Neros and Heroes, but Never Zeros
Well hello there internet! It’s been a while! Last time you heard from me, I was seven days into my trip. I’ve made some progress since then, so here’s the run down on my second week.
Day 8: Deep Gap to Dick’s Creek Gap, 3.6 miles
First of all, I have settled into a little trail family. Including Elmer Fudd, White Walker, Carolina Red, LD, and Tape. We all decided today should be a short day into town for resupply and real food. While waiting for the shuttle to town, I took a quick walk down to the Top of Georgia Hostel to get some packages. Shoutout to my mom and Nick for sending me stuff!
I lazily walked back up to the Gap, as the shuttle had yet to arrive. However, when I got back there was trail magic! A nice couple was cooking hot dogs and handing out chips and Gatorade. I don’t remember their names, but I am always astounded by how amazing trail angels are.
Another hiker, Doc, joined our party and we got two hotel rooms for the night in Hiawassee. Our rooms at the Budget Inn weren’t yet ready, so we left our packs outside and descended upon the Dairy Queen conveniently located right next door. We caught some pretty shady looks from folks that had showered much more recently than us, but hey what can you do? I ate much more food than should be able to fit in my stomach. Elmer Fudd had never had a Blizzard before, I guess they don’t have DQ in Germany. So of course we had to buy him the biggest one they had with the most toppings.
By the time we got back from lunch our rooms were ready. We all showered and did laundry, then headed out to resupply, mail stuff home, and eat dinner.
Day 9: Dicks Creek Gap to Muskrat Creek Shelter, 11.8 miles
At 9 AM we got on the shuttle to go back to Dicks Creek Gap. The cool thing about the Budget Inn is that they shuttle you to and from the Gap for free if you stay there. Today we planned to cross our first state boarder or die (ok not really). Lunch was cheese, crackers, and pepperoni, which has become my favorite trail snack. I can eat an entire block of cheese in one day (note to self: pack more cheese). I also got this thing called Mio, which flavors your water AND IT’S AWESOME. Next thing I knew we were at the boarder!
They tell you that getting to NC is an awesome feeling. What they don’t tell you, is that the climb immediately afterwards is the most difficult one of the hike so far. However, at the top you get a great view of North Carolina, so I can’t complain.
It started to rain just as we finished taking our pictures AND IT FELT SO GOOD because it was HOT today. Like 70s hot. I’m a wimp.
When I got to the shelter I discovered that Fistbump was there! Apparently he hasn’t been to town yet because people just keep giving him food. So when we went to Hiawassee he jumped ahead of us. River was also there and she has since joined our trail family. Her companion, Lost and Found, broker her foot. So River is going on alone for now until Lost heals. The three of us (River, Fistbump and I) went to go check out the sunset and the plane crash just a bit away. The wreckage was eerily cool, mostly because just from looking at it you know the pilot died. A little further down the blue blazed trail, we came to an outlook. The sky put on an impressive show for us before we headed back for the night.
Day 10: Muskrat Creek Shelter to Carter Gap Shelter, 12.5 miles
I’m still struggling with the morning routine, but it hasn’t really seemed to slow me down. Everyone else still seems to be figuring it out too.
I got some great advice today about preserving me headlamp battery. A fellow hiker informed me of a way to lock it so it doesn’t turn on in your bag. Now I just have to remember to get new batteries in Franklin!
Today I hiked with River, who also happens to be a blogger for the Trek. It was refreshing to have another girl to talk to.
We got to camp around 3:30 today, like we usually do. I’m starting to feel like I can push more miles, especially since we get to camp so early. I think a few of the people in my trail family feel the same too, it’s just getting them to actually do it that might be an issue.
If it wasn’t for the sun going down I think I would have eaten my entire food bag tonight. Seriously. My appetite is incredible. I have to remember to get more food in Franklin. Like more than I think I need and then more after that.
Day 11: Carter Gap Shelter to Rock Gap Shelter, 12.1 miles
Last night I managed to sleep through the entire night, which I’m super proud of. I’m starting to get a set morning routine down now too.
I started out hiking today alone, which I don’t mind at all. It allows my mind to go to all sorts of places. For example: what am I going to do with my life? How should I utilize my degree? Should I shove the sharpie up Dabier’s ass or down his throat?
For those of you who don’t know, Dabier is an individual who decided it was ok to write his name on every sign along the AT. This of course has irked me and other hikers to the point of such thoughts such as plotting his (or her) demise. This bothers me especially because it is so similar to what is going on along the AT in New Hampshire right now. Long story short: thru hikers are vandalizing trail signs in the Whites, because they don’t specifically say which way the AT goes. If you’d like to know more, follow this link: http://www.outdoors.org/articles/blogs/defaced-trail-signs-lessons-on-white-mountain-trail-history-and-sign-costs/
I even found a poem about Dabier written in a trail log. I later caught up to the writer, Inasias, who gave us a live performance. She’s pretty much my hero now. Here’s the script:
The most difficult part about today was the 0.5 mile climb up Mt. Albert, the 100 mile mark. There was a fire tower at the top and the views were beautiful. From there, the climb down was easy.
When we got to the shelter, LD, Carolina Red, Tape, and Fistbump were getting ready to go into town a day earlier than planned. I decided to stay in the shelter and do a short day tomorrow. The crew that night was much more calm than usual without the boys, but it was a nice change.
Day 12: Rock Gap to Winding Stair Gap, 3.8 miles
Today was another short day into Franklin. A family of three woke us up this morning by shouting at each other and flashing their headlamps around. They were obnoxious when they arrived past hiker midnight and obnoxious when they were packing up before dawn. Their dog would NOT stop barking. They bickered and argued with each other every moment they were awake. Please, if you are out here, DON’T BE THESE PEOPLE.
The hike into the Gap was easy. When we arrived, people where there giving out fruit, candy, and boiled eggs for Easter trail magic! We got a shuttle ride from the infamous Seven of YouTube to Gooder Grove Hostel. Gooder Grove is a small hostel in Franklin run by a guy named Zen. They have a bunkhouse and some private rooms as well. Elmer Fudd, White Walker, River and I all chose to stay in the bunkhouse. They provide linens and they even wash your laundry for you. All you have to do is put your stuff in a bag, lable it, and put it in the laundry room. They have clothes you can wear while your laundry is going. Zen also went out of his way to shuttle us to and from places around town.
Today was a full on town day. We went to the Motor Co. Grill (10/10 would recommend), resupplied at the grocery store, and got River some new shoes at the Outdoor 76. I also got myself a tank top so I could attempt to even out my farmers tan. Time will tell if this will work.
We met the boys at the Lazy Hiker Brewry where we got drinks and food from the food truck around the corner. Once the rest of the crew (and then some) showed up we started to make our way to the other brewry in town, the Currahee. It was right along a river. We enjoyed drinks, live music, beautiful weather, and great company for the rest of the evening. At one point Elmer Fudd and LD jumped in the river and raced each other to the other side.
I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be. I’ve never felt so at home, with this group of weirdos I’d just met a week ago in the middle of nowhere North Carolina.
Day 13: Winding Stair Gap to Wayah Bald Shelter, 11 miles
Elmer Fudd left early today to go to church. He wanted to get the experience of going to an American church. The rest of us tried (and failed) to find a place to eat breakfast. Being Easter Sunday, there was no place open. Luckily Zen had some food we could eat at the hostel.
Seven shuttled White Walker, River, and I back to Winding Stair to start our hike for the day. The hike itself wasn’t that difficult. Being in town and having to return to the woods made it challenging. My head is still in Franklin.
Today I met one of the gentlemen doing the special forces relay named Moon. Basically, there are a group of retired special forces guys that are doing the whole trail as a relay. All the money they make goes back to the families of special forces operatives.
Wayah Bald was a tough climb for me. There was lots of mental coaching involved to overcome a knee pain that probably evolved due to my overstuffed food bag. As soon as you get to the road leading up to the tower you could see the other side of the mountain. The recent fires burned the trees black. It just looked sad and dead. I wish there was a better way to describe it, but that’s all I’ve got.
We continued on to the shelter just off the summit. Elmer Fudd packed out a bag of marshmallows that took up so much space in his food bag that he couldn’t close it. We roasted marshmallows over the fire for dessert tonight so Fudd could actually hang his bear piñata.
One Liner of the Day: “she burned herself not because she was stupid, she was just hungry” -Elmer Fudd
Day 14: Wayah Bald Shelter to NOC, 16.5 miles
Today was our longest day yet. At first it wasn’t so bad, but once we started the climb to Wesser it was more difficult. The heat combined with the humidity and the total distance of the hike took its toll. We got a well deserved bunk room and dinner at the NOC tonight.
As I approached the summit of Wesser Bald, it started to rain. Not a heavy rain, but enough that you got somewhat cooled off. I let out a sigh of relief. I love the rain. Back home, my favorite thing to do is run in the rain. I wouldn’t even wear a jacket, and sometimes if it was warm enough, I’d just wear shorts and a sports bra. I just always loved the feeling of rain on my skin.
At the top of the climb I dropped my pack and put the pack cover on. There was a fire tower a little ways up a side trail with 360 views. I ran up the trail and the stairs to the tower. It felt so good to run! At the top if the tower I stood in awe of my surroundings.
Despite the rain, you could see for miles. Just mountains in every direction. Rain drops still pounded my skin, like little crystal notes of the most beautiful music you’ve ever heard. Music so incredible that it moves something deep inside you, and all you can do is laugh. So laugh I did, arms I outstretched and eyes to the sky as rain drenched my face. I laughed and spun in circles on the top of the world, like a child without a care.
Nothing mattered anymore. Not the cut on my big toe, or the sunburn on my shoulders, or the throbbing pain in my knee. Not the people from my past who had claimed to be my friends and then turned and ran as soon as I needed them. The pain people had caused me and the guilt of having hurt others. In this moment I allowed myself to let it all go. I allowed myself to be free, realizing the only thing getting in my way was my own self.
Moments like these are so fleeting, yet here we are chasing them to the ends of the earth. So far, I have felt more at home and more free out here than I ever have.
Thats all for this update folks. If you’re interested you can follow White Walker on YouTube at Chris Goes Outdoors. You can follow me on instagram at erica.runs.
Stay tuned for my adventures in the Smokies!
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