Honey, I’m Hoooome: Week Two

Week Two: The Cheese Factory Site (Mile 56.5 ) to Winding Stair Gap (Mile 109.6)

Major thought themes this week:

  • Thank God I buzzed my hair.
  • I like hiking alone, but I don’t like camping alone.
  • I’m really proud of myself

Quality Mother/Daughter Bonding

My mom and me at the top of Bell Mountain

My first two days of week two were spent recovering from Norovirus in Hiawassee. Thankfully, my case of Noro was much more mild than others I’ve heard about, and I was already feeling better by my second day off trail. Since my mom was in town, we decided to explore some parts of Hiawassee to test how I was feeling. We visited the Hiawassee Rhododendron Garden on Day 8, where I still felt quite weak just walking around. On Day 9, we took a drive to Bell Mountain, where we saw some gorgeous views of the town below. It was such a moral boost to have my mom with me. Being sick never feels good, but being sick in an unknown place feels more isolating than anything. It was nice to have that one-on-one time with her for those 3 days.

We’re So Back!

For every “It’s So Over,” there is an equal and opposite “We’re So Back.” On Day 10, I got back on trail at Indian Grave Gap. Those first few miles were more difficult than I had anticipated they would be. I left Hiawassee feeling perfectly healthy, but the moment I started hiking up from the gap, I felt the air escape from my lungs. I took breaks often, hiking most of the day alone. Despite it all, I was thankful to be back in the woods. Staying in a hotel for 3 days was difficult, and I was itching to be back under the cover of trees.

On Day 11, I took my shortest day on trail since I had began, leaving me at a shelter at 1 p.m. This is where I struggled a bit with falling behind the friends I had made during week one. The hours of solitude allowed me to write in my journal and reflect on everything I had experienced thus far. It felt like I was starting the trail all over again. 

A North Carolina Welcome

At the NC/GA Border: Mile 78.3

Day 12 on trail was the most action packed filled day I’ve had thus far. I woke up that morning knowing that I would be completing my first state of the AT. Filled with excitement, I was practically running to the North Carolina border. I took my mandatory picture at the sign and then was immediately welcomed home with the worst climbs I have experienced on trail. Has NC ever heard of a switchback? 

That night I camped at Standing Indian Shelter, where bear activity had been reported for the past several nights. Over 10 people were camping both in the shelter and tents that night, and I went to bed hoping we’d be the lucky and the bears would take a night off. I woke up to the sounds of heavy breathing and slobbering outside my tent. 

 I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my life. My heart was pounding a mile a minute, and suddenly, everything I was taught about what to do when a black bear comes around left my brain. I was hoping anyone else would hear what I was hearing and react. When it was clear that was not going to happen, something clicked, and I started clapping my hands very loudly and yelling. That got others’ attention, and many came together to scare the bear away from the food bags. 

Despite our efforts, three hikers had their food bags stolen by this bear. Thankfully, I was not one of them. I can confidently say I have no desire to see another bear for the rest of my hike. 

Kicking Into Gear

At the unofficial 100 Mile Mark on Albert Mountain fire tower.

The slow start of the week pushed me to strive for a strong finish into Franklin, NC. Reaching the 100 mile mark on Albert Mountain was a monumental moment for me. It finally sunk in. I was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. I hiked my longest day so far from Standing Indian Shelter to Long Branch Shelter (16 miles total), which allowed me to stroll into Franklin the next morning. As I walked down to Winding Stair Gap in the drizzling rain, I was greeted by Sunset, one half of Chica & Sunset’s AT Hostel, who shuttled me and some other hikers into town. I took it easy at Chica & Sunset’s for the evening, and hopped back on trail the next morning.

Had such a good stay at Chica & Sunset’s Hostel. From left to right: Sunset, Andrew, Catherine, Rizi, me, and Chica

Sorry for the delay on this week’s update. It turns out once you’ve hiked over 12 miles in a day, you don’t have much energy to do anything besides make dinner and set up camp at the end of the night. I’m still figuring out the best way to format these, but I’m interested to see what things you all want to hear about – day by day highlights, overall themes, etc. Thanks for following along 🙂

Talk soon,

Florencia (No trail name yet)

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Comments 4

  • Braden : May 2nd

    Enjoying reading your story! Glad to hear of your recovery and return to the trail. Looking forward to more.

  • Steve : May 2nd

    Great to see you made it back to the trail. Hopefully the rest of your thru hike will be smoother sailing. As far as what we want to hear about ..you decide what you want to write about trust me people will be interested you are doing something alot of people only dream of. Have fun and be safe

  • Pamela payne : May 3rd

    Yikes! A bear! My heart would have been pounding too! “You is a brave child”……it would be interesting to hear what you eat, ” why” others decided to do the trail etc. I love your brutal honesty. Love you & always praying!❤❤

  • John "Tercius" Rutkowski : May 3rd

    Good to hear you are back on the trail.

    Avoid those heavy breathing visitors. Learn to have a sharp whistle.

    Maybe “Buzzer” would be a good trail name.


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