Human Mud Bogging and Other Extreme Sports: Hiawassee to Hot Springs
It has been a busy two weeks! The feet and legs are doing well, and I can definitely feel my body getting stronger. My trail name, for better or worse, is still Artichoke Boots. No amount of singing, Captain America band aids, or Sherlock Holmes references have changed it. I guess it was meant to be.
We’ve made it through one of the wettest weeks I have ever experienced, as well as the frigid temperatures of the Smokeys. The summer is definitely calling to me.
What’s odd about the trail is that you get settled into your own little hiker bubble, and if you either zero or push ahead you are surrounded by completely different people. This week has been a complete change in terms of people Flame Thrower and I have hung out with, which has certainly been an adjustment. The amount of times I’ve had to explain my trail name these past few days has been rather absurd.
Additionally, I have learned a lot about a favorite pastime in the South, called mud bogging. I was sitting at Unicoi Gap with Better Call Paul and Flame Thrower, and all of these jeeps with giant wheels kept rolling by. Apparently, for amusement, people will try to get their jeeps stuck in giant mud pits, and then try to “mud bog” their way out. Being from the Northeast, this was a completely new past time for me. Given the weather these past few weeks, I can definitely relate to mud bogging. The trail has been a squelching mess of rivers and mud, so much so it’s like I’ve been human mud bogging half the time. I don’t think it’s as entertaining as regular mud bogging, but it’s somewhat amusing to almost slip and fall multiple times a day. Thank goodness for treking poles.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks, so here’s a highlight reel of what’s been going on on the trail:
Day 10: 12.2 miles Betty Creek to Franklin
On our tenth day out, we officially passed the 100 mile mark on top of Albert Mountain. It was also the point where I got several texts and a voicemail from my mother asking where I was, and that she was starting to make calls. I guess my GPS hadn’t gone off in three days. Whoops. Sorry, everyone.
Day 12: 16.2 miles Wayah Bald to NOC
I ended up sharing a shelter with Flame Thrower, Sherpa, Blazer, Go Away Bear, and Lucky Charms, which was either the best or worst decision of my life. The night began with a discussion of the phrase “hike your own hike”, and how it can be used to judge everyone around you. For example, if you comment on some one’s pack and say “Your pack sucks”, you can immediately follow the judgement with “but hike your own hike, man, whatever you need”, and everyone will accept it. The later it got, the more outlandish the statements became. The evening got even stranger when Kaleidoscope, Jumanji, and Crusty Goat appeared and started what appeared to be an Iron Chef cook off. The entire cooking space of the shelter was covered with spices, tortillas, and peanut butter. They then proceeded to have us taste test everything from our sleeping bags. If only I could cook like them.
Day 15: 0.3 miles, Fontana Village
Not only did my mom come visit me on the trail for my birthday, but Flame Thrower and I received some advice and equipment from a man on a motorcycle. When we told him we were hiking the trail, he immediately produced 200 feet of rope, snacks, lighters, matches, and large knives. He then proceeded to tell us how to kill a man in multiple ways, and told us that people would want to kill us for our food. Happy birthday to me?
Day 17: 20 miles, Russell Field Shelter to Clingsman Dome
Our first 20 mile day came with help from my mom, who offered to meet us on Clingsman. I was so glad we did it, first just to prove that we could, and second because it was a beautiful day, and we saw incredible views the entire way up to the highest point on the AT.
The Smokeys were definitely a change, in terms of what you could do on the trail. You can’t just set up your tent in the park, and you have to stay in or near a shelter. Since it was so cold up there, it was good that we stayed in the shelters, even though it was somewhat restricting. This was the first day that we noticed we were out of our bubble, and it seemed like everywhere we looked there were new faces. It was kind of like the first day of high school all over again.
Day 20: 20.5 miles, Tricorner Shelter to Painter Branch
Unintentional 20 mile days are always hard. We decided to get out of the Smokeys a day early, which we felt great about. Finally, we can camp where we want! We also had a fantastic view from the Mt. Cammerer lookout tower, which was a great blue blaze trail.
I resupplied at Standing Bear Hostel, which may have been a mistake. My food bag was so, so heavy. Way too heavy. When I got to camp, I proceeded to eat the heaviest items in there. Somehow, the weight didn’t seem to change. When we got to Max Patch the next day, I discovered that I still had an orange from some trail magic in there. That explains a lot.
And now I’m enjoying a nice zero day in beautiful Hot Springs, NC! Flame Thrower and I are trying to roll into Damascus for Trail Days, so another blog update will happen around then! Happy hiking, all!
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