Lessons Learned The Harder Way

Day 39

11 miles

Earworm of the day: Baxter 3rd is Under Fucking Siege, Penelope Scott

Yeah… I was grumpy from being over tired. Do things like interacting, hiking, and writing feel more accessible when you arent burnt out from hiking uphill for 4 days straight after seeing family? Yes. Do I need to advocate for my own rest and needs and not let pride, spite, and familial obligation get in the way? Eh.. Probably.

Long story short, the nero I had at The Station at 19-E was an improvement. I ate town food, had beer, and just recharged. I made friends with a turkey and a horse and it was glorious. I needed to do my own thing on my nero, rather than feeling absolutely rushed and overwhelmed by chores and other stressors. You might say, “Lucky it is only four days between your neros, just buck up!”

In that four days between my last two neros, I covered over 50 ish miles, gained 14000 feet and lost 13000 feet of elevation. Rest is crucial for performance, healing, and out look. Don’t knock rest.

I crossed the 400 mile marker!!! At every hundred mile mark, I feel proud, but this one feels for significant as it is almost 20% of trail completed. Thats a pretty bug chunk of trail, feels like I am actually making headway on my mileage and moving forward.

Today was really neat, it has been so wet out here that there is water, EVERYWHERE! I passed by Jones Falls and Mountaineer Falls, they were gorgeous but many of us were looking forward for swimmable waterfalls. A lot of us are getting excited as swimming season approaches. As May creeps along the humidity, bugs, sweat, and grossness is getting to all of us. I am now developing heat rash from my pack, which is just… You know… Amazing… We are looking forward to getting some of the grime off by swimming. Also it makes for a fun change from walking.

Walking is becoming monotonous. At least for me. I have been walking for about five weeks and while it is gorgeous out here, things are becoming mundane (at least, that’s what my sister tells me, she gave birth the day I started trail… She’s a mom now so she just knows things.). I know shocking, you can get used to sleeping in a tent, walking multiple miles a day, eating the same food (Like damn humans are great at adapting!). Sometimes it can feel like a chore to just walk as the days get longer. So finding things like swimming and things to do during breaks will really help improve my mindset.

Tonight I am sleeping next to the Upper Laurel Fork creek. It is nice to be this close to water and it’s a very nice little stealth spot. I am trying to avoid the shelters to the best of my ability, since Norovirus is rampant in them, and personally, I don’t feel like throwing up again anytime soon. So I have been sticking to stealth camping, which can be really nice when you find a group to camp with. Sometimes it can get pretty lonely when no one is around.

Day 40

Some god aweful amount between 12-13 ish.

Earworm of the day: Lukewarm, Penelope Scott

Forty days is a lot of days.

Noah was on the boat for 40 days. Jesus partied in the desert for forty days. I have walked on this trail for forty days. Forty is a lot.

I am a lot of things out here. I am tired, hungry, and sore. But I am also surrounded by absolutely stunning scenery and absolutely amazing cast of characters. I am so glad I get to experience this opportunity with these people in these incredible places. I am glad that I am healthy and strong enough for my feet to carry me 425 miles. I am incredibly thankful of all the support I have received a long the way, from trail magic to friends and family sending me food and words of kindness. All of it, even the smallest acts of kindness mean a lot.

I am looking forward to getting to Damascus for trail days. I need to switch out some gear for summer gear and need to replace some items (RIP my baseball cap that was lost in the storm). I am excited to take the break in Damascus and hang out with other hikers. I hear it is a big party scene and I am not a big partier. I am hoping to get in hang out for part of it and then get back to trail with my new goodies. Mostly I just want new goodies…. Buying backpacking gear could be considered its own hobby.

I have been doing my best to avoid the vortex, a term thru hikers use to describe being sucked in by trail magic or towns. It is hard to let go of sleeping in a bed or hot running water, to go back to sleeping in a tent and walking for most of the day. Thru hiking is a wonderful experience, but it isnt easy letting go of the things that make civilization comfortable.

Today was the Low water route at Laurel Falls. It made me feel like I was a child, playing pretend at adventuring through some far off fantasy land. That I was on some noble quest for some honorable reason, that I was palying pretend while exploring the falls and the scramble that is the trail in that section. This section of trail is so close to being my favorite. It brought back so many memories of childhood wonder during long summer days. I am glad I forced myself to walk.

This was maybe my hardest day on trail. I was hit with rain again, the miles felt never ending and long. I wanted nothing but to be done amd quit. I was so downtrodden by the rain I crawled into a collapsed to hide from the rain and cry (If it is good enough for the spiders, snakes, and mice; then it is good enough for me to be dry amd wallow in self pity!). It took a lot for me to get out of the shed and walk down gl the road, where surprisingly, was trail magic.

The hikers there gave me food and beer and convinced me to walk to the falls. To at least see them before the storm and appreciate the nature and the work to make the trail that leads down there. I am glad I did, or else I wouldnt have had such an enjoyable moment of nostalgia and wonder. Thank you Riff Raff, you dont realize how much your suggestion changed my hike.

Day 41

3 is miles

Ear worm of the day: Divine Loser, Clem Turner

I am average and I think that that is fantastic.

During my experience in academia I was held to a standard that overachieving and pushing tourself to the point of breaking was the expectation. You ignored your needs and you put your nose to the grind stone. Average was considered unacceptable and precluded you from opportunities and success.

Out here I am glad to be average. It doesn’t mean I am a failure or my performance was unacceptable. It means I am right on track. That I am performing like a majority of the pack. It means I am doing something right and I am learning from what I have gotten wrong.

I am not setting records out here (Well, maybe in eating candy…). Most of all, I didn’t come to set records out here. I came out here to walk, heal, and learn. So I am glad that what I am doing out here is average.

I ended up needing to take a zero. I skipped Pond Mountain and went to Boots Off Hostel (BOH). I had already slept through multiple storms in the past week and I had seen the weather was predicted to be bad for the day. I had been putting a zero off for too long. My body felt like it was betraying me. I had been covering rough terrain on very little energy. So I made the call to skip some miles for both my physical and mental health.

I am so glad I did.

I went to BOH and it was the break I needed; food, shower, bed, and company. It felt good to be around other hikers right before trail days. The excitememt surrounding trail days was palpable. So many new and old faces were surrounding me. It felt like being back on Springer Mountain, everything felt so exciting. I caught up with a hiker I hadn’t seen since my start at Amicolola, Dreamsicle. It has been great catching up after 4 weeks of hiking. I missed seeing familiar faces amd actually getting to talk to people about things outside the trail. You really don’t realize how much space is taken up in your life by thru hiking. It consumes you, but finding those little pieces of yourself is so gratifying.

Day 42:

20.9 miles

Ear worm of the day: In Dreams, Sierra Ferrell

20.9 miles today! That’s a lot of miles. That is an insane amount of miles. But I loved every god damn minute of it. Hiking didn’t feel like a chore for the first time in a few weeks. I think it was the fatigue and anxiety of trying to walk into trail days.

I am looking forward to getting to trail days, but the pressure to get there has really eaten at my anxiety. I want to switch out gear, meet new and familiar faces, go to town, and let loose, but I have such a strong desire to walk in to trail days… Like it shows that I am a “real thru hiker”. Like I have something to prove.

I know it’s all bullshit that my ego and insecurities have made up. This internal monologue from my ego thay tells me that I am not a serious hiker because I have skipped 11 miles and I cant walk into trail days. It’s a bad habit to break, the vicious way we treat ourselves for insignificant made up things.

I hiked with a slew of humans. Bandit: a hiker retired from the Air Force, Dreamsicle: an artist and hiker with an impressive outdoor resume, and Titus: a wonderful all around human being who has a wonderful wife, Splash, and perfecyr little dog, Stella. It was fun catching up and just talking about nonsense in the woods. Today finally felt like the hike I had hoped to have. I enjoyed every minute of it.

We camped in a large cow pasture with the infamous AT barn, it reminded me of home. Tall grass with few trees, the only difference is the mountains on the horizon. It made me think of my time teaching at Cedar Point Biological Station (CPBS) in Ogallala, Nebraska (Check them out, they are cool!). Keith County Nebraska and the fields of CPBS is where my heart is, where I consider my one outdoor place that constantly calls to me. Not the mountains, not the trail, not the rivers, but the big grassy sea found in the Great Plains. So being in these fields and on these Balds make me feel like I have returned home, in both a bittersweet amd nostalgic sense.

If you want to know more about Keith County Ne or CPBS read the following books by John Janovy Jr. A parasitologist who taught at the University Of Nebraska Lincoln: Keith County Journal, Yellowlegs, Teaching in Eden: The Cedar Point Lesson, and Dunwoody Pond.

Day 43:

21.5 miles

Earworms: Send Me a Peach from Georgia, The Blasting Company

They lie when they tell you the 42 miles into Damascus is easy. They are all full of lies. I refuse to believe that it is not because I walked 20 miles the day before. Inconceivable!

But I did it and it was hard today. I got bored or hiking. It felt like a chore again. Maybe it was because I was walking into a town and walking to a town makes everything feel 5000 times longer aymd harder. Today, I was walking into trail days, so maybe that made my hike felt 1 million times harder. It felt so. Incredibly. Long.

At least I had company, Dreamsicle decided to walk with me, so I at least had company (I swear it wasn’t a hostage situation…). So that was a nice change of pace, getting to chat with someone while walking rather than at breaks.

I SAW MY FIRST BEAR ON TRAIL TODAY! It was cool minus this bear was fearless. With twn hikers hanging out at the shelter, he got close. Like within 20 ft close and had no fear. I ended up trying to scare him off with my masterful “bear scare routine”, a combination of pretending to be a southern Karen and waiving around your arms and legs in the most uncoordinated of ways. It sort of worked, the bear ran down the hill but still waited out of our eyeline.

Even though I walked into Damascus, I worry about the hikers at that shelter and how comfortable that bear was with people. It was fearless and clearly had had human food. I hope that this bear doesn’t become a problem bear, but I fear it will.

The sad reality if this situation is that this bear has become to comfortable with humams and now knows humans = food. Guys remember to do the right thing, protect your food and trash from not just bears, but wildlife. Do whatever method that is best for you to keep them and you safe. These animals are not pets or for you to use for likes on social media. These are organisms that are integral to our ecosystem and when we (humans) go outside for hobbies we love, we enter their home. It is our job to be responsible and do do as much as possible to make the smallest impact to their spaces.

To all of you that don’t heed LNT and protecting these spaces, you are the ones making it harder for hikers and outdoor hobbiest to have access to these spaces. We see you. As mucn as you think you are, you aren’t invisible. Do better, because all of our actions determine the future of this land and how long we have access to it. It’s truly a privilege to have access out here and your actions determine how long we have it.

That’s my warning. Im not going to shame you, scream at you, or scold you like a toddler; but I hope to educate you. I hope to stamp out your ignorance.


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Comments 3

  • thetentman : May 21st

    You can do it. Thx for the post.

  • Richard : May 22nd

    Dreamsicle! I was wondering if you were going to bump into some of the night 1 characters. Keep on getting on.
    – Signed, the LASHer who filtered water with you just after the summit of Springer

    • Guinevere Drabik : May 25th

      RICHARD!!! It is so good to hear from you! Hope your LASH was good!


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