New Shoes Solved 90% of My Problems: Days 10–13 on the AT

Day 10: Muskrat Shelter to Carter Gap Shelter; 12.5 miles

I woke up to gentle, unexpected rain pitter-pattering on my tent. I really didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag because I’d had such a good night of sleep, but I knew I had to keep on a decent schedule at least until my next resupply.

I unzipped my tent and saw through the bare trees that our little home for the night was above the clouds. And as I started packing up in the drizzle, the clouds came up and through the campsite. Pigpen said we were cloud people. I liked that.

Every morning that I wake up and see my bear bag still hanging untouched feels like a win to me. I packed everything up and off we went!

The first few miles were fairly flat before we started the long, gradual climb up to Standing Indian Mountain.

Little plants!

Big plants! And little plants!

A few folks at Hostel Around the Bend told us to take the blue blaze near the top of the mountain to reach the summit. Pigpen, Honeybun, Ladybug, Phoenix, Neb, Plantasia, and I all arrived at slightly different times, but ate lunch and enjoyed the expansive view together. We laid out our wet tents to dry from this morning’s rain and basked in the sunshine. I could see for miles. Nap time.

After about an hour at the summit, we descended back into the forest. My heels had been hurting since crossing into North Carolina and the pain was making me grumpy. I think the zero drop shoe life is not for me! At least not yet.

Found an epic place to pee, though. Thanks, Kula Cloth.

I tried to call some friends when I was hiking alone as a distraction (and because I missed them, of course). I got to talk with Leah for a few minutes before losing signal. Her voice sounds like home.

When I reached the shelter, I immediately started on my camp chores before it got dark. I set up my tent and threw my bear line. Unfortunately (and rather annoyingly), my line kept getting stuck on smaller branches. I almost cried because all I wanted to do was get off my painful feet and eat. After managing a halfway decent throw (it may or may not have been quite high enough), I decided to cook dinner. I knew that’s what my body needed most of all, and a bear hang wasn’t really worth crying over. Anyway, kind of a rough afternoon.

With each bite of my sour cream and cheddar mashed potatoes, I started warming up and feeling more like myself. I need to remember to eat more snacks throughout the day tomorrow.

There were signs all throughout our hike today about increased bear activity — apparently they’ve learned how to hack a PCT hang. Ear plugs in and fingers crossed my food survives the night. 🙂

Day 11: Carter Gap Shelter to Rock Gap Shelter; 12.1 miles

At 5:30 am, I had to pee. I couldn’t fathom leaving my tent, so I had my first tent vestibule pee. Thanks to all the fellow squatters who’ve told me about it over the past week. I was far from other tents and on the perfect slope to try it in the pre-dawn hours. Everything worked according to plan, but I’m not sure I’ll do it again.

I was so excited to reach 100 miles today! I think that’s really what propelled Plantasia, Nebula, and me forward all morning. One sign miiiight’ve beaten the 100 mile sign though, and that was this random “toilet area” we passed. It doesn’t take much to make me laugh these days.

Though my heels hurt a lot yesterday, they didn’t bother me much today. I still think I want to get new shoes before the Smokies though.

We relished in our 100 mile accomplishment with lunch at the old fire tower before making our way down to Rock Gap Shelter. We were hustling because it was getting cold cold.


We will be staying at The Grove tomorrow, and I can’t wait to stop at Outdoor 76 to get fit for a new pair of shoes. I do need to slow my hostel roll though. Two showers on one week?! What luxury…

In a world of Durstons, be a Big Agnes.

Day 12: Rock Gap Shelter to Winding Stair Gap (to town!); 3.8 miles

Whew, survived a bitterly cold night. It might’ve been my coldest night in a tent ever. I almost cried. Thankfully I had hand warmers and extra layers to wear. I put the warmers by my groin and near my heart — survival mode.

It was so hard to crawl out of bed this morning (noticing a trend?), but I decided to just hike in my sleeping clothes since it was only about four miles to Winding Stair Gap.

The sunrise on trail was gorgeous, but man was I emotional today. I’d gotten some really meaningful texts from loved ones overnight when my phone was on airplane mode and that had me in my feels big time.

I caught the 9:30 am city shuttle from Winding Stair Gap. It was $5 and took us right to The Grove Hostel. Newfound and Unfiltered greeted us and I was the third one in the shower. This morning, the hot shower was more to warm up than anything else. I was chilled to the bone.

Once the crew showered, we headed to Brooklyn Bagels for a delicious carb fix.

Bagel time

Then we made our way to Outdoor 76 where Jonathan fit me for a proper pair of trail runners. I learned so much and ended up picking up a pair of North Face AltaMesa 500s in a size 9(!!!!). My Altra Lone Peaks were a size 8, and I normally wear a size 7.5 in non-athletic shoes. But Jonathan told me that it’s important to measure the widest part of the foot, rather than just the length of the foot. I tried on tons of shoes and feel hopeful about these! They feel refreshingly cushy and bouncy so far.

Let’s get some shoes 💁🏻‍♀️

Plantasia, Pigpen, Sweet Stuff, and I meandered over to the Lazy Hiker for a drink and apps. They gave us stamped postcards that they’d send out for us, so I wrote one to a friend.

Around 4, Newfound drove us to USPS where I shipped my Altras home, then she drove us to Ingles for our resupply. I’ve been varying food up a lot these past few resupplies and it’s helped me get excited about meal time again.

Six of us walked to Las Margaritas for a cheap, yummy dinner. Then back to the hostel by hiker midnight for sleep.

I couldn’t even finish half of this piña colada, but it hit the spot for sure.

Today was supposed to be a nearo, but I still managed to walk 18,684 steps… oops.

Day 13: Winding Stair Gap to Wayah Bald Shelter; 11 miles

I heard a lot of people sniffling in the bunks last night — I think it’s from a combination of pollen in the air and the prescribed burn happening nearby.

Unfiltered drove us back to Winding Stair Gap and up we went.

Good morning to you, too.

I was nervous about today’s hike because the near-constant climb is what was hurting my heels so badly in the Altras. But DANG, these new shoes were incredible. I felt like a totally different hiker: strong, consistent, and with a pep in my step thanks to the extra cushion.

Pigpen, Plantasia, Honeybun, and I hiked together for a while before stopping at a random little stealth campsite-looking place to eat lunch. I deeeeeeeeply enjoyed my meal of previously-frozen-now-thawed bean and cheese burrito (so good!) and some other snacks. After lunch, it was onward up to Wayah Bald firetower!

When I arrived, I saw a bunch of hikers resting with their shoes off, eating snacks and admiring the view. Half Pint took film portraits of everyone, even the sweet dog Haywood! Sweet, sweet hiker trash.

Hiker trash


I met Brass Compass earlier in the evening on my way to the privy. He’s a sweet man who is attempting the AT for the third time. He said he has to wrestle with the 22 year old in his brain who wants to do big miles everyday.

On my way back from the privy, I asked Brass Compass what he was reading. He said he’s about to teach a class on the Apple Watch, so he was reading the manual so he knew every function inside and out. I don’t think I’ve ever read a manual beginning to end.

I wished him good luck — on all of it — then went to bed.

Annie’s ftw

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Comments 2

  • Greg : Mar 22nd

    Thank you for the interesting trail report.

    Foot pain is the second worst (to back pain) hope the new sneaks continue to be magical.

    Looking forward to the next one.

    • Mo Wynne : Apr 6th

      I’m happy to report the shoes are still feeling great!! Thanks, Greg.


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