Flip-Flopping to Alabama Along the ECT
ECT Day 244-248
ECT Day 244: zero day
This morning I wound up sleeping in super late at the room. I wore ear plugs last night so I didn’t wake up for anything. After a while we all got packed up at the room. Then I had to walk across the street to Walmart. I was hoping to find a big bag or suitcase to use as my checked bag. That way I don’t have to just check my backpack and risk one of the buckles getting broken along the way.
Sparkle and I went to Walmart together and I found the perfect bag to check my luggage in. Then grabbed a couple drinks and goodies for today. Once we finished up inside, we walked down the street to the bus station. It was actually the same bus station that we went to when we first got to Nova Scotia weeks ago. We took the bus to North Sydney to get the ferry to Newfoundland. Now we’re taking a different bus this time around to get to Halifax.
The bus got us to Halifax around 2:30pm and we checked into a room at the airport hotel. Then grabbed a quick lunch at one of the places inside the airport. I got some fried brussel sprouts which were literally battered and deep fried. I’d never had brussel sprouts like that before. They are so good just baked or crispy fried, no need to deep fry them! After we ate, we went to the room to relax. I got my bag fully packed and ready to go. Then just lounged.
Later on in the evening I wound up getting a pizza. Then I basically stayed up all night with Sparkle and Trucker in the room. My flight is at 5am so I plan to go over to the airport around 3am tomorrow morning. Sparkle’s flight is at the same time, so we’ll actually go over together.
Day 245: zero day
Last night I managed to sleep for maybe an hour. Then around 2:30am I woke up and got situated. Once Sparkle and I were both ready we headed out of the room and over to the airport. It was so convenient that the airport and hotel were connected by sky bridge.
It turns out Sparkle and I actually had our first flight together! And I shit you not, we somehow booked seats one in front of the other without even knowing. We both just picked randomly assigned seats because they were cheaper. And neither of us knew until now that we had a flight together at all.
We went through security and I checked my bag. Then we hung out waiting for the flight to Toronto to board. It boarded around 4:30am and arrived by 6:30am. We both had a decently long layover in Toronto, so we grabbed Tim Hortons before going to our gates. This is officially my last Tim Hortons in Canada! It will be seriously missed.
After grabbing coffee, we walked over to our gate. But foolishly we didn’t realize we had to go through customs at this point because our next flights were arriving in the states. So I had to chug a large hot coffee instead of throwing it out. Then we went through security a second time and had to talk to officials at customs. My passport was never stamped crossing the border on foot. So I had to answer some questions about where I came from. The lady I spoke to was super nice and I could easily explain the journey I’ve been on.
Then Sparkle and I got to meet back up before going our separate ways. My next flight was to Houston and hers was right to her home state. We said our goodbyes which was sad. I’m gonna miss my girl! We had a blast together in Canada. I’ve never hiked so long with another female hiker before. The longest previously was for maybe 700-800 miles on the PCT last year. Sparkle was my Canadian soul sister and we kept each other laughing nonstop. That’s what got me through Canada. I feel lucky to have hiked with the first ever woman to complete the ECT!
I was in such great company here in Canada with her and Trucker. It was sad that we left the hotel this morning so early and didn’t get to say a formal goodbye to Trucker. He treated Sparkle and I like princesses in Canada. I’ll be forever grateful for that. Back on the Appalachian trail I met Trucker in Vermont. He was the one who motivated me to hike the IAT in the first place, whether he knew that or not. Then once we got to Canada, I linked up with him again. He was the reason I was able to hike across Newfoundland. I never would have done it without him. Now it looks like I’ll be the second woman to complete the ECT. And so much of that is thanks to Trucker.
I had a lot of time to wait at the gate for my flight to Houston to arrive. But it was over an hour late! So now I’m gonna be cutting it close with my connecting flights. It finally boarded around noon, and I made my way to Houston. When the flight landed, I ran off the plane and was able to make it to my next gate with 10-15 minutes to spare. And for the first time in 2 months, I had cell service! I haven’t had cell service since arriving in New Brunswick. I’m back baby! What a luxury. To be able to use your phone in public places without wifi.
My flight to Birmingham was short and sweet. But sadly, when it arrived my bag never did. I reported it with the airport, and they said it would be delivered to the hotel I’m headed to tonight. Thankfully I carried on most of my hiking gear. But not my pack, trekking poles, sleeping bag, etc.
From the airport I got a ride to Leeds, AL. I was able to get a cheap room there that was walking distance from a grocery store, Walmart, and lots of restaurants. I dropped my stuff off at the room and wound up talking to my mom and then my dad on the phone. Then I walked to Walmart to grab some goodies for the night. I took a nice hot shower and a bath. Then had a relaxing rest of the night. Sadly, though, my bag never arrived from the airport.
Day 246: zero day
This morning I slept in super late at the room. My bad never came from the airport last night sadly and it still hadn’t come this morning. When I called it was almost impossible to get in touch with anyone. A guy from the airport recommended that I just go back to the airport to deal with it in person if I really want anything done. So I decided if it didn’t come by 2/3pm I’d Uber back to the airport to find it.
I spent the day just lounging at the room and resting my body. I got some Mediterranean food for lunch which was delicious. Then around 2pm I still hadn’t heard anything about my bag. So I called an Uber and went back to the Birmingham airport.
When I went to the baggage claim office it was locked, but I could see my bag inside! Thank the lord. No one was working for United, so I had to walk around to find an employee. The poor guy was the only person working for United in the whole place. Eventually when he wasn’t busy, he was able to grab my bag for me. Everything is right in the world now! I have my pack.
Then I ubered back to my hotel. I went through my pack and got a bunch of things together to mail back home. I have some sentimental items from Canada that I want to keep but not carry anymore. I’m getting a new backpack because my currentone is so beat up. The frame is popping through the back quite literally. I’m switching to a frameless pack and dropping a lot of gear and weight. I’ve really gotten things dialed in over the last 8 months and no longer need a lot of items. Maybe in the future I’ll post a current gear list.
The rest of the night all I did was relax. Now that I have my bag I don’t have to worry about anything at all. I took another bath and eventually ordered a hibachi dinner and a sushi roll to the hotel for dinner. For the remainder of the night, I just stuffed my face and watched TV.
Day 247: zero day
This morning I slept in super late. Today is a total lounge day! I have absolutely nothing to do or worry about in the world. Around 9am I got some continental breakfast. Then back at the room I laid in bed and responded to some emails. There are some exciting things in the works right now for me that I’ll hopefully be able to talk about in the weeks or months to come.
Later on, I talked to both my parents again on the phone. It’s so nice being in service and being able to talk on the phone while I walk around or do errands. I love to take a phone call when I’m walking somewhere. I missed that!
In the afternoon I went to Walmart again and then to a steakhouse for a late lunch. My dad called in a gift and for me at a place nearby the hotel. So I got to get the most ridiculous spread of food. I wound up getting chips and queso, rolls with butter, a big pasta dish with sausage, and a ginormous peach lemonade. The bag was so big and they gave me enough silverware for 5 people. But it was all for me!
Back at the room I stuffed my face. Everything was delicious. Then I spent the rest of the day eating and watching TV. I’ve been using a heat pad to help nurse my body a bit. I even took another bath before calling it a night. I’m taking advantage of all of the luxuries of being off trail for a few days.
Day 248: zero day
This morning I got to sleep in once again. My body is so happy with all of the rest! I got up around 9am and got packed up. Then around 10am Chuck Norris and Tigger from the Pinhoti Outdoor Center came to pick me up. It was so amazing to see them again! We saw each other back in February and then again in May at Trail Days.
The ride to Sylacauga was about an hour and we got to spend the time catching up. Apparently today is Nimblewill Nomads birthday and while I was in the car Chuck Norris gave him a call. I got to talk on the phone with Nimblewill briefly and he congratulated me on continuing along the ECT. When he heard I was flip flopping back down to Alabama to head to key west he said, “Now why would anyone do a crazy thing like that?” I loved that. It was surreal to talk to him for even a minute. He was the first hiker to ever complete the ECT. A true legend who has paved the way for all of the hikers after him.
Once we got to the POC I dropped my stuff, and we headed straight to lunch. We met up with Kim who runs the Pinhoti Outdoor Center, and she bought me lunch. That was so ridiculously sweet of her. It was amazing to see these familiar faces again. I loved the Pinhoti trail. That was the most incredible way to start my thru hike this year. Coming back again feels so right. It feels like home to be back here.
After eating lunch, we headed back to the POC. I got to go through all my packages which I’d sent there over the last week. I had to get new shoes, backpack, Fanny pack, a hiking shirt, and so many other things. It felt like Christmas morning! I’m so excited to switch packs and downsize my gear. I got everything situated and re packed my new pack. Then boxed up all of the things that I plan to mail home tomorrow. My new pack is a palante desert pack in a green color and I’m obsessed with it. Sweet Pea and Boosted who I hiked with on the AT both had palante packs. Now I’m joining the gang too.
Just to give a bit of reference of all of the things I’m sending home I will share a short list. I’m getting rid of my camp shoes, stove, the orange hunting vest from Matane, my swim shorts, my sports bra, a buff, a bandana, a pair of underwear, some tent stakes, and a few other odds and ends. The weight is substantial. I’ll likely be dropping 6 or so pounds between everything. And the new backpack is lighter than my former. It’s quite the change and I’m excited for it.
I wound up getting a new hat from the POC store which had the Pinhoti trail emblem on it. My current hat has survived almost 7000 miles but is ripped to shreds. I absolutely love this new hat though.
The rest of the day I spent lounging at the POC and hanging out with Chuck Norris and Tigger. They let me know that a hiker Jive Turkey paid for my hostel stay for the night. I met him last year on the PCT. And he was one of my main motivations for doing the Pinhoti trail this year. That was so ridiculously kind of him and such a surprise.
A guy named Danny checked into the hostel later on in the night. He’s doing trail maintenance on the Pinhoti trail and Alabama road walk this week. We spent hours talking into the evening. He was such a nice guy and I really enjoyed the company. Then later on I called it a night. I can’t believe I’m back here sleeping at the Pinhoti Outdoor Center!
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