Trekking right along!
Okay, okay…….I know it has been quite some time since I have updated, but I’m having trouble finding adequate time/service/battery power. I’m really going to try harder and up my blog game since a power bank will be in my possession from here on out, and I will be attempting to utilize my free time better. Anyway, follow along as I update you about life on the trail over the last few weeks.
Where do I even begin?
I would like to slightly rewind to my visit in Franklin, NC. I wanted to give a shoutout to one of the nicest humans I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. David Watters is the most adorable older gentleman with a stellar personality and heart of gold. Not only is he a Christ follower, Father, Grandfather, World War ll Vet, Engineer………….he also volunteers a good portion of his free time to shuttles around around smelly hikers, completely free of charge. I got to know him pretty well over the span of 24 hours that I was in town and thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with him. He is one of those people who has the ability to restore your faith in humanity, and if you ever meet him……..know you are in the presence of a real life angel. Just look at the sweet text he sent me after dropping us back off at the trail.
Okay, like I said before……..I know I am long overdue for an update, but I’ll start by saying that I am still doing exceptionally well out here and truly am having the best time!
So much happens in such a short amount of time that writing a play by play would be impossible……..I’ll fill you in on the major moments that stand out and do my best to explain what life on the trail for me is like.
I have been hiking with a guy from Germany since week one……….his trail name is Happy Feet and he is quite the character. Since this is his first time in the US, it’s hilarious to me seeing him experience things in America for the first time. For instance, he was so amazed that we have unlimited refills on fountain drinks at restaurants, that he took his sweet time trying all the flavors at Taco Bell. I got a good laugh at that. Also, his first Mac-n-cheese experience was hilarious.
As terrible as it is for me to admit, he is also easily influenced. He is always up for an adventure, so I talked him into attempting our first night hike together. Despite the 30 degree temps, we had a blast. We even slept on a fire tower
I want to take a moment to talk about one of my favorite areas the trail crosses over. The Nantahala Outdoor Center is a very cool place. Most hikers take the opportunity to enjoy their ample accommodations……… Aside from the zip lines, river rafting, kayaking……..they also offer bunks for a very affordable rate. The sun was shining bright the day I arrived and I couldn’t help myself, I had to spend the afternoon there.
Here’s how beautiful it is.
Definitely somewhere I’d love to visit again.
That day I met an awesome girl who has been hiking with Happy Feet and I since The NOC shenanigans. She’s great company and it’s nice to have a girl who views life a lot like I do. We knew we would be entering The Great Smokey Mountains soon and it would be ideal to have fun people to hike with to help keep our minds off the challenges we knew were ahead.
I took the next few days of hiking to mentally prepare for my upcoming endeavor through The Great Smoky Mountains. Those 80 miles of the AT claim to be one of the more challenging areas, since my backpacking experience before this trip was nonexistent, I honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect. The few days passed quickly and before I knew it, we hit Fontana Dam……….Our last place to get supplied before the GSM……….many hikers take advantage of their affordable hotel rooms, laundry facilities, and hot food–many including the group I have been trekking along with. The day turned out to be the exact rest and relaxation we needed for the trecurous uphill climb. We were rewarded with a lookout tower to fully take in the view of our office for the next week or so.
After the climb down, we busted out 9 miles to the first shelter. Due to our late start we didn’t arrive with any vacancy left in the shelter.
What a cold cold night we experienced, it was quite difficult to submerge from my warm sleeping bag in the morning, but I managed to get going and enjoyed a lovely 12 miles to shelter. The sun was shining bright, I laid my tarp out, cooked some dinner and enjoyed the great company of other hikers. I can’t even begin to discribe the amount of beauty I saw throughout my hike the previous days, but day 3 in the Smokeys is one to remember. Everything was so vibrant and green, spring had fully sprung, and it was really so enchanting. I felt like I was Alice from Wonderland.
Tumbleweed and I took our sweet time to prowl the visitors center for souvineers and enteract with people from civilization. I was amazed how people reacted when we told them that we were on our way to Maine, they couldn’t quite grasp the concept of us willing living in the woods for half a year. No fault on them, I sometimes still have moments where it’s hard for myself to believe that I am actually on this wild adventure. We strolled into camp a couple hours later with enough time for dinner and a small fire before the cold forced us to find the inside of our sleeping bags.
We cruised into Gatlinburg the next day for a resupply and unexpected hotel stay. The cold weather had been harsh and took a toll on us, a warm night sounded too good not to indulge.
Due to our last minute agenda switch, we wanted to get back to the trail early and hike the 15 miles to catch up with where we would have been. Bed came early that night for all 26 people in the shelter built for 12. Lucky for those who squeezed inside because a beautiful blanket of snow covered the ground and trees outside. I got to hike through a winter wonderland and I loved every moment of it.
It took us two more days to finish The Smokeys, and we were so excited to be done with them. We planned to take our first zero day over the weekend, so that was our motivation for pushing quickly through The Smokeys.
The girl I’ve been hiking with, Timbleweed, went to college in Ashville, North Carolina and since we were going to be so close she arranged for a friend to pick us up Friday morning. We also persuaded our German, Happy Feet, to tag along for the weekend. We had a great time being pampered civilized humans for the weekend. Thanks to the lovely Peter for picking us three up and opening your home to us. We can’t thank you enough. Your hospitality was beyond impeccable and we look forward to meeting up with you along the trail.
We were able to be tourists in Asheville, we stopped by the Biltmore estate………which was beyond gorgeous. We checked out some local restaurants and even managed to learn the skill of glass blowing. Our first zero day was well deserved.
Peter dropped us back on the AT Sunday afternoon, we hiked 16 miles and set camp up along the trail. It’s nice to be able to do that again. Monday’s adventure turned out to be one of my best days on the trail. Tumbleweed and I spent all afternoon on Max’s Patch.
We decided to night hike 20 miles to Hot Springs, NC. We came in hot at 1:30 am, with just enough time for last call at The Spring Creek Tavern. If you pass through, check it out. The owner is very nice, they have great food and drinks. A kind gentleman offered his guest room to us and we couldn’t say no. Everything worked out so perfectly for us that day. We spent yesterday basking in all of Hot Spring’s glory. The town reminds me so much of home, so it was nice to take a day off there. Not to mention, the two hours in the mineral hot springs were just what the doctor ordered!
It was rough getting back out today. I would say it’s been my most challenging day yet. I knew the day would come when I’d have to dig deep to find motivation to reach my goal, but I made it and that is what matters.
Yesterday was my “one month” mark on the trail. I can’t help but reflect………life is so much simpler out here. I go to sleep every night with a great sense of accomplishment. One month ago I didn’t know any of the people I am with now…….but they all have such a special place in my heart. It’s like a big family out here, everyone genuinely looks out for each other, which is comforting. I am looking forward to the many adventures that are still ahead. Tomorrow I’ll be hitting mile marker 300, so I am pumped for that! On Monday, we met this very sweet lady, Linda…….she sat on Max’s patch with us, enjoyed some wine, and provided great conversation for us. It’s also nice to talk to people about my hike that aren’t thru hikers themselves, she reminded me how amazing this is. I sometimes get caught up in the day to day life out here of hike, eat, sleep, repeat………..that I forget how crazy it sounds that I’m hiking from Georgia to Maine. To hear her say that I was an inspiration and that she wanted to be me when she grows up, made my heart smile, Haha. Really though, during my reflection of the time I’ve spent on the trail, I realized if I can influence just one person to push beyond their comfort zones……….it’s more than worth it for me. You just never know who is going to be inspired by you……and that alone keeps me going.
Thanks for reading!
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Thanks for the update Aundrea.
Hey Aundrea – we are following along back in Curtis. Good luck with everything.