The Never Ending Zero Day (Weeks Four and Five)
A LOT has happened since my last blog post, so much that it would take way too long to go day by day with the events, so I’m going to try and group days together into similar categories. Let me know which blog style you prefer!
Week four started out well- I slackpacked 24 miles from Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel to Greasy Creek Friendly Hostel since I knew bad weather was headed in that night. The weather was beautiful that day though, around 40 degrees with some very nice views.
I did think I was lost on the way to the hostel because it’s not very well marked, but for anyone hiking, know that if you pass one burned down and one abandoned building in the forest, you are on the right track.
I did end up taking an unplanned zero day the next day because it had snowed the night before and snowed all the next day (and I don’t handle the cold or the snow very well).
The next day I was determined to hike, no matter the conditions. I was tired of sitting around. When I left, there was around 8 inches of snow at the hostel (2000 feet below the trail ahead), and it was 5 degrees. It had been so cold overnight all the pipes were frozen, so I had to buy waterbottles since I couldn’t get water from the sink. I put the water inside my jacket above the waist belt of my backpack so they wouldn’t freeze.
I hiked in the snow for 5 hours, and went about 5 miles. It was so difficult to make tracks through the snow. Plus, the trash bags I had stuffed my feet in inside my shoes to keep them dry weren’t working, so my feet felt like ice cubes. The drifts were sometimes up past my knees, and I was having to climb over many trees that were bent over the trail from the weight of the snow. After 5 miles I called it quits, and got a ride from the first hostel that answered the phone: Boots Off. I was there by 2, sipping a warm cappuccino and drying out all my clothes.
I had to take another zero day. I had tried to face off with the snow-covered trail, and the snow had won. I admitted defeat, and settled in for another day of Netflix in the cozy hostel.
Boots Off Hostel is 55 miles north from where they picked me up on the trail, so I decided to walk southbound back to where they picked me up (in order to give the snow on Roan Mountain more time to melt).
I managed to cover those 55 miles in a 24 mile day, followed by a 30 mile day. My feet hated me afterwards, but it was nice to push myself a little after all those days off. There was still snow on the trail (and so much mud), but nothing could be worse than my experience hiking in the snow 2 days prior, so I took the new challenges in stride.
There were some stunning bald mountains leading up to Roan, but I had a hard time enjoying them because it was so difficult trying to keep my footing in the muddy trench-like path during 30+ mph winds. But I did make an effort to take a happy-looking selfie.
I returned Notthbound the day after, heading away from Watauga lake and into Damascus! A 24 mile day followed by a 18 mile day pushed me past the Virginia state line and into a town I’ve been looking forward to since the beginning of my journey.
I did manage to lose my jacket that day (lose= leave at shelter when stopping for lunch), and my shoes were also looking pretty rough after the last few high- mileage days combined with all the mud. I duct-taped the holes up as best I could and applied moleskin freely in the hopes of avoiding blisters.
I stayed at Woodchuck’s Hostel in Damascus (with awesome unlimited blueberry waffles in the morning).
And then it was on to Grayson Highlands and wild ponies!! The views were amazing, and for the first time on top of a bald, I did not feel like I was about to be thrown forcefully from the peak by tornado-level winds. It was truly an eye-opening experience. I couldn’t have asked for better weather.
I spent a few cold nights in the shelters, but managed to keep all my fingers and toes. I haven’t seen hardly any thru hikers lately- I’ve either been alone at shelters, or only had the company of the odd section hiker. My theory is that all the thru hikers got clumped together when everyone took zeroes day when the snow hit. I’m hoping to either slow down or speed up enough to find some other thru hikers soon though, because it gets a little lonely not seeing anyone all day and spending the nights alone in a shelter.
I hiked into Atkins, VA the next day (22 miles) to meet up with my family and boyfriend for the last time. I was super excited to see them. (And bonus I got my jacket back that day! A kind hiker carried it to woodchuck hostel, and the owner shuttled it up the trail to me. Talk about trail magic!) My parents also brought me some new trail runners to replace my old holy hiking shoes, so I’m excited to break those in.
It’s always nice to hike with someone else every now and then- it’s amazing how a little human interaction can really make the time fly. I enjoyed hiking with Rusty, although it definitely does make hiking slower. Not because he isn’t physically capabale of hiking as fast as me, but because he’s so easily distracted that he ends up stoping to look at random trees and shrubs every 10 minutes. But hey, what are boyfriends for anyways.
I’m so thankful to have family and friends who support me enough to drive 6 hours just to spend a day or two with me. I’m sad that I won’t see them again for awhile, but am definitely excited for the trail to come, and hopefully the warmer weather (although I could definitely do without the mosquitoes that come with it).
– Tick Tock
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