North Carolina and Beyond
It is now Day 36. I sit on a porch in Hot Springs, North Carolina, enjoying the heat from the sun and a full belly.
Now. Where did I last leave off?
After the unfortunate norovirus episode, I was desperate to start moving again. Stick two hikers in a tent for some zero days, one of them is sick, add pouring rain and a diminishing food supply to the equation and you end up with some stir-crazy folks.
On top of that, we were so damn close to the North Carolina state line. The thought of that lingerend in the back of my head during all of those naucious days. Soon enough we made it. My heart was filled with a rad sensation: one state down, thirteen to go.
Another milestone followed not too long after that state line. There was the beautiful climb/hike up Mount Albert which marked 100 Miles. It was accompanied a more than epic view from the first fire tower of the trail.
North Carolina is pretty much awesomeness to the fullest extent. I was in the zone, hiking fast around a corner when I looked down and saw a black furry thing. It was a foot away from my own foot, if even that, and for a moment I froze as the cute, furry thing turned around. “Holy shit,” I told Seamster, “that’s a baby bear!” Very quickly my thoughts shifted: “Holy shit,” I blurted out, “Where’s the momma bear?!” Quickly we got far enough away to avoid a possible mauling, but close enough to warn the next hikers coming down the trail. Soon enough the cub scurried up a tree, and we scurried down the trail.
After that we started pumping up our miles. I’ve met and keep meeting some awesome folks, It has taught me alot about myself and my body, and I am deeply grateful to be able to reap the benefits of growing stronger, physically and mentally, every day. Among the things I have learned is that I am capable of eating more food all of the time. Even when I think I can’t eat anymore, I am proved wrong by my stomach ten minutes later.
Soon enough we made it to “The Hilton” of shelters in Fontana Dam. There were delectable hot showers which I took full advantage of once everyone had gone to sleep. This way, I figured, I could take an obnoxiously long shower and not feel bad about it. It was truly glorious. The next day we went down the the “Fontana Village Resort” and stealth camped nearby. We had to wait for a package so a zero was in order. After that, it was off into The Smokies.
The Smoky Mountains, I thought, were going to kick my ass. However, I proved myself wrong. After a grueling first six miles (all damn uphill), some random pea sized hail and rain to give us a good ‘ole welcome to the Smokies, we were ready for anything. We hit the 200 mile mark, busked for snacks at Clingman’s Dome, slept in incredibly packed shelters and were humbled by the epicness that is mossy covered trees that lie uprooted along much of the northern end of the trail.
Oh, and I can’t forget about the awesome Trail Magic. Newfound Gap was absolutely brilliant. The Wounded Warrior Project, Honey Bun Cafe, Ibelieve and Jimmy, and the more than awesome Mountain Mama and Godspeed were there with delicious food galore. Y’all are all amazing, and I can’t thank you enough for the food and encouragement.
Sometime around noon about 5 days ago we were high-fiving with glee- not only had Seamster and I finished hiking through the Smoky Mountains, but we spotted a blue cooler through the trees.
My heart was filled with glee, my mouth watered imagining that perhaps there was a Mountain Dew waiting for me in the cooler, and a smile stretched hard across my face as I saw the familiar faces of sweet hearted Trail Anges “I-Believe” and and Jimmy.
After an awesome night at Standing Bear Hostel, the best shower I have EVER taken, some beer and chill time with Lumpy and friends and dogs and cats and a rooster, breakfast tacos, we were off to Knoxville to hang out with one of my old, dear friends, Jacob Jerralds.
Ibelieve and Jimmy were kind enough to give us a ride to a good hitching spot. From there we got a straight shot ride from a trucker.
After Knoxville we hiked our way towards Hot Springs, NC. What a great town! Filled with awesome, friendly people, the awesome Bluff Mountain Outfitter, the kind volunteers at The Hiker Ridge Ministries and lots of yummy food. Basically, I love the hell out of this place, but we must push on or risk getting trapped for days as many of the other hikers here have.
There’s a sweet spot underneath the bridge next to the French Broad River. It made for a great spot to sleep last night after a few too many beers. I awoke refreshed, though, and sit on a porch, eager to start the day’s hike.
Onward and Out!
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