Leaky Tent, Creaky Tree, and Too Few Calories

Well hello. Here’s me sitting at a computer for the first time in 21 days…with the intentions of cranking out an update! First off, thank you so very much for your kind words. Those body aches I talked about in my last blog post ended up being symptoms of Strep Throat–no wonder I couldn’t consume anything but honey water! Zero days may be fun, but five zero days are the definition of no fun. Lucas and I eventually went Stir Crazy in Hiawassee, Georgia. The day before we made our way back to The Trail, I visited the E.R (second doctor’s visit at that point) and the Doc just said to pop more Ibuprofen. So I bumped up my intake of pills and felt almost okay; we hiked only four miles our first day back. I could hardly eat mashed potatoes, peanut butter made my throat scream, and I fell asleep around 5pm. It’s a miracle that I felt capable of hiking 12.8 miles the next day. And that we hit 16.2 miles the day after…

Seriously–fellow hikers–listen to your body! If it says please stop at the first shelter, then begs you to sleep even though the sun is still out, DO IT. You’ll wake up feeling 10x less creaky! Speaking of which, something really freaking cool happened this week!!


Lucas and I are known for taking a lot of breaks; we’ll plop down on the side of The Trail and eat a handful of trail mix for the third time that hour. On the down climb from Wesser Bald in the Nantahala National Forest, we decided to take a break in the middle of a windy, creaky forest. There were several dead trees surrounding–they made sounds similar to an old rocking chair. It was quite eerie.  Halfway through our break, about twenty feet away, a tall tree snapped in half and the sound of it cracking into two echoed throughout the forest. I jumped up and tried to judge which way it was falling while Lucas sat there, staring at the tree plummeting into the trail before us, with a mouthful of granola. Luckily it fell in the direction opposite to us. It was such an exhilarating experience!


Oh…well…we experienced something else quite exhilarating as well. While we were tenting at Cable Gap shelter, about five miles from Fontana Dam, a massive rainstorm blew through and our tent’s seam-sealer decided not to work. At all. Every single thing inside our tent was soaked by morning. Not damp, SOAKED. I have to admit, lugging 40lbs of wet gear down a mountain is not fun. My feet hurt, the muscles in my neck felt as if they were on fire and my entire body felt like it needed to be wrung out. So, Lucas and I had to break our let’s-be-cheap rule, accept a “nero” day, and get a hotel room for the night. We set the heater on high, hung our stuff from every piece of furniture, and resealed our tent–it felt like a sweatshop inside the room.


After Fontana Dam, we entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our first night in the park, we saw a coyote within 50 feet of our camp. I was super excited to see wildlife! Within our five days in the park, we saw one coyote, lots of birds, two deer, and that’s about it… I want to meet more animals; I see their droppings, I know they’re there! There were also the imprints of horseshoes in the trail, but I didn’t see any horses. Here’s what I want to know: how do horses climb the super rocky slopes I struggle up? There was a sign about a horse hitch beside one sharp incline and I was like, “Daaaang. Horses are beasts.”


For some reason, we had beautiful, clear weather the entire time we were in the Smokies. Lucas and I loved the shift in scenery. At a higher altitude, we saw coniferous forests covered in moss, which is a dramatic shift from the deciduous, wet forests we had seen on The Trail up until then. We even found mushrooms for the first time! Our friend Bones spotted black morels near one of the shelters, so Lucas fried up a couple in olive oil. Tasty! The Smoky Mountain’s terrain, however, was not so nice to our bodies. We made the mistake of doing 17 miles in the beginning, so our feet and knees hurt for a few days.


We also learned a valuable lesson in rationing food. We had packed “seven” days worth for the Smokies, made it out in five, but had zero food left when we made it to Standing Bear Farm. That morning, we split a Clif Bar and ate a packet of oatmeal each (thank you again, Bones!). It was not a pleasant experience hiking hungry, especially because we were hitting 14-17 mile days. I felt very fatigued my last few days before our resupply, and ended up losing three pounds during that period (I can’t afford to lose weight!). When we made it to the hostel I ate four hot dogs, a V8, root beer, and lots of Mozzarella cheese. For someone who eats primarily healthy, junk food never tasted so good!



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