Burgers and beer
One of my biggest challenges while backpacking is how to meet my nutritional needs. The problem is that I don’t have much of an appetite when I hike. Even worse, I hate most classic trail food. Peanut butter, Nutella, trail mix, energy bars, oats, Knorr sides, Idahoan potatoes…you name it, it makes me gag. It can’t be good that I burn up to 8,000 calories per day and only eat 1,000, especially when I am already as skinny as a toothpick thanks to my fast metabolism. Frequent town stops and eating binges are essential to my success on long distance hikes.
On my nero day in Reliance, I stuffed myself with burgers, hot dogs, candy bars, and beer. I don’t think it is a coincidence I was able to hike 23 miles on my first day out of town. Unfortunately, burgers can’t go with me on the trail, so I was quickly back to force feeding myself and eating as much of the one trail food I actually do like: beef jerky. And just in case you don’t believe how desperate I am for edible trail food, I’ll let you know that I even packed a heavy can of baked beans!
Back to hiking. The first several miles out of Reliance were amazing. The trail parallels the Hiwassee River for a while, often climbing high enough alongside it for some spectacular views, albeit on narrow ledges that are not for the faint of heart. For the second straight hiking day, I saw no other hikers. Where is everyone? They’re on the AT, of course! The more I hike this trail, the more I believe I’ve gotten the better deal.
The next day was the most strenuous hiking yet, but I still covered 20 miles over the buzzsaw terrain. This does not include the extra mile I walked backward because I was certain I was on the wrong trail. It turns out I was indeed on the BMT the entire time. When you’ve taken a wrong turn before, it makes you paranoid. My uncertainty also meant I had to ford one creek a total of three times. My day ended at the Tellico River where I camped to the sound of roaring rapids. Still no other hikers to be found!
My third day out of town was hands down the most scenic of the trip. Whigg Meadow, Bob Bald, and The Hangover were three spots that delivered stunning, blue sky vistas along a section of the BMT that rises above 5,000 feet for the first time. The downside was that the trail offered little shade from the searing sunlight on this unseasonably warm day. I couldn’t filter enough water to keep up with my thirst and I was beyond relieved when I found a creek to camp by at the end of the 21 mile day. The day also ended the streak of hiker-less miles at 70.
Yesterday, I rolled 14 miles into Fontana Village, 13 of them in heavy rain and storms. The miles felt like forever and I was hiking on fumes because of my aforementioned malnourishment. That changed when lightning struck dangerously close to me while walking on the highest point of a ridge. I could feel the heat and hear the static buzz of the bolt a split second before hell unleashed its roar. I literally ran down the mountain with my full pack on fueled only by adrenaline. Yikes, that was close!
Today, I am taking the first of a double zero in Fontana to try to put some weight on these bones before I head into the Smokies. Another reason for resting an extra day is to avoid the next round of even stronger storms expected on Wednesday night. The severe weather this spring is no joke. By Thursday, I will be ready to take on the final third of the BMT.
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