Fontana Dam to somewhere in the mountains

General Update: I love my life.  I’m on vacation.  My name is Amy Stardust but you can call me Stardust.  My feet hurt really really really bad toward the end of the day.  I need to figure something out for this. I’ve seen 5 snakes, no bears.  I’m getting closer to this elusive species.  I can feel it.  I finally broke down and cried.  And then cried some more.  And then ate a whole sleeve of Oreos with peanut butter.  I’ve spent about $1,000 in the first month and I need to save money.  I’ve gained 5 pounds.  WTF.

Fontana Dam to Mollies Ridge Shelter
Days miles: 12.1
Total trip miles: 176.8

Storm's a brewin' at Fontana Lodge

Storm’s a brewin’ at Fontana Lodge

Fontana Dam was great!  The lodge was super nice.  Walter White let me watch my shows.  It was the best.


Days miles: 12
Total trip miles: 188.8

The smokies were so pretty.  There are meadows everywhere that look like sloth hair.  And little flowers, green moss, and grass all over the place.  The shelters are huge and are really nice but the smokies have weird rules that you are required to stay in the shelter unless it’s full.  I prefer to tent so luckily the shelters were full most of the time.  Some people hate on the smokies because they don’t like the rules and we had to buy a $20 permit.  Another rule the smokies has is that day hikers get priority in the shelters.  This is weird because they can come any time they want, even if you’re already asleep and you would have to get up and move your stuff.  This wasn’t an issue, but it’s still a weird rule.  I’m not hating on the smokies though.  I thought they were lovely.  My foot has been bothering me.  Not only was it achey and painful to walk, but my heel pain also returned.  I got frustrated and took the shoe off and hiked with one shoe for 3 miles.  All of my foot pain went away.  I put my shoe back on after the 3 miles because my feet aren’t tough enough for all that.  They felt fine but it was only a matter of time before something cut them.  I got some really cool trail magic from a day hiker.  He had a huge backpack with apples, clementines, cookies, crackers and other snacks.  The best part was the dark chocolate Hershey bars.  Those are my chocolate of choice and so far Mountain Crossings, the NOC, and Fontana Dam only had milk chocolate bars so the dark chocolate was a huge treat.  I ate my favorite meal on the trail so far.  Spanish rice, refried beans, and cheddar cheese.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to find dehydrated refried beans in the grocery store but if I can that could be my new thing.



Days miles: 13.5
Total trip miles: 202.3
Happy birthday mom!

Moving slowly.  I did 13.5 miles today, left at 8:00am and arrived at camp after 7:00pm.  I went as fast as I could go, and took breaks when necessary.  I was exhausted at the end of the day and my feet were killing me.  I don’t understand why I feel like this when I’ve had no problem doing 15 mile days before.  If I had done a 15 mile day today I would have hiked into the night.  On the way to Clingman’s Dome, Walt and I came across some trail magic Coke.  I don’t think I could have made it the rest of the way without that coke. Thank you Dennis and Kathy!


Burned my pages again.
Mt. Collins Shelter I think? to Icewater Spring Shelter
Days miles: 7.5
Total trip miles: 209.8?

Something chewed a hole in my food bag while it was hanging on the bear cables.  It was probably one of my friends looking for a midnight snack.  Or a squirrel.  We all got out of bed in the morning with hitchhiking in mind in case we couldn’t catch the shuttle into Gatlinburg.  “Which socks look friendlier? My striped blue ones, or my lavender ones?”  And next to me I heard Sean “Oh yeah. I’m definitely getting picked up in this shirt.”  We came across trail magic x2 today from Elizabeth and a couple in Newfound Gap.  Elizabeth had donuts, coffee, graham crackers, fruit, moon pies, oatmeal, peanut butter, granola bars, and rice treats.  It was a huge surprise to see that on a weekday morning when it was rainy, windy, and foggy.  The Newfound Gap couple had sausage biscuits from McDonalds, potato chips, sprite, orange soda, cookies, and bananas.  I ate a lot and I loved every second of it.  We caught the shuttle into town.  Gary, Sean, Hangry, Samurai, and Melanie decided to stay at a motel in town.  I decided to take a free shower at the NOC outfitter store—which was really cool by the way—hit up the laundromat, and get a ride to the grocery store to resupply instead of staying the night.  Except…I got lost trying to find the laundromat,  it was 85 degrees and I had my backpack on, and got all sweaty and sunburned after my shower and almost cried.  I probably walked three miles around Gatlinburg looking for the laundromat.  But then I gave up and decided to resupply at Walgreens instead of the grocery store, and do laundry at Sean and Gary’s motel instead of the laundromat.  Gary and Sean have both footed the bill for laundry in the past, so it was my turn this time.  I went to go switch the clothes over to the dryer and someone left a big bag of weed on top of our machine.  I left the motel at 5:30pm hoping to get to the trailhead (about 25 minutes away) by 6pm.  I think the only advantage to being a girl out here is that it’s easy to hitchhike.  I managed to get a ride from the 5th car that passed me.  His name was Troy and he does maintenance on trails in the area.  I asked him what he was going to do that night and he said very thoughtfully with a thick country accent “Well, I did a lot of weed whacking yesterday and so I’ll probably go home and do some more weed whacking today.”  On the way to the trail I saw a large brown owl.  It was super exciting.  I made it to the shelter around 5:30 and snagged the last spot which was REALLY lucky because there were tornado and flash flood warnings.

Trail magic. Woah.

Trail magic. Woah.

Hiker trash waiting for the shuttle in Gatlinburg

Hiker trash waiting for the shuttle in Gatlinburg.


Lost again. Sticking out like a sore thumb in the middle of the tourist attractions.

Lost again. Sticking out like a sore thumb in the middle of the tourist attractions.

Laundry room weed

Laundry room weed.

Icewater Spring Shelter to Icewater Spring Shelter
Days Miles: 11
Total trip miles: 209.8

Wait, Amy you must have made a typo. You said you hiked 11 miles, but you’re still at mile 209.8, which you were at yesterday. This is no typo. I hiked 5.5 miles in 50 degree weather during a flash flood warning in high winds only to arrive at a sign that said Appalachian Trail 5.5 miles with an arrow pointing in the direction I had just come from. I hiked 11 unnecessary miles today.  I was cold, wet, lost, and I ended up at a shelter that was not in my guidebook that had at least three posters about bear danger and high bear activity in the area.  Attacks have lead to serious injury and death to humans.  I finally broke down.  I’m actually surprised I made it 24 days without shedding real tears.  I cried and cried and cried.  And I found some Canadian ladies who are hiking for the week, and they hugged me and I cried some more.  And then I left them and cried again.  I made it back to the shelter around 2pm and was surprised to find Sean sitting inside.  The sun came out! Then Pig Pen and Bear Claw came by.  He said 11 miles isn’t that bad.  He went 23 miles in the wrong direction once.  I feel much better now.  Although I did miss home and pictured myself sitting inside under a blanket, drinking hot chocolate and watching one of my shows, I never thought of quitting.  I spent the night at the shelter with Sean and my Canadian ladies, Eh? They’re awesome!


Above the city in a rain cloud

Above the city in a rain cloud.

Icewater Spring Shelter to Cosby Knob Shelter
Days miles: 20.3
Total trip miles: 230.1

First 20-mile day.  It did not feel good.  It’s crazy how few people I see now that the bubble is ahead.  Sean, Timber, Beer Hunter, Sweet as a Peach and 2 other hikers were the only long distance hikers in the shelter the previous night.  The 2 other hikers did 12.6 miles, and the rest of us did 20 today.  I was the last of the group (no surprise there) hiking the 20 miles and it’s surprising how lonely it gets.  You know nobody is behind you and that you won’t catch up to whoever is in front of you.  At one point I didn’t see any white blazes for a while and I started to panic.  I felt uneasy after yesterday’s fiasco.  I stood there yelling “hello!” a couple of times and nobody answered.  It really makes me nervous.  I try to get out of the shelters 1st but it’s hard.  Once the first person wakes up, everyone wakes up. I’m almost always the first one up and usually the last one out.  And I tell people not to wait for me and that I’ll be fine because usually I am and I see people all the time on the trail, but the crowd is thinning and when the weather is crappy on the weekdays there’s really not many people out here.  I don’t want to hike alone anymore but sometimes I don’t have a choice.  I feel okay after 20 miles, although that’s something I had no interest in doing.  I only did it because I wanted to be in Hot Springs on the 4th and I needed to make up time.  I threw up in my mouth today.  My trail diet has brought about weird acid reflux issues where my throat burns frequently and I can feel the acid rising.

PS: dehydrated pineapple is where the party at.

Cosby Knob Shelter to Painter Branch Campsite
Days miles: 12.8
Total trip miles: 242.9

I woke up in the morning to thick fog.  My stuff was wet because it rained last night.  I was wishing I slept in the shelter until I heard a guy in there farting. He was farting some of the loudest farts I’ve ever heard in my whole life about every two minutes.  Everyone left for the day except me, still packing my stuff and I thought maybe he wouldn’t fart so much if there was just two of us there, but this was not the case.  I decided I don’t like rain on the appalachian trail so you can imagine how pissed I was when there was a 0% chance of rain and it drizzled for the first half of my hike.  I had no pack cover on so my backpack got wet.  In the real world I love the rain but out here when everything is already difficult, it makes things that much harder.  I was hiking along daydreaming about food.  I really wished I bought that cinnamon bun I spotted at the Walgreens in Gatlinburg and I was thinking “I’ll definitely pick up a honey bun when I get to the hostel if they have any.”  Then a man, Dr. Bill, came out from a side trail and was like “Hey, are you hungry? I’ve got Pringles, kit kats, and honey buns.”  Wow.  I’ve never been so excited in my life.  He’s planning to start his thru-hike around April 1st next year, and brought some trail magic out while he’s trying to prepare for his hike.  It was awesome.  I stopped by Standing Bear Farm hostel today.  It was a really cool place.  The resupply is an honors system thing where you take what you want, add up the price, and then pay for it.  They also have these really cute treehouses that are kind of like wooden playground looking things but with beds and a small balcony.  But there is a ladder going up and everything.  It’s so cute.  And they have cats and dogs and chickens.  It would have been awesome to stay there but I needed to push on.  Maybe another time.

I've given up on the war against dirt

I’ve given up on the war against dirt.

Later Gators

-Amy Stardust

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