and Hersheys chocolate bars) as we watched a double feature of Ace Ventura – another sign we were in the right place doing the right thing. We tried to culture Dancing Bear with this classic, as he happened to be cursed with being born after 9/11. Unfortunately, due to the nature of his age, he had his head in his phone the whole time.

Dancing Bear stayed in Helen for a full zero the next day, and the rest of us took off in what’s become a subsect of the tramily (don’t ask what we call ourselves).

Our tramily group chats

Finding Family

Now that we’re further along on trail, we’re a bit more scattered as a group. We still stay in touch with our bubble group that has become Dead Horse, but we don’t always meet at the same shelters or campsites. Sometimes we’re days apart from each other. But we make plans to meet in town (like our tramily dinner in Franklin last night) and know that even if Stillwater takes four days off her long legs will take her far ahead of us in no time.

Tramily dinner at the Lazy Hiker Brewery in Franklin

The tramily also grows with every new interaction! We met Silas and Cheese Plate – two brothers and ex marines – and after this past week I’m so happy that we’ve gotten so close with them and been able to have incredible discussions.

These people have become so incredibly important to me. We support each other in this awesome way, where we hike our own hikes but encourage each other and assist/advise one another even if we’re miles away. I truly believe we will all make it to Katahdin, and I can’t wait to celebrate 2,197.4 miles in the books with my newfound family once we’ve all gotten there.

I would walk 100 miles and I would walk 2100 more

Just before Franklin Achilles, Moss, and I made it to mile 100 on trail.

Candice, Moss, Rae, me, and Achilles on the fire tower at Albert’s summit.

They make you EARN that last, hundredth mile, man. Like, SERIOUSLY earn it. I have a mountain range tattoo I’m adding my least favorite climbs to after the trail, and that one is DEFINITELY going on the arm. Endless stairs. I’ve never so hated stairs. We got lucky in that Candice’s mom slackpacked us up to Rock Gap, because my body had hit its limit after 14 days with no zeros and that climb was no freakin’ joke. Achilles let out a false bangarang (similar to a false summit, but it’s his way of scouting ahead as our ranger and letting us know how much farther to the top), and we heard Candice yell “You’re almost there!”

The fire tower was an accomplishment for me. It terrified me, the man-made structure atop the summit. I almost didn’t climb it. It was so scary, I (irrationally) worried we would tip over. But then I remembered why I came out here: to face things that terrify me and discipline myself through overcoming those challenges. So I climbed the stairs and had my panic attack while overcoming it in the company of friends who cheered me on and helped keep me from absolutely losing it. I made it about five minutes before going back down, but those five minutes made me want to do it for longer next time.

It’s all in the tramily.

The reason I decided to write this post like this instead of a daily log is because these last two weeks have been about building our little community more than anything, to me at least. We’ll be in the Smokies by the weekend and are now settling into what and who we are out here as well as what we individually need now that we have the support of the tramily as a collective.

I think our specific little group has been doing things well and with intention. We’re in this for the long haul and we’re acting like it, with having taken it very easy in these first couple of weeks in order to build up the strength and endurance that will take us another 2,100 miles to Maine.

Moss, Achilles, and I are comfortably doing 12-mile days, and are itching to bump that up in the coming weeks.

The Cream Team

I’ve started to learn the differences between reasons for taking a pause on trail — moments that I’ve called “Songs of Rest” because I am still a DM and am becoming known for my nerdiness out here. I’m the bard in our party, making sure to heal my team preventatively and keep morale up with songs and music. I know I only really need to pause when my breathing becomes unaligned with my heart rate, and what is soreness from strength training versus what is pain from overworking my body. I never realized how strong I am and can become.

I’ll try to make the next update sooner than two weeks from now. As always, thanks for coming along for the ride.

The song I keep thinking of, as do my trail brothers, is “Go the Distance” from Hercules:

I am on my way, I can go the distance

I don’t care how far, somehow I’ll be strong

I know every mile will be worth my while

I will go most anywhere to find where I belong

Mile 100

PS – I pooped in a hole for the first time just before mile 100. Please take ass chafing more seriously than I did.

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Comments 2

  • Ed Cortopassi : Apr 4th

    Hey Spark! Shiver’s hobby here. Love your dialogue and adventures on the trail. Your energy is awesome. Good luck as you continue north

    Reply
  • Leah Love : Apr 5th

    Thank you for your post! I loved the nonlinear telling of it. It flowed organically and I read it lightning fast. Enjoy your time out there!

    Reply

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