You Can Do Anything for 10 Seconds
I’m no longer writing as Erin. Today, I write to you with my brand spankin’ new trail name; Clever Girl. And I’m here to tell you about perseverance; namely, persevering through writing a blog that summarizes nearly 400 miles of Trail. Whoops.
I can’t believe it’s been since Hot Springs since I’ve last written! Let’s see…what’s happened since then? I was going to write a post about Trail Days, but it seems weird to post about it a month after the fact. So here’s the “short” story:
I continued to be plagued with self doubt, anxiety, and general bad vibes all the way from Hot Springs to Erwin. By the time I made it to Erwin, I was frazzled and ready to see friends old and new at Trail Days. The problem was that I made it to Erwin a day ahead of schedule and I could either a) hike out to some gap that may or may not be hitchable, or b) chill in Erwin for three days until my friend MP could pick me up. I decided on the latter and settled in for three days at Miss Janet’s house. Miss Janet, in true Ultra Trail Angel form, had been running non-stop catering to needy hikers; picking us up, dropping us off, taking us on errands, putting up with partying all hours of the night, and on top of that prepping for Trail Days herself.
Trail Days was a low-key event for me; met a lot of the Appalachian Trials crew (including Zach!) and had a blast with Pox and Puss at the Hiker Prom. Congratulations to Too Loud and Patches for winning Prom King and Queen! Hanging out with so many bloggers was definitely a highlight of the Trail so far.
After TD, I hitched back into Erwin and noticed that the farther away I got from there, the better I felt about hiking. Heading up Roan felt like the biggest challenge of the trail so far and I managed to pull my longest day thus far up and over Roan and the balds to Overmountain Shelter (17 mile day!). The next morning we woke up to dense fog and rain and tackled the last two balds with a 10 foot visibility in 50 mph winds. My rest that night at Mountain Harbour Hostel was well earned for sure.
On the hike from Roan Mountain to Hampton, I experienced waterfalls and lakes and great company at Black Bear Resort (I stay in a LOT of hostels….more on that later). At Abingdon Shelter before Damascus, I camped with a local Boy Scout Troop on their first overnight hike. They were also willing to share their Cosmic Brownies with me, so basically I’m A-OK camping with boy scouts anytime.
Damascus was the usual vortex of time wasting that I had figured it to be, and I ended up spending two zeroes there. I have to say, I actually prefer quiet Damascus to the madness that is Trail Days. Shoutout to Old Mill for making the best grilled cheese I have EVER had in my life. (OH by the way I realize I’m not taking nearly enough pictures worthy of App Trials Instagram of the Week…my bad, I’m the worst at both picture taking AND updating blogs!)
After following the Creeper Trail up to the Lost Mountain Shelter I started to get pumped for the Mount Rogers area…specifically because, you know, ponies. Rain was forecast all week but I trudged ever on, up to Thomas Knob Shelter, when I saw them: Ponies. Lots of them. Hiking in the rain had allowed me to spend an hour of sunshine with them before I had to high tail it the last mile to the shelter, where I waited out the storm in a very full (but very amiable) sleeping space. I was the first one out of camp the next morning and I hadn’t gone two miles before I found more ponies – including a day old foal who was still getting used to her wiggly wobbly legs! I dared not approach the foal in case mama would get upset, but the foal was precocious and came close to me several times. I continued to wade through ponies and steers all the way through Rhododendron Gap up until the actual entrance to Grayson Highlands – where, to my dismay, not a single pony was in sight. This was the second time I had visited the state park and had been slighted by the ponies. Someday, someday.
Let’s see – writing this blog isn’t easy after covering so many miles. If I’m able to continue on my hike (again, I’m getting to it, be patient!) I’ll be sure to update more often. Where was I? OH yes. I pulled my longest day in the rain from Hurricane shelter to Partnership shelter were I was greeted with copious amounts of pizza courtesy of the Marion Pizza Hut. Stuffed Crust never tasted so good, and I was happy to share the experience with great hikers like Bilbo, Pony, Ice and Lego, Papa Oats, B.C., and a few section hikers. I had hiked ahead of my “crew” and spent the next day waiting for them after I returned from resupply in Marion, but eventually headed on to the next shelter 7 miles down the line. Quick hike into Atkins (by way of the Lindamood School, of course!) for a burger and I was back on the trail to head to the Quarter Way Inn, a brand spankin’ new hostel just after mile 551 where the quarter way sign was (although the sign says it is mile 547…but the trail DOES change about every year, so I gave it a pass). Look for it in AWOL next season!
Tina, AKA Chunky, is a former thru-hiker who has graciously opened her home to hikers. The home is a beautiful work in progress, and Chunky is glad to put hikers to work to help get the place in tip-top shape. The night I was there, there was only one other hiker so we practically had the spacious bunkroom divided down the middle for ourselves. After being greeted by the two cats and one dog also living at Quarter Way, I enjoyed delicious homemade brownies made with fresh mint and watched “Field of Dreams” on a bigscreen projector in the living room. Although not in Iowa, Quarter Way Inn felt very much like heaven right then (I had not done laundry properly since Roan Mountain and had not showered since Damascus, so, you know). I was reluctant to leave the next morning because the home was just so comfortable and inviting, but I decided it was best to move on up the Trail. If you’re reading this and plan on hiking the Trail in Southern Virginia, please consider stopping by and staying with Chunky. It’s definitely going to be a great experience and I see only good things for the future of Quarter Way Inn.
Had I zero’d at QWI, I would not have recieved the best gift of all from the Trail that day: On my way to Chestnut Knob shelter, I finally obtained a trail name of my very own. I had been hiking with P-Cock and we were discussing viable names. “You know, a dinosaur themed name would be pretty boss”, and somehow one thing led to another and now I am known as “Clever Girl”, a reference to the raptor in Jurassic Park who is the undoing of Game Warden Muldoon. For people not familiar with the reference I have since re-enacted the scene several times…I may have a future as a thespian yet!
Around the time I left QWI, though, I noticed something troubling. My feet had been extra sore lately and I was wanting to push bigger miles. The feet weren’t so much of a concern when I could only do 13 or 15 mile days but now that I had the energy and strength to push 20s, I noticed my feet were having issues of their own that could no longer be ignored. I did manage to push one 20 through the Bland area, but by the time I made it to Wood’s Hole Hostel after only a 13 mile day from Dismal Falls I was in so much pain that I was using my trekking poles as crutches. It was time to see a doctor.
Neville, proprietor of Wood’s Hole and granddaughter of Roy and Tillie Wood, the original owners of the property, was kind enough to drive me to the clinic in Pearisburg where I had my feet examined and x-rayed. Although the x-ray came back inconclusive my doctor was pretty certain I had stress fractures in BOTH feet. Tough break. I’m not sure when or how it happened, but we both agreed that my insoles played a significant part in the issue. Regardless, taking some R&R at one of the most beautiful hostels on the Trail (loaded with delectable homemade food, time for yoga, and lots of good company to boot) is NOT what I’d consider a punishment. I’m loving it.
And now here I am, doing work for stay at Wood’s Hole. I couldn’t imagine a more idyllic location to rest and recuperate – Neville and Michael put me to work greeting and signing in hikers, helping with laundry, dishes, and smoothie duty, and helping out wherever I can. Although I’m being put behind schedule for my hike, I’m happy to be here among such positive people. I feel like I soar with purpose and contentment here, and I know that when I’m ready to move on again I’ll be filled with vibrance and motivation to continue my journey North for as long as I’m able to. If I really DO have stress fractures it will take more than a week to recover, but I need to hike a few miles first to find out and make sure. If my journey ends here, I’ve made peace with it. I’ve spent most of June so far at Woods Hole and it looks like I’ll be yellow blazing North once I start hiking again to stay on a reasonable schedule.
And I am getting worried about my speed and mileage, but I’m also trying to keep things in perspective. I’ve had so much fun on the Trail and I’ve learned a lot about myself. My hair is growing so long (and curly!) and I’ve lost about 40 lbs. The Trail provides, and it has provided in spades. And yes, I’ve run into a few unsavory characters (poachers and blatant violators of LNT and just all around d-bags) but for the most part my bubble has been pretty legit. I’d like to keep hiking and pushing my limits and making new memories for as long as possible.
I’m so proud of every mile that I have done. As the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt says “you can do anything for 10 seconds!” I have repeated this mantra to myself, jokingly at first, many times on this Trail and have found it to be the truest and most inspiring words I’ve found thus far. It’s gotten me up and over mountains, through the worst rain storms, and now, for someone who likes to stay busy, it’s helping me to become okay with how my situation has panned out. Everything will be OK, no matter what comes next, because I am the Unbreakable Clever Girl.
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