Feel the Rain on Your Skin: Days 30–36 on the AT

Day 30: Hot Springs to Spring Mountain Shelter; 11.2 miles

Banjo and I joined Chappie, her boyfriend, Popeye, and Ben at Smoky Mountain Diner one more time for breakfast before leaving Hot Springs. I think we have the menu nearly memorized. I tried not to over-order again, and opted for a few sides instead of a huge meal. 

The nearo and zero combination served my legs well, and I actually enjoyed the steep climb out of town. Shortly after starting my hike for the day, I caught up to Ramen Bomb. And almost immediately after that, we ran into Wicked Pissah once again on her way back into town!

Bye, Hot Springs!

Ramen Bomb is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. I think it’s important to laugh so hard your stomach hurts at least once a day out here, so it’s a good thing I met him. I wish everyone could befriend someone like Ramen Bomb Tom!

Ramen Bomb, Banjo, and I have started playing 20 Questions whenever we have a tough section of trail to move through. We can never keep track of how many questions everyone has asked, though, so the game ends up just being “Questions.” The first question is always, “Is it bigger than a bread box?” One time, the answer was a bread box. I’m rereading this paragraph before posting the blog and wow, I’ll really laugh at anything these days.

A highlight today was hiking near a bike race out of Hot Springs. We walked over a bridge and saw the bikers zooming by on the road below. Later in the day, a volunteer for the race was packing up his aid station and made us all PBJs! The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me. Magic, indeed.

Tonight, a crew of five or six of us have lined up our tents on a hill away from the shelter. The bear cables and privy are annoyingly far, but oh well. I think I’ll sleep well knowing people I care about are curled up in their own little tents on all sides of me. 

Day 31: Spring Mountain Shelter to Jerry’s Cabin Shelter; 16 miles 

I slept in today. It was glorious. I also simply didn’t want to crawl out of my sleeping bag and into the cold.

Today was another bigger climbing day. But they all are, aren’t they? I started the Appalachian Trail thinking, “Oh, the days must get easier; they must flatten out eventually.” Nope. Not yet, at least. On the AT, you summit a bunch of mountains every single day. So many, that sometimes you don’t even realize that’s what’s happening. Or at least, that’s been the case for me.

Somehow, though, it does get easier. Is it the hiker legs coming in? Am I learning how to fuel my body better? Or do I understand — and maybe also dread — that it all ends? The steep climbs, the rocky descents, the mud, the rain, the snack breaks spent basking in the sun, Banjo with his banjo, Ramen Bomb with his quick wit, 20 Questions, hundred mile markers and fire towers and town days and trail angels and easygoing conversations… people seeing me for me. Not what I want them to see. Not what they expect of me. No pretense. Just Hummingbird. And I get to see them for who they are, too. 

Does it all have to end? This is what consumed me today.

Anyway, we passed 300 miles today and ate banana walnut cookies from the Southern Cookie Lady. That’s pretty neat.

Contrary to how this cabin in the woods may appear, the Southern Cookie Lady did not fatten us up to cook us in a stew.

Day 32: Jerry’s Cabin to Tent Site just before Sam’s Gap; 17.9 miles

I woke up to light rain on my tent. Once it subsided, I hobbled over to the privy. No amount of stretching prevents the morning hiker hobble for me, but at least nothing hurts.

After passing the 300 mile marker yesterday, we had Big Butt Mountain to look forward to this morning. On the way there, the trail opened up into a meadow that seemed like it could’ve been old farmland. I love wide open spaces in unexpected places. 

We got to Big Butt Mountain just in time to laze in the sun for a few minutes before Honeybun showed up to join us. If you use your imagination, the rock formation at the top does indeed look like a big butt.

Anything in there?

Today was eclipse day! But sadly, it was cloudy and rainy. Chickadee had given us eclipse glasses in Hot Springs and I was bummed I couldn’t use them. It did get somewhat dark for a bit though, and I noticed the birds stopped singing for a short while. 

Waiting for an eclipse we couldn’t see

I wanted to hike a little farther today to get close to Sam’s Gap. We found a great tent site just off trail and called it a night, falling asleep to the sound of trains in the yard beyond.

Day 33: Tent Site near Sam’s Gap to Spivey Gap; 13.4 miles

Once again, I rolled out of my tent a little late today. As it warms up, I’ve been sleeping really well. I get like 10-12 hours of sleep at night, so it really shouldn’t be this challenging to wake up in the morning — even with the sun up to sun down hiking.

I had to get some business done before Ramen Bomb and Banjo emerged from their tents, so once I was up, I moved quickly. It’s funny how pooping in a cat hole feels more clean and comfortable now than using a toilet. My aim is getting better, too. Just in case you were wondering.

Tyvek Tom with his morning joe.

Honeybun and Ladybug hiked by our tent site and told us that Miss Janet was taking them to Erwin. We followed them to Sam’s Gap and saw that there was trail magic slightly uphill. A man named Quiet Paul made us scrambled eggs, hash browns, and cookies. He was indeed quiet, and his gentle kindness made me tear up.

Then we met the famous Miss Janet. She pulled up for Honeybun and Ladybug and offered us Gatorade and snacks even though we weren’t riding with her. Cue the tears again. Are you surprised?

Miss Janet!

Once again, it was a rainy day. I locked into Banjo’s heels for what felt like hours to help me hike through the rain.

Today’s view

Big Bald and Little Bald were socked in, and the trail downhill was just one giant mudslide. I fell four times. At first, the hiking was kind of fun, but by the end of the day, my brain was tired and I was stressing out about my wet gear — my shoes were like little ponds — in the cold temperatures.

Ramen Bomb, Banjo, and I decided to stay at a hotel a day earlier than we’d originally planned, then slackpack into Erwin tomorrow. I figure as temperatures warm up, I won’t be so (irrationally?) worried about hypothermia and will just suck it up. Anyway, we called Miss Janet to pick us up and she came through!

We got to Erwin, enjoyed our hot showers and laundry access, and took advantage of Pancho’s and Amigos’ Taco Tuesday special.

Day 34: Spivey Gap to Erwin; 11.2 miles

Not much to say here besides wow, I wish I’d never slackpacked. It was too nice!! For those who aren’t familiar, slackpacking is when you only hike with what you need for the day, like snacks and water bottles. Maybe a first aid kit, just in case. Usually, someone drops you off in the morning and/or picks you up at the end of the day, depending on how close you are to your bed for the night. It’s essentially day hiking.

The weather was rainy at first (surprise), then became humid. With all the green around me, it felt like I was walking through a rainforest.

Trail was mostly downhill back into Erwin, and our eleven miles practically felt like a zero. We also saw a big snake!

Back to the hotel we go.

Day 35: Erwin to Tent Site at 357.7; 13.3 miles

We ran into Dinger again at the hotel breakfast. It reminded me that you never really have to say “goodbye” out here — it’s always, “see ya down the trail.” That’s comforting to me. 

It was back to wearing our heavy bags today, so we had a little dance party to lift our spirits while getting ready for the hike ahead. Someone put on “Believe” by Cher while we packed up our hotel room.

The day started out hot and humid, then shifted to rain and heavy wind. We passed through another foggy, rainy bald. It’s just our luck at this point, so we laughed it off.

We’ve started singing Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” at the top of our lungs when it starts pouring.

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in

It keeps us laughing, so why not?

Not from today, but I’m feeling the rain on my skiiiiiin

I didn’t take too many notes about my day because I needed to protect my phone from the rain. But now I’m in my tent, and it’s storming. Lightning, thunder, wind — the works. One of my stakes came out so my rain fly is whipping against my tent, but I don’t want to get wet trying to fix it. Alas.

Soaked, but happy with my flamin’ hot Cheetos.

Around 11:30 at night, I woke up to a headlamp shining outside. Apparently Banjo’s tent partially collapsed on him. Even though the wind is really testing the strength and flexibility of my Big Agnes Tiger Wall tent right now, I’m grateful it doesn’t require trekking poles to stay up. There, I said it. Don’t come after me. 🤫

Day 36: Tent Site at 357.7 to Iron Mountain Gap; 7.1 miles

Last night’s wind was crazy strong, and I regret not fixing my rain fly in the middle of the night because now part of my sleeping bag is damp. Oops.

The trail is a stream this morning, and the rain and mud continues.


I hike with two pairs of Darn Tough socks — one for sleeping and one to wear during the day. Well, my daytime socks (and the Injinji liners) are still soaked from yesterday. Like, soaked enough that I’ll get blisters if I wear them. Sleep socks it is? I might invest in a third pair for days like today.

When you’re on your last pair of dry socks, you hike a lot slower. Or at least, I do. I’ve been rock hopping to avoid walking right in the stream. If it wasn’t so bitterly cold, I wouldn’t care so much. I’m starting to think about finding a warm place to sleep for one more night so I can keep all my toes. Yes, I’m being dramatic.

Banjo and Ramen Bomb, probably imagining what Beauty Spot looks like on a clear, sunny day

We stopped at Beauty Spot Shelter for lunch and the rain started coming down even harder than it had been all morning (how?!). We decided to go back to Erwin as a safety precaution. The weather is calling for freezing temperatures again, and our gear is just too wet. Would we survive the night? Probably yes. But still.

Back to Erwin we go, feeling a little defeated. But at least there’s Pancho’s & Amigos.

Happy to be dry at dinner with Lynx, Giggles, Lucky, Sophie, Jordan, Banjo, and Ramen Bomb.

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Comments 2

  • Josh stroud : Apr 17th

    I’ve recently bought a backpacking tent, after a 25 year stretch without sleeping in a tent. My ex wife was not into camping. Yall are lucky to have this opportunity, and able to take the time to do it. Enjoy the rest of your time on the trail

  • Marji : Apr 18th

    I love your blogs. I wait impatiently to receive another. I am saving most of your photos. I love that you take a lot.
    Take care sweety. I love you to the moon and back. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️


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