The Time of My Life
We have officially been out on the trail for two weeks now and there is so much to say and share, I don’t even know where to begin. I’m trying my hardest to organize my thoughts, but when so much good and solid adventure comes your way, it’s difficult to muddle through what may or may not be interesting. So let’s just see where we end up today…
When I Last Wrote
I was snuggled in The Budget Inn in Hiawassee, Georgia. And let me tell you, I had never felt better. I had showered, recharged my batteries (literal and figurative), and had spent the day being showered with love and friendliness from BB’s dear friend Muriel, who had thru-hiked last year. BB was still in pain as far as her feet were concerned, but we still planned to truck on in the morning through a section that would lead us 1000 feet up, down, up and then back down again. However, the next morning had BB hobbling due to a sore bone in her foot. We had no choice but to take a zero day (a day where you hike 0 miles) and get her fixed up. Luckily she met some kind doctors who got her moving and on her way and we had more time to stay in a comfy room and relax after our bodies had taken a beating from our hiking.
After a night of Epsom salt baths, small town diners, and Dirty Dancing (I fully plan on finding an appropriate opportunity to use the phrase, “Nobody puts BB in a corner”) we awoke Saturday morning ready to take on our challenging day. And it was rough. There comes a time when the simple task of putting one foot in front of the other becomes the most obnoxious chore. I don’t have blisters, my boots feel just fine, but after 8 miles or so, the bottoms of my feet are just sore as can be. It wasn’t a picture perfect day either. The weather was very cold and windy, forcing me to wear my down jacket and gloves for any and all stops. However, once I got started, it took only half an hour for me to be sweating. When we finally made camp after 9.7 windy and miserable miles (our longest day at that point), we silently put up our tent, positioned ourselves inside, and didn’t leave for the next 18 hours. I wish that were a joke. We had to really motivate ourselves to hang a bear bag and use the restroom (I was all for team holding it). But some days are just like that, and I apologize to the other hikers who felt that we were the most antisocial jerks at the camp. We were just over that day.
Three’s A Party
Sunday was much better because Sunday brought us the sunshine and Mary Ann. Mary Ann (Thunder as she would be later named) is a friend of BB’s who has had a lot of hiking experience as well. After a much shorter hike, we were picked up by Thunder and her husband Damon at Dick’s Creek Gap, and taken to Hiawassee once more for a night of all you can eat fried chicken (heaven) and a room at the Holiday Inn (heaven times two). It didn’t take long for me to recognize that Thunder and Damon were good people. It was solidified Monday morning when we headed back to the gap to begin once more with Thunder by our side. We saw some hitchhikers we had been hiking with a few days before and Damon said in classic Jim Carrey style, “Pick ’em up!” That’s how you know you are with good people, the number of Dumb and Dumber references they make.
Hiking with Thunder added some spice to our conversation. I’d never met her until now, and it was fun
getting to know her. The day was mentally trying, considering we only hiked 8 miles, but the end of Monday brought us into North Carolina, our first major milestone. Crossing into a new state will always be a cause for celebration, and this first one was no exception. It felt so wonderful to see that little “NC/GA” sign. The enjoyment didn’t end there either. Our night was spent on top of the windy Bly Gap, hanging the heaviest bear bag we’ve ever had, snuggling against one another, and laughing like goofy children at the amount of flatulence within our tent (you know who you are…).
Tuesday was a good day for me because for the first time I hiked alone. I started with BB and Thunder, but was feeling so good, I just had to push on. This gave me the opportunity to be alone with my thoughts, aches, determination, and God. I definitely admire those that hike alone the majority of the trail, it’s scary when you have to rely completely on your own senses to get you through tough spots. But, being slightly under 8 miles, this day wasn’t as challenging as others had been. I made it to the Standing Indian Shelter before my comrades unscathed. Once again, our night was filled with laughter and goofiness. It was during this evening of frivolity that I was reminded how truly happy I am that I took this opportunity. There will never be another experience like this one, and the moments of laughter outweigh the pain so much.
Which is good because Wednesday was one of those long and painful days. We had planned on hiking for only 7.3 miles. This was partly to follow a schedule we had set and partly to be courteous to Thunder since she hadn’t been hiking as long as we had been. However, it was such a beautiful day, we decided to push on for fear of bad weather the following day. This put us at 11 miles by the end of our day and while I was proud, I was tired. Callouses are (and have been) forming on my feet and toes, but until they fully take form, I am sore and hurting. After doing exactly 11 miles on this long and arduous day, I was ready to crash. I fell asleep to the sounds of BB and Thunder talking and a mysterious brass concert playing pieces from The Phantom of the Opera taking place a few campsites away.
Thursday provided us with some definite challenges. The beginning of the hike had us using our hands as well as our feet and trekking poles to climb up Albert Mountain. This challenging ascent brought us to our 100th mile and access to a fire tower with a fantastic view, or so I am told. You see, we didn’t actually see anything from Albert Mountain except for thick, white fog. We headed through this kind of thick and damp weather until reaching the Rock Gap Shelter, which was cold and uninspiring. So I pushed the group to consider hiking an additional 3.8 miles to the Winding Stair Gap where we could get a shuttle into Franklin and spend our night in a lovely motel, all clean and warm. After some consideration, we went for it. It made our total mileage for the day 12.2, the longest by far for us, but definitely worth it. We were picked up by the comical and friendly Ron Haven (whom we have dubbed Saint Ron), and taken into town where we feasted upon Mexican cuisine. Being warm and full brought me into a deep and lovely slumber.
Friday brought BB and I to our second zero day so far. After a free pancake and bacon breakfast from
the beautiful souls at the Franklin 1st Baptist Church, we resupplied and spent the day with Thunder and Damon when he joined us that day from his fishing trip. The best part of this day was receiving my first package from Josh, which contained many beautiful things, like Crispy M&Ms, my watch, and a copy of his 3rd grade yearbook picture (which sends me into stitches every time I see it). The worst part of this day was saying goodbye to Thunder. I sincerely hope she joins us for another portion of the trail. We had so much fun hiking, sharing our lives, and just overall “perfecting our hustle” (for more info, please refer to “All the Above” and other fantastic upbeat songs that you definitely heard in a locker room once before).
There are several aspects about being out on the trail that are just funny and I feel are more than worth sharing. I may try to slip these at the end of my blogs from now on, because there is so much fun to be had out here.
First there is the concept of falling. Falling is really funny in pretty much all situations: you see a person fall over, check to make sure they are okay (if you’re nice), and then laugh at them when they are fine. On the AT it’s even funnier because if you fall, it’s not just your normal body weight falling with you, but your pack which makes for some particularly funny falling. For example, BB and I have both fallen
twice. When BB fell, I had the pleasure of watching this hilarious struggle with her pack, gravity, and her will to stay standing. As mean as it sounds it’s just such a funny sight to watch. And experiencing it is just as funny too. When I first fell, I was behind BB and she had no idea because it was such a weird slow-motion kind of thing that I didn’t even make a sound. The second time I fell flat on my face right in front of her. Classic…
Second is the concept of self-perception. I do my best to stay clean and smelling good even despite the rough conditions. I try to keep my hair in order and my equipment from getting too nasty. However, it never truly dawned on me how I appeared to most people until we were walking around Hiawassee. As we headed down the sidewalk, I saw a figure in the distance and immediately put my guard up because I was positive it was a homeless man. As we continued to approach the man, it soon dawned on me that he wasn’t homeless, just another thru-hiker. After a friendly wave to one another (all thru-hikers are basically friendly whether they have actually met or not) I couldn’t help but start laughing to myself. I now know how I look. I carry the appearance of a homeless person. Oh well…
The last thing I’ll leave you with is laziness. I am quite truthfully a lazy lump of human mass. Sure, I may be hiking 2189.2 miles, but don’t let that fool you, laziness is a definite issue for me. Definitive proof would be when I am in town. If I have to walk much more than a block for some food, it suddenly loses all interest for me. If there is a luxury that I can partake in, but requires me to do more than leave the hotel bed, I’m probably going to pass. If I am in said hotel bed, and the TV is playing a marathon of Reba, but I can’t find the remote, it’s suddenly my new favorite show and I am more than willing to watch it for however long it lasts. These are all true events my friend.
And that’s where I’ll leave you. Laziness, Mexican food, friendships, cheap motels, and miles of trail before me. These are the days to be alive folks. Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers, they mean so much more than you’ll know.
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So happy that your trip is all you dreamed it would be! Way to keep on going!
Love reading your blog entries, Rachel! Hang in there….and have a blessed Easter!
So glad you are having enough laughs to get you through the toughness of it all. I’m so inspired by your commitment and sense of adventure! You both rock! Hope you had a Happy Easter! God bless you, Rachel!!