Five Weeks in and the Adventure Has Been Incredible
It’s hard to believe, but today marks five weeks since I set out on this adventure. In that time, I’ve met all sorts of fascinating people, seen incredible perspectives of nature, and normalized so many bizarre behaviors and habits. Here’s my rundown of my last two weeks on trail.
Day 21: Saturday, May 12 (21.1 miles)
Longest mileage day heading to Max Patch, a famous bald on the trail that attracts many non-hikers thanks to the amazing views and nearby parking lot. I even had an old friend from Tall Timber, Thomas Lee, meet us on top with snacks and cold refreshments. One of the best and most beautiful days of hiking.
Day 22: Sunday, May 13 (19.8 miles)
A beautiful sunrise on Max Patch kicked off another beautiful day of hiking, this time into the town of Hot Springs. We met my friend Mallorie in town and the four of us rented a cabin just outside town for a couple of nights. We ate our best dinner yet on trail at Spring Creek Tavern and slept cozily in real beds.
Day 23: Monday, May 14 (zero)
A typical town day of knocking out chores: laundry, washing dishes, resupplying, and stuffing our faces with as much as our stomachs can hold. I picked up a new sun hat to match Odysseus, we ate my other favorite meal to date on trail at the Smoky Mountain Diner, and I even caught a basketball game that night at our cabin.
Day 24: Tuesday, May 15 (14.7 miles)
After a few last-minute morning errands in town, we said goodbye to Mallorie and started hiking at 10. We managed to beat the impending rain just in time to set up our camp and cook dinner. We settled for a nice little campsite near a road, and three of us were happy enough to at least have gotten to crawl in our tents dry.
Day 25: Wednesday, May 16 (18.8 miles)
Though we beat the rain the night before, this day was full of it. We cranked out some solid wet miles and made friends with a group of hikers named Calamity, King Pin, Flash, and Shareese. By the time we got to the shelter the rain had stopped and didn’t pick up again for the rest of the night. Despite only seeing a few other hikers that day and beating them to the shelter, it was already full by the time we arrived, so we settled for wet tents in dry air.
Day 26: Thursday, May 17 (18.8 miles)
There was light rain on and off this day, but the mud was a major issue, especially over the last few miles. We met a mother-daughter combo this day who we’d passed a few times but hadn’t gotten a chance to talk to much named Lucky Penny and Barb Ross, and we liked them quite a bit. We showed up to the shelter damp, and were delighted this day to come to a large shelter with only two people there already. Cozy and dry in the shelter, we set up, ate huge dinners, and were happy to call it a day. Oh, and we passed the 300-mile mark.
Day 27: Friday, May 18 (16.6 miles)
We got an early start this day (hiking at 7 a.m.) and sped through our miles thanks to the lure of the showers and fresh food that awaited us in Erwin. Having made reservations the day before, we knew Uncle Johnny’s hostel would be a lovely refuge from the mixed weather we’d been battling for a few days. We got in around 2 p.m. and had time to relax and enjoy Wi-Fi and a few snacks before catching the shuttle into town for dinner. We got some snacks for the rest of the night while we were out and had a little movie night in our tiny bunkroom before going to sleep on a real bed for the first time in a while.
Day 28: Saturday, May 19 (zero)
This was laundry day as well as our trip into Damascus for Trail Days. Our ride was a little later than expected (but also free, so no complaints there) which gave us time to air dry our laundry, enjoy eggs cooked in a backpacking pot, and make use of Wi-Fi. We rolled into Trail Days around 2:30 and man was it a trip. There were hundreds of tents set up in tent city, we came across more food than we could carry being shoved at us, people were giving us beer left and right, and people of all ages sharing in the camaraderie of the AT were partying in all sorts of manners laaaaate into the night. We managed to get some good spots by friends of ours, Peach and Wildman, next to a river under some tree coverage. It was definitely a night to remember.
Day 29: Sunday, May 20 (20.1 miles)
We weren’t as lucky this time around with our shuttle as we were on a bit of a time crunch to get back, but we still were able to find a ride back (it’s about an hour and a half drive) for a reasonable price. We got back to Uncle Johnny’s in Erwin around noon, and I actually split up from Odysseus and Big Money to meet up with my old college roommate at the Iron Mountain Gap. So, once we got back, they took their time so that I would be able to catch back up after taking another day off and I bolted on out of there. I managed to hike just over 20 miles in about six and a half hours, and I met Jordan’s parents right on time at 7 p.m. and headed back to their house to catch back up with my old pal.
Day 30: Monday, May 21 (zero)
Jordan and I spent the day catching up, catching a movie, and relaxing around his hometown of Marion. It was a simple and pleasant day off with one of my best friends.
Day 31: Tuesday, May 22 (14.5 miles)
I enjoyed a big breakfast out with Jordan and his mom before getting back on trail and knocking out the miles I needed to catch back up to my crew at the highest shelter on trail at over 6,000 feet. I found Odysseus and Big Money as well as a few other friends already camped out (shelter was full again) and I happily joined them and got to catching up.
Day 32: Wednesday, May 23 (22.6 miles)
This was a beautiful and long day of hiking with two long, restorative breaks that set us back into hiking in the dark for the first time. We actually managed to get a hot meal by going off trail to a hostel at a road crossing and taking advantage of a food truck that was parked on site. Despite being set back into a little night hiking, it was still an awesome day for hiking. We even crossed the 400-mile marker.
Day 33: Thursday, May 24 (17.5 miles)
A simple and dry day of hiking. Since my stay with Jordan a few days back, the three of us had our sights set on making it to Friday and getting to join my sister and Sav at Sav’s family’s lake house for the weekend. On the eve of what we knew would be an awesome day, we did our miles and got to bed, extremely excited at was was to come.
Day 34: Friday, May 25 (10 miles)
We met Grace and Sav at noon, just beating the rain, and were delightedly brought to the beautiful house on Lake Watauga where I am currently sitting and writing. Sav’s parents joined us and we had a lovely afternoon on the lake as well as all the food we could eat and beer we could drink.
Day 35: Saturday, May 26 (zero)
This was arguably my favorite zero day so far. We woke up to stormy weather, perfect for a slow breakfast, coffee, and movie watching (as well as the deep joy of having dodged a rainy hiking day). Then, the afternoon completely cleared up, so we went out on the boat and the three of us hikers attempted wake boarding. With great company and cold beer on a hot day, it was one of the best afternoons to date.
And now, on the morning of day 36, I’m well rested, delighted to have gotten to spend so much good time with my family and new friends, and after the monstrous breakfast I’m about to put down, I’m ready for another stretch on the trail.
Thanks to everybody who has kept up with my meticulous ramblings so far, and look forward to another post soon about some of my overall reflections on the trail so far. But friends and family, rest assured that I am still loving every minute five weeks in just as much as I enjoyed the first few moments on this beautiful trail.
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