Trail Magic, Blizzards, and Hiker Hunger

Perhaps I will update every couple of weeks from now on. After all, trail time is slower than regular life. When you say, “see you soon,” it could be a couple of days or more before you actually do. On the other hand, sometimes you never see them again. There’s so much going on day to day that it’s difficult to condense it all into a short post. It’s also difficult to find time to write because I end each day exhausted from covering miles, withstanding the elements, and socializing at camp. On top of that, I’m often without cell service to post any updates on the trail and left with unreliable Wi-Fi to upload photos.

Anyway, I shall continue from my previous update. After a zero (day in which no trail miles are walked) in Hiawassee, Too Late and I hiked out with a guy named Bedpan for the next few days. Bedpan is a nurse and one of the most humorous individuals I’ve met so far. The people out here are diverse and can be quite the characters. Young and old, I’ve met people from Australia, Norway, and England to name a few. Too Late ended up getting off for a few days, but perhaps will catch up soon. So Bedpan and I continued on.

At last I leave Georgia and enter NC! The old saying “the trail provides” couldn’t be more true. On day ten I started in a bad mood for no reason while heading to Rock Gap around mile 106; the sun was shining, it was dry and warm, I’m jobless (in the good way), and I was doing something that people dream about for years or perhaps their whole lives and never attempt. I just wasn’t into hiking for the first time on this trip. Then I happened upon the Crawfords (Fight for Together on YouTube), a family of eight that hiked the trail last year. They received so much help along their journey last year then decided to pay it back this year. They were out for a few days providing the best trail magic. Fresh Ground, a notable trail angel (one who provides trail magic), was also there; you’ll hear more about him later, I’m sure.

I eventually caught the Crawfords again on their last day of trail magic at Burningtown Gap for more corn dogs, fried cheese sticks, salad, alfredo pasta, drinks, sausage, and more. On top of that, several of us had the opportunity to stay with them at their Airbnb cabin to get out of an evening thunderstorm. It’s amazing to see how many people are on your team and the lengths they will go to help you once they find out what you’re doing or have already experienced what you’re going through.

Hiker hunger was setting in before mile 167; right before the Smokies and I didn’t plan on going into Gatlinburg for a resupply. So that meant I had to carry about five days worth of food for the entire length of the Smokies. Your food bag becomes quite heavy when you’re eating at least twice as many calories as you would in normal life. Hiker hunger is when you feel like you can’t consume enough calories to satisfy your hunger, even though you’re eating more than you ever have. Also, you get weird cravings. One day it’s savory, next it’s only sweets, then it’s perhaps a specific food and nothing else seems appetizing. At least that’s how it is for me.

There was plenty of talk that weather could be bad in the Smokies. Sure enough, I experienced a bit of a blizzard. We got to a shelter where Bedpan and I found Nickel again. Nickel was an older guy we met at a shelter right after Burningtown Gap. That day he mentioned he was having issues with his knees. This time he already had a fire going so we decided to stay in order to get out of the snow and wind. Also, it allowed us to avoid a full shelter we planned on going to several miles ahead of us. By our second encounter with Nickel, he told us he had fluid in his knee drained twice and received a couple of shots to alleviate the pain. His plans changed from completing the whole trail to only hiking to Damascus.

The Smokies were beautiful; we experienced sweeping views of America’s most visited national park. Clingmans Dome was a milestone at 200 miles and the highest point along the AT.

Finally out of the Smokies and into Standing Bear Hostel at around mile 242, a bit of rest was in order. The place is very interesting and reminiscent of an old, lawless mining town. Hikers can work-for-stay here. I met one hiker that stayed for five days and never spent a penny. There were hikers chipping away at the hill near the store to collect stone for a new wall. No time for me to work, I need to hike. So Bedpan and I said our goodbyes to Boston Jack, a whiskey-drinking hostel manager with a tobacco-stained gray mustache. With a short resupply in our bags I coasted into Hot Springs, NC, for my third zero. Current mileage, 275 and counting.

Check out some of the photos on my personal blog www.thomasdiggs.com and Instagram @thomas.diggs

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