Dicks Creek Gap to the NOC Scorecard
By the time you read this, I’ll be at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina at mile 137.
The Quick Recap
I rolled out of Hiawassee, learning a hard lesson about how much the quality of food and beer you consume in town affects your first day back out on the trail. The jaunt into Franklin was littered with milestones; I passed out of Georgia and into North Carolina, finishing my first state of the AT. The day I got to Franklin, I hit the 100 mile mark, but missed my picture opportunity when I glanced at my phone and realized I was already at 102.
I should also mention that I now have a trail name. I have a tendency, after a couple of hours walking alone with no one in sight, to take off my pack and put it at my feet (to remove a layer or find my sunglasses or whatever). In the two seconds it takes me to do that, I’ll suddenly have a line of 15 people behind me including an entire boy scout troop, the last couple of which will be looking around trying to see what the holdup is while I try to haul my pack and trekking poles out of the way. So people started calling me Gandalf because I wasn’t letting anyone pass. I imagine there’s always a Gandalf on the trail every year and it’s usually some old dude with a beard, so I’m enjoying subverting expectations.
Total of Miles Walked
67.8 since my last check-in, bringing the total to 137.1.
Milestones are fun and mentally rewarding, but I actually think getting up and over Albert Mountain was my highlight of the week. It was the first time I had to stash away my trekking poles and use my hands to pull myself up the mountain. I occasionally looked at the white blazes on the rockface eye-level with me and questioned whether this really still counted as a trail, but the whole thing was just short enough to be fun and interesting rather than painful and frustrating.
Other Things I’ve Been Enjoying This Week
- Peanut butter on unfrosted pop tarts
Literally the bomb. It’s really just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich if you think about it (or don’t think too much about it, I’m not sure which).
- Lunch coffee
Upon realizing that I was never going to cook in the morning (I mostly just want to get going), I started drinking coffee with my lunches instead, leading to a surge of energy at the midpoint of the day, just when I would start getting laggy. I come out of every lunch feeling like I can crush mountains, which really just means I stop and stare angrily at the uphill slopes a couple less times.
I really forgot how delicious they were. Best town food to regret on the trail the next day.
This has really been the week everyone has found their pace (me especially). I’ve been struggling with that “hike your own hike” adage that I really thought I wouldn’t have an issue with. For a while I was slowing down to stick with people I knew, which made me antsy. Now I’m watching people do 20 mile days and wondering if I should be pushing harder. It’s much harder to block out all those external factors than I thought it was, especially when it’s so tempting to stay in the bubble of people you know.
It’s so much warmer than it was before. I wear t-shirts to hike on some days and we occasionally wait until after dark to get into our sleeping bags, which still feels radical, like a kid staying up past their bedtime. There’s been a bit of rain and another thunderstorm which I did a slightly better job of not having a complete meltdown over, although the next morning someone suggested I listen to an audiobook to help block it out since you really can’t sleep through those anyway. That was so mind-blowing obvious that I now feel a bit more prepared for any others coming in the future.
North Carolina vs. Georgia
Lots of love for both, but let’s pit them against each other for the sake of intrigue:
- North Carolina has felt steeper in the totally unofficial record of “I just feel like it has,” but uses switch-backs on the mountains that Georgia would probably just make you haul yourself up on.
- North Carolina puts shelter logs at all campsites, not just shelters, so I’ve been able to read and write in shelter logs every night, which has greatly helped me to remember what date it is. For the uninitiated, shelter logs are notebooks left for thru-hikers at every shelter, and you can use them to leave notes to friends behind you, see where friends in front of you are, or just record your banal thoughts of the day. Think thru-hiker Facebook. I’ve really loved perusing them over lunch and dinner and realizing the great enormity of people that make this trek every year, all having the same experiences days or weeks or months apart. I find them weirdly comforting and reassuring and had basically ignored them in Georgia.
- Perhaps the best part of North Carolina has been the foliage, which is so much more conducive to finding a place to pee in the woods. Kudos to you, North Carolina.
Doing well, but they definitely hurt more now that I’ve upped my mileage. Putting on my crocs is rapidly becoming my favorite part of the day.
All in all, it’s been a week of learning for sure. I give it 6 out of 10 fudge stripe cookies.
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