Six Days Off Trail
I opened up the door and beheld a winter wonderland. Snow covered the landscape, wrapping the trees in a crystaline embrace. Unfortunately it was colder than it was beautiful. Snow would mean wet feet on trail, and the avoiding hypothermia would require extra caution, and good luck.
I shut the door, walked to the couch, curled up under a blanket and turned the heat up. I was thankful I didn’t have to hike in the Smokys that day.
Instead of being on trail, I was resting two seriously inflamed Achilles tendons at a friend’s house near Asheville.
I met Weeble Wobble during my 2021 thru hike attempt. He has gone on to finish the trail. We had known each other for only a week or so but he was more than willing to help out a fellow hiker.
He picked me up at I-40, just after I exited Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After a shower that left me feeling slightly human, we went straight to the local burger joint. I told the waiter to make me the best possible burger and the monstrosity in front of me delivered.
I spent the following days watching movies, stuffing my face and talking about the trail. Myself, Weebles and Andycap, a 2021 AT thru hiker, swapped trail stories, and the two veterans gave me plenty of advice.
They listed off several must-see spots and what to expect from the rest of the trail. One thing that stuck with me was their admission that after 7 months they still aren’t used to life off trail.
They talked about other hikers they saw in Maine taking zero after zero as if to postpone the inevitable and squeeze a few more drops of bliss from the trail.
It got me thinking about what life will look like for me after I climb Katahdin. I came to the realization that I have absolutely no idea who I will be, let alone what that version of Sidetrack will want out of life.
What I do know is I’m making the best of every day. I’m incredibly grateful for the natural beauty around me, and the generosity of the people I’ve met.
Part of making the best was enjoying the time off. Six days off trail feels excessive when all your focus has been on making miles.
Having awesome hiker friends and a cool town like Ashville to explore made things way easier.
They warned me that the first few days back on trail would be tough. Then just to make things harder they made steak and shrimp for my last dinner.
It was definitely a tough climb leaving I-40. The terrain was relatively flat, but the mental battle was intense. The fact that I didn’t want to leave says more about the hospitality of my friends than about the difficulty of the trail.
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