AT SOBO 2019: Tennessee Vortex Is Strong
I have officially walked home from Maine.
I brought six of my smelly new friends with me.
Leaving Damascus, I just had this feeling. All of a sudden it hit me. I was almost home. It had been coming for a very long time, and I had been telling my trail friends that my family was going to help us out for a while. Toes and I were sitting at Crazy Larry’s in Damascus with some people we had just met, and made a split decision to do a 33-mile day the next day. The hostel is directly on the trail, along with the rest of that awesome little trail town, so we woke up, had coffee and eggs, and got walking. Right from the start, I was giddy. I was walking home. By doing a 33-miler, I was able to finally cross into Tennessee, then keep on pushing to stay at a shelter overlooking Watauga Lake. I grew up swimming, camping, boating, and whatever else I could do on this lake. I practically live there during the summers. Seeing it through the eyes of a thru-hiker was an amazing experience.
Y’all, my family spoiled the hell out of us.
They fed us so much food, drove us all over East Tennessee, pampered us, and we were still able to knock out a significant amount of miles in a few short days slackpacking. My worlds collided. It was a really memorable experience for all of us, I believe. I could go on and on, but from the bottom of my heart thank you to The Nana, Mom, Becca, Ron, Jimmy Ray, Hunter, Jocelyn, Kenna, Camden, Peep, and even Ellie for putting up with seven hungry, cold, and tired hikers. It was perfect.
After a few days reuniting and slackpacking with Rob Bird again, I made it to Hot Springs and things started getting cold. Really cold, with the promise to get colder. After a gorgeous, but icy cold day out of Hot Springs, I decided to take a few days off. I wish I could say it was that graceful. It was not. I was tired, mentally and physically drained, and felt defeated.
A week off trail was exactly what was needed. The way the weather and trail decisions worked out, Toes and Potluck are still on the same schedule as me. I had to skip about 50 miles to do that, but worth it, and easy to finish. After Thanksgiving of course. 😂
There are so many faces, and people from all walks of life come out to experience them even in the cold. I saw a couple of bears, met some cool people, and am eager to do the other half. The views from Fontana Dam were spectacular. This time of year, especially when hiking on the ridgelines, the entire trail is a view.
It is insane to comprehend that for me. Until next time!
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