Foothills Trail Sidequest
Early hours in the hostel were spent drinking coffee in the living room while Pinto journaled her thoughts about the topic of adultery from the Bible. She felt open to exploring new belief systems so she wrote down what feelings and insights were interpreted from the text. She whispered, “I have been feeling some shame because I committed some adultery last week.” I thought to myself, Girl, if you knew the type of adultery I have “committed”, I don’t think you would feel so ashamed.
I felt inspired to hike the Foothills Trail, so last second I decided to hitch to South Carolina. Hunter let me know that there would be a shuttle leaving to Clayton just before lunch, however I had a hunch to go right away. I said goodbye to Bear, then Lennon drove us back to Dick’s Gap. I heard the sound of a harmonica on the hill and I shouted, “PINK?!” “FREYJA?!” I ran up the hill to give him a hug and told him how I was just thinking about him. I let him know I would catch up to him in a few days after my hike.
First ride that stopped was a man named John with his wife Gabby. They were on their way to Clayton. Pink ran down and gave me a big hug followed by, “You’re a crazy motherfucker. I love you and be safe.” John was a geologist, who would randomly yell stuff out during the drive such as, “Golly! Would you look at those rocks!” He brought me to the local gas station and bought me a freshly made biscuit of my choosing. He said he deeply wished he could drive me all the way to the trailhead, but couldn’t because he had to go to work. I told him it was no problem at all and that it would all work out perfectly!
I stuck my thumb out and the first guy that pulled over had a sweet smile, long gray hair tied up in a low bun and an energetic persona. I told him I was headed to South Carolina to hike the Foothills Trail and he goes, “It’s your lucky day! Take a look at my license plate!” It read “Foothills Trail Member.” He said he would drive me straight to the trailhead!
We took a side trip to visit the house he was getting built. I was in awe by how massive it was! It seemed he was a billionaire disguised as a humble hippie! His brand new home smelled of wood stain and fresh sawdust. He was even building a room for his 28 year old son—said it was important for him and his family to stick together and felt that the government was fucking people over by the price of property/rent.
He dropped me off at the trailhead and took a “ready for take off” photo! First couple of miles, I met a guy who was training for the AT. He saw my AT tag and called me a die hard for getting off trail to do another trail.
The first day out was overall incredible. It felt like in a matter of 30-something miles, I experienced the desert, the beach, the alpines and jungle vibes. There were several sections where it felt as though I was taking in the scent of Puna—lush, rich, moss-mildew scent.
The ground felt soft as it was covered in dried pine needles—dispersed with pinecones, branches and dried leaves. If I looked down at my footsteps the entire time it would have seemed I was taking a stroll in the middle of the woods, a trail being made as I walked.
I met a guy named Bear Ninja and with him were two girls named Molly and Kim. I asked if I could take a break with them and they were happy to make room for me! I gave them some of the crème-filled cookies that Bear bought me and we talked stories of trails.
The trail felt really cruisy compared to the AT. It felt totally doable to push big miles. I often felt like someone had been dosing me with acid when I started hiking. I would pause to look at spiderwebs, moss on rocks and fallen pieces of bark, fascinated by the detailed artwork of nature. I felt amused and connected to the Spirits that encompassed me in a variety of ways.
As I laid in my tent at night, I smiled at the faint silhouettes of objects that surrounded me. I caressed my tent with my hands and thanked it for keeping me warm and dry the past couple of years. I smiled and thought about how often my mom worried when I told her I would be going out hiking again. I always reassured her that there would be so many people with me, yet still, I found myself drawn to be away from the crowd to drop into stillness. Been that way since I was a child.
I took a break on a boulder that overlooked a campsite with a fire ring. An airy thought whispered, Ah, this is my home. It dropped in temperature drastically and the wind started picking up. I made it just in time to set up my tent before the rain came in and it got dark.
The last day on trail, I met a group of two young couples. I adored their presence, so decided to meet them at the next camp. The guys made a fire for us as we all made dinner. They offered me some hot chocolate for dessert.
Around the bonfire, they would ask questions about my hitchhiking experiences and what it was like to thru-hike a long distance trail. Anytime there came to be a moment of silence, they would sprout up another question. It felt fun to be the story-teller beside the campfire, for it used to be the other way around most of my life.
The last morning was cold and wet. I climbed up to Bald Knob and got a killer view of the fog. The rest of the trek was mostly a steep descent.
Overall, the trail was a perfect way to train for the AT and invited a nice sense of taking a simple stroll in the woods. I felt as though I saw and experienced so much wildlife—from woodpeckers to owls hooting at night, cardinals and butterflies of different kinds flying around to chipmunks running across damp logs.
On this trail, I felt inspired to zip through it. Sometimes, the zone would be to push big miles and other times the zone would be to take triple zeros. Either way, I had a kick ass time!
My favorite memory on trail was when I was a couple of miles away from the northern terminus. There was a squirrel that saw me walking by and panicked so hard it ran up a tree, sprinted across the tree branch above my head, jumped off the top and flew a good 150’ off a cliff. It wailed its arms as it tried desperately to catch ahold of something, landed into a bundle of leaves and kept running for its life. I was in tears from laughing so hard.
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