Trail Update 4: This Girl is Getting Gritty
I am not the same person I was a month ago. The trail has changed me. For example, I routinely have dirty feet and hands. I went three days without taking my hair out of a bun. I wake up to snails on my tent. I kill bugs. I poop in the woods. I climb up big stuff with a lot of weight on my back. I wear muddy pants. Y’all, because of the trail, I have a lot more grit in me than I ever imagined.
I Feel Like A Real Hiker
My last update occurred somewhere in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. I am very pleased to not be there anymore. Basically, mother nature gave me no reason to think GSMNP is anywhere near as fabulous as Glacier National Park (though I will say the section after Clingman’s dome was lovely).
Our last night in the park was spent at Davenport Gap Shelter (apparently called the ghetto of the Smokies due to the chain link fence in front of it). The next morning I woke up to *gasp* sunshine, and Gandalf and I decided to hike to Max Patch (some 16-17 miles away). We sadly parted ways with Hot Tea and Tin Cup because they did not anticipate going quite that far.
The terrain was not easy, but we made it to Max Patch in time to make dinner and then run around chasing after stuff sacks and garbage bags that the wind grabbed. Due to the wind, we decided to hike to the next shelter…a total of 19.2 AT miles. Incidentally, but unbeknownst to us, Hot Tea and Tin Cup did make it to Max Patch that day, but we had moved on. That night, we met two thru-hikers who we hadn’t met before. In my unfamiliar surroundings, with sore feet and tired muscles from a long day, I felt like a real hiker.
The big reward for making it through GSMNP was a zero in Hot Springs, NC. The night before rolling into town – and the trail goes directly down main street – we stayed at the Deer Park Mountain Shelter. I managed to pull a quadriceps muscle, so I limped and cried my way to camp. There was supposed to be a thunderstorm that night, so we set up our pads in the shelter. We expected thunder. We got mice.
The night was long. The shelter was janky. My mood was grumpy. On the walk to town, I was in the dumps. Then it started to rain, again. Home, couch, coffee, and climate-control sounded realllllly nice.
Turn That Frown Upside Down
Miraculously, the Friday that we got to Hot Springs was also the first day that the local ministry served a free hiker breakfast. Gandalf and I ate eggs and sausage with many other hikers while we watched the rain drown the streets.
Even more miraculously, Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn had a private room for rent. People, this place is the best. Go there, stay a few nights, eat the breakfast, and rest. The house is 170 years old, and the hospitality is second to none. I cannot say enough good things.
In town, Gandalf and I loitered by the ministry and the library a lot (which was totally cool with the workers). We bought resupply from Dollar General and traded some holey Darn Tough socks for new ones (word around town is that FITS socks are better). We stuffed ourselves with burgers from the diner, which was the best $2.50 I ever spent.
The second night in town, we stayed above the Spring Creek Tavern with Tin Cup, Hot Tea, Couscous, and Grapenut. Friends of Hot Tea and Tin Cup visited them and shared fresh fruit with us!
On the Road Again
On Sunday, Gandalf and I did our goodbyes and got to hiking. Legs after a zero day are heavy and tired, but the sun was out for the whole day! We camped with a new group and made an early departure. We heard rumors of rain, but we planned an ambitious 18 mile day anyway.
Weeeeellllll, mother nature showed up and put a damper on us, literally. Rain poured for hours and thoroughly soaked my pack and every ounce of clothing I own. Then, Gandalf and I made the ill-advised choice to take an ‘exposed ridge trail’ rather than the ‘bad weather trail.’ Rain turned to sleet and wind. I fell hard on the ridge. I cursed the trail, the weather, and my life. If ever there was an opportunity for the bad weather trail, that was it.
Thankfully, the shelter several miles away had a fireplace inside. Couscous and Grapenut caught up to us and convinced us to stay there. After several tedious hours of drying out socks and underwear, we had ‘very nearly acceptably dry’ clothing per Couscous.
Pump the Jam
Following our soak-a-thon, we hiked a 22 mike day! Yeah buddy! Turns out, it is very reasonable to hike more miles when you hike longer hours. I was dog-tired at the end of the day, but my body didn’t fall apart! Music helps to make those miles happen.
Now, we are holed up in Erwin, TN in anticipation of more snow and cold weather. Gandalf and I rode bicycles into town for a resupply and an AYCE pizza buffet. Let me tell you: hiking muscles are not biking muscles. That ride was hard. And rainy. And windy. I cried because life is always so hard.
While dividing out food, we ran into Grapenut and Couscous! After a discussion about weather and future hiking goals, they convinced us to stay (again). Turns out that it is a great idea, because the weather is vile. I am keeping my chin up though, because I hear the hiking is easy and the weather is good all the way to Damascus 😉
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