Monthly Archives: March 2013

Day 25: Happy Easter, y’all

Miscellanea from the first leg.

Every one of these unplanned zeroes brings new insights. First and foremost, there’s something I want to try with regard to the end-of-day hamburger feet—that feeling after mile eight or nine that every step is on a bed of glass. It’s limiting my distance in a way that’s going to be significant if it continues.

See, I’m pigheaded. On my training hikes, I’d just pound through ten or eleven or twelve or twenty miles, then hit the car and be crippled all night. That’s fine for a sprint, but it’s just not working for the marathon. I think I’m going to have to (gasp!) take breaks. Even the fourteen-mile day was a deathmarch, with a one-minute gasping breather every half-mile or so after the pain got bad.

There’s this guy, Erik the Black; Erik has a great website with hiker tips. He laid out a whole schedule for breaks, which I conveniently ignored. I’m going to try it, though—or a modified version. The guy must be a beast. His ten-hour plan would take me seventeen hours on my Chihuahua legs. But it should get me to fifteen miles per day if it relieves the foot pain. And that’s all I need. (In my defense, stopping in this weather hasn’t exactly been comfortable. I think it’s warm enough now that I can force myself to do it anyway, if I make some changes to where my warmest gear is stowed, so I can pull it out quickly. And I’ll have to figure out how to stop when there’s no level place to rest.)

That’s one. Two is the injury report. My crap knees continue to be crap; I move like an eighty-year-old. But part of that is, oddly enough, my glasses. I think. I have very strong progressive lenses. To really see the trail underfoot, I have to look down at such an extreme angle that my back curves like a comma—and the weight of the pack knocks me off balance. That is, it’s a posture issue. And sometimes I fall. And that makes me more nervous with every step.

I’m going to play more with looking down, seeing the obstacles, then looking a few feet out and using my sense of balance. I did manage to get a second-degree black belt in a martial art that’s all about balance. I’ve been too fearful. I can trust myself more.

I’ve lost a few pounds and my collar bones are more prominent. I seem to have developed a sore spot where the pack is riding one of them. Have to watch that, and apply padding as needed.

Two of my toenails are black. That’s a hiker injury as common as blisters. They don’t hurt, so they’re like a badge of honor!

The chafing returns on frigid days with steep uphills. I don’t know why. Nancy Drew’s Aquaphor suggestion keeps it in check.

There’s a massive bruise on my ass! It doesn’t hurt, though. I didn’t even know I had it until I caught a glimpse after a shower.

That’s it for injuries. I don’t eat other hikers’ food, I try to avoid the shelters. I try not to touch anything in the repulsive privies, beyond the necessities.

Oh! Speaking of privies… I actually love that they’re out here. Composting outhouses in the middle of nowhere. Thank you, trail maintainers, for putting them up and taking care of them despite the fact that hikers trash them. You are saints! I’ve only actually had to poop alfresco twice; all the other times, my body’s been content to work on the privy-to-privy plan.

The Smokies have no privies.

Seriously, you force people to sleep in shelters but don’t install a privy? I’ve heard the areas around the Smokies shelters are poop minefields. I’ll let you know in a week or two. 🙂 And I’ll be watching where I pitch my tent (which you’re allowed to do if the shelter is full).

Forthcoming: The hike starts April 1. I can start my hike over any time I like. =D I knew I’d have the likelihood of zeroes at the beginning, what with the winter start, so I saved an extra grand in addition to my estimated hiking money. I haven’t used all of that. And I’d guesstimated 3/26 for my Smokies entrance. So I’m only six days behind schedule—which still gives me a September finish, if I get on track.

Smokies, here I come. Look: I can see the Shucksfack firetower from my window!

Edited to add: Blackhawk is staying one more day because of his cold. Hiker Paisley is staying one more day to heal up from a cold and a serious ankle infection that developed from a blister (she’s been sidelined for three days now with swelling). Slow-but-Sure (shown below) and her husband Bud (with the cigar yesterday, in front of the laundromat) are staying one extra day to wait out the rain. A bunch of other hikers are staying. But a lot of hikers are heading out today, including PopPop and the Postman. Some of them are planning to stay at the Fontana Hilton, which is a hostel or shelter (not an actual Hilton; it’s a joking name) right at the foot of the Smokes.

It’s funny, the dance of justification we play about taking one more day off. It reminds me of when you’ve been out sick from work, and you’re almost, just-about, very-nearly healthy—this pathological guilt-driven compulsion to explain why you need just one more day to make sure it’s really gone. “If I didn’t have this cold, man, I’d be going out today!” I’ve been doing it, but with amusement. I really don’t feel guilty at the moment. I want to go to the highest elevations on the trail under the best possible physical conditions. And the climb up into the Smokies from here is legendary for its awfulness.

Also, you’d think hikers are the laziest people on earth. This hotel has exactly two floors: floor 1 and floor 2. No lobby level. No mezzanine. Just upstairs and downstairs. And I’ve yet to see a hiker take the stairs. We’re jabbing that elevator button like freaking woodpeckers. And I totally get it. Nobody (including me) wants to walk ten feet if they don’t actually count. LOL.

Since I don’t have any fabulous hiking pictures, I’m showing you my Smokies food, the weather, the beautiful Slow-but-Sure, and the debonair PopPop. Have a happy Easter!





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Day 24: Technicolor

I’m here at the Fontana Lodge. The weather is wet and dreary with a high chance of drearier. Discretion being the better part of valor, I pulled the plug on one more night. Get the cold better, let the various bumps and bruises heal up, and head into the Smokes when the lightning and thunder have passed—on April 1, a date of great personal significance.

Fontana Village is kind of cool, in a high-priced resorty kind of way. It’s barren now; the ice cream shop and pool are closed for the season. Sort of like the Overlook Hotel. For the most part, the walking dead in the desolate corridors are hikers. Just us and the massive boar heads on the walls. In general, the boars look happier.

So here’s the latest edition of As the Trail Turns. Slow-But-Sure and Because-of-Her are here. They were the fabulous couple from the Aquone Hostel who mailed my package for me. They were in a shelter…oh… three nights ago now? Had to be the night after the NOC. In this weather, people cram into those shelters like sardines. The sleeping bags are crushed together, ten people in a space built for six—honestly, the intimacy level is higher than in some marriages. Everybody snores, everybody farts, mice run roughshod over your gear, not to mention your face. So far, I’ve avoided sleeping in a shelter.

Anyway, three nights ago, this girl woke up in the middle of the night in the shelter puking her guts out. Turns out it was Risk-It, my roommate for the second night in the NOC. Her hiking partner took excellent care of her, and apparently they were heading back into the NOC to recover.

Risk-It started with two other hikers One quit after the Approach Trail, and the other quit at Neels. She said she’s been very fortunate to find a new group of great people. Get better soon, Risk-It!

So. This isn’t the first I’ve heard of this hiker plague that’s sweeping North Carolina. At Cody Gap I met Backtrack and Two Sticks. Backtrack got his name from all the back and forth he’s been doing, including helping two young hikers, one of whom is named Davy Crockett. Their gear was woefully inadequate for the weather; he got them into Atlanta to get other stuff. Davy Crockett and his partner were in the Wayah Bald shelter with me the night my tent flooded.

Backtrack had a bout earlier with the puke plague. He told me about it at Cody Gap. He was very sick, and said a bunch of hikers have had it.

Backtrack is here at the Lodge.

Also here at the Lodge are Blackhawk and PopPop. PopPop is 67 and this is his second thru. He’s talking about heading into the Smokes tomorrow, but Blackhawk Bob (who was a military pilot for 22 years or so and actually carries a humidor full of cigars) is probably going to convince him to stay one extra night. Bob sounds worse than I do, with the cold.

The Postman is here. He has a scab on his cheekbone. He took a bad spill and landed on rocks. He says he thinks he knocked himself out for a few minutes. Still hiking, though! He’s heading into the Smokes tomorrow morning.

I’m lounging in the fabulous resort laundromat in nothing but a puffy jacket and puffy pants. Even my socks are in the wash.

There aren’t any leads here, but everybody’s a character actor. (Below, that’s Bud/Because-of-Her smoking a stogey outside the laundromat.)

Just another day in the moving circus.





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Day 23: Jelly Bean

Jelly Bean woke up refreshed after a pleasant night spent refugee camping at Cody Gap. She stretched broadly, grinned up at the rising sun, tossed her pack on her shoulders, and hit the trail at seven. The day was perfect: warm but not hot, and the breeze carried the scent of spring flowers.

Screeeeeeeech. So very, very, very not true. (Also, I don’t know a Jelly Bean)

Not my finest hour on the trail. My shoes didn’t freeze, nor did my water. I slept warm. After the miserable night before, I’d put on every stitch I owned. I was even hot twice, and had to peel off my down hat for a few minutes.

Those were the good things, and I’m grateful for them.

It was still frigid when I woke up. The full moon shone on the snow banks, and nobody else was awake. That was beautiful—still and silent and winter.

But I just couldn’t get my mojo on today. The uphills brutalized me again, and despite endless hours of analysis, I don’t know why. I suspect, though, that I’ve got a cold. It’s hard to tell; you suck 34-degree wind, you drink 34-degree water, at night you’re snoring in a 20-degree tent… I think it’s hard on the lungs. At least old lungs! And you cough and sniffle and gasp like a fish.

Whatever the reason, it was a long day. At one point during the 2-mile uphill after Cable Gap Shelter, I considered just sitting there. Right there, in the middle of the trail… just sit and wait for spring. But winter sitting is too cold, so I got up and walked. And eventually I made it to Fontana Dam. Nine miles, I think. The day was cold and overcast, and at the end it started to rain. Perfect February weather.

At one point I broke out the headphones. I remember that Wiggy said music is important. I knew I’d be able to charge the phone, so I got down with some tunes for about 2 hours. It got me over the hump.

The water’s so beautiful! Deep turquoise. I’m in the lodge. Fontana Village is apparently the smallest township in North Carolina. Quite a vacation spot, I imagine. Lots of cabins.

I’m still trying to recover. The laundromat is a half mile away, and my feet are hamburger, so the laundry will have to wait until tomorrow. I hit the general store for my resupply (they have plenty, by the way; the rumors that you can’t resupply there are greatly exaggerated), and I got a bunch of junk to eat tonight and tomorrow. Canned ravioli, cheese in a can, Oreos. And I’m eating them in bed while I sneeze and blow my nose.

The plan was to stay here tonight and tomorrow night, then hit the Smokies on Sunday. The shuttle driver, though, said it’s supposed to rain torentially ‘sideways’ on Sunday, so I’m a little up in the air. I’m checking the weather, and I’ll decide tomorrow whether I need to stay an extra night. Expensive, but I’m beyond caring. I’d put emergency cash aside anyway, and I guess record-breaking cold and snow qualify.

There are a lot of hikers holed up here. I just saw one guy looking for the laundromat who looked as wiped as I feel. He wasn’t sneezing, though. Blackhawk Bob and PopPop are here. I haven’t seen anybody else I recognize.

In two weeks, this is going to be a whole different hike. I’m such a warm-weather gal!

Edited to add: Blackhawk Bob got me on the phone. He’s got a cold, too. He might stay a week here to recover. PopPop lives locally; he might go home for a week until next week’s predicted cold and rain are finished.





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Day 22: Frozen shoes and Jacob’s ladder

Tenting at Cody’s Gap [mile 156]

When I woke up, my shoes were frozen! Also my water.

Just a brief update today, since I happen to have internet. My hands are currently freezing!

The day was cold and blustery—perfect for… you know. February .

The walking was your basic AT and down, except for one memorable climb—this peak called Jacob’s ladder just outside of Stecoah Gap. The mountain was nealy vertical, with short switchbacks that would look like a ladder if viewed from a plane. I cursed that mountain! In fact, the only way I got to the top was to promise it I was going to pee on it when I gpt to the top. Which, by the way, I totally forgot to do.

I was too whipped from the cold and the climb to get all the way to the next shelter, so I’m camping at one of the in-between places in the guidebook. A couple of other hikers are here. I call these ‘unofficial’ campsites refugee camps—little tent cities that spring up from nowhere.

Anyway, it’s freezing again, and windy. Tonight should be the last bitter one, I think. And tomorrow, 9 miles into Fontana. I’ll stay there Saturday, and head into the Smokies in Sunday!

Cotta get an early s



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Day 21: Merry Christmas!

What a day! A whole new set of challenges: hiking uphill in a foot of snow!

I knew the uphill would be challenging—seven miles or so, at a constant elevation gain. I was on the trail by headlamp at 7 AM. It didn’t actually feel too bad at first. Just the typical gentle incline through bare trees and brown leaves.

A couple of miles into the hike there was a stone memorial right on the trail. The plaque read, On December 7, 1968, 783 feet southwest from this point, Wade A. Sutton, North Carolina Forest Service Ranger, gave his life suppressing a forest fire, that you might more fully enjoy your hike along this trail. All around the monument, hikers have placed small stones. It was a chilling, reverent moment, especially since the trail itself continued southwest. I placed a stone and stood silently for a moment to thank Wade Sutton for his sacrifice.

The day got challenging after that. The incline continued, steeply at times. The new pack weight felt great, but at a certain elevation the ground vanished under the snow.

And that was the day. Snow snow snow snow snow snow snow. It obscured the rocks and roots, so the uphills were dangerous. It hid the trail, and the trees were dusted with puffs of white, so even the blazes were useless.

Luckily, one intrepid hiker had started before me. I stuck to his bootprints like white on… well, snow. A few times I was convinced we were off the trail. Wading through hip-high drifts, I just flailed and followed that invisible hiker. I talked to him, too. I called him Beanpole, just because his stride was so much longer than mine.

Coming down the steep slopes was treacherous—more suitable for sledding than walking. I fell a lot, and I came down hard a few times. I’m sure I have a few bruises. But all’s well.

I stopped at the first flattish spot with minimal snow. Blackhawk Bob and PopPop are here, as well as New Yorker PeePaw. I imagine there will be others.

As for me, my shoes are drenched, along with my socks. I’m freezing, but I should warm up when I shut down here. No more snow tonight, but it’ll be in the teens. I didn’t pee, I didn’t brush my teeth… just get warm and dry, and deal with the rest of it later. (Don’t tell my dentist!)

The Smokes have two feet of fresh snow. I’m hearing that hikers have started up and had to turn back after 7 miles. I wish I had microspikes. Without them, I don’t think I can get enough traction to stay safe.

I’m 17 miles from Fontana. Tomorrow I’ll head for a shelter. I might see if I can get a room at the Fontana Lodge for the next night and the one after that—an expense I can’t afford, but it would give that snow an extra day to melt.

We’ll see how it goes!





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Day 20: Karma

I sent home my camera and my underwear and half my toothbrush, and I threw out my extra ziplocks and my tissues and every other gram of non-safety-related weight, and by freaking gods, I wanted to know that it counted. So this morning I packed up and trundled down to the outfitter and hung my pack on the scale.

Are you ready?

24 pounds, baby!

24 pounds, and that includes 4 or 5 days of food. (No water, but I’m planning on carrying less of that anyway.)

I can’t tell you how thrilling that was. Then, icing on the cake, I walked out of the outfitter (or skipped, really; knowing the pack is only 24 pounds made me stupidly giddy!) and nearly tripped over this canoe:


Which, you may or may not know, is freaky, because look what I have tattooed on my shapely hiker’s calf:


(I hope people aren’t getting a bunch of emails from this post. Embedding the photos seems to be doing something odd.)

Anyway, the NOC. It’s a huge psychological milestone on a thru. I don’t really know why—137.3 miles, not at the Smokes (as I like to call them). It’s certainly big, much bigger than I realized. It’s a whole campus of huts and buildings. Their nut comes from the Nantahala River and canoeing rather than hikers.

There are a lot of hikers here, as usual. I had breakfast with a bunch of them: Big Yankee, whom I met back at Muskrat Creek, plus Liferaft and Tugboat and Thunderfoot and others. We recognize one another. Here’s one from Big Yankee:

Q: What’s the difference between a thru-hiker and a homeless person?
A: Gortex!

Anyway, a lot of the hikers have been stranded here for three days because of the weather, and some of them are stir-crazy and headed out today anyway, despite the snow! A lot of localish hikers have bailed home for a week or two to wait for spring.

I’m planning to be out early—hopefully 7:30 AM or so, when it’s light enough to see the rocks. Can’t wait to be out there slugging!




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Day 19: The NOC! Huge!

So. I appear ro be on the zero-to-zero plan. That crazy cold snap that’s terrorizing the east dumped about six inches of snow on the mountains. I was originally planning to hike through the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), since I just stayed at the Aquone, but now I’m looking at a safety issue. The next three nights are going to be in the upper teens. More snow is coming tonight. And after this it’s two days to the freaking Smokies, which I’ve been dreading for six months. I need to get there with dry gear. So here I am, snowed in at the NOC for two nights. I’m in the bunkhouse. Ironically, after last night’s bout of loneliness, tonight I’m hoping to have the bunkroom to myself. So far so good!

Oh! Before I forget! Socks’s husband Dreamer is recording the hike for his Michigan paper. At least, I think it’s for the paper. Socks is writing articles along the way. But anyway, Dreamer recorded videos at the Aquone. If you want to see me frolicking, you can google his blog. It’s TNT on the Trail, I believe.

Ramblin Rex is here. So is the Postman. The Aquone folks were here a bit ago, but they’ve passed me now. As usual. 🙂 Also, I spotted Quaker when I went for my shower.

Anyway, the walking was tough today. Oh! The Aquonites are slackpacking, so in an act of supreme kindness, they took my package to mail it for me so I wouldn’t have to carry it over the mountain! My pack is lighter, but today’s miles were hard won.

I fell. A lot. The ground was icy and treacherous under the snow. My feet kept slipping out from under me. Twice, though, I fell hard. Once I landed on my butt on the snowy rocks and slid six or eight feet as though I were on a sliding board. That one was funny. The second one, not so much. My pole came down on a wet root and I fell right over the edge of the trail. I tumbled in leaves and snow for about ten feet until the trees and underbrush caught me. My poles and my legs tangled together. I’m so thankful I didn’t break a pole!

That’s when I decided to stay here the extra night. Nineteen bucks well spent. I seem to be fine—maybe a little sore around the ankles—but that spill really shook me up. All it takes is one unlucky step to end a hike.

And that’s it! I ate a Snickers and a Milky Way for dinner. I may be the first thru-hiker ever to come home fatter than when she left.

But… the NOC! What a huge milestone! More on that tomorrow.





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Day 18: Wiggy

At the Aquone Hostel. Maggie cooks dinner for about nine bucks and breakfast for about four. She’s a magnificent cook. Seriously. Last night we had pork chops, cabbage, mashed potatoes, and an English custard and cake (which my mom used to make once in a while, her people being English). Breakfast was giant waffles, strawberries, cantaloupe, bananas. Even if I weren’t hiking, I’d have been in heaven. Tonight is meatloaf.

I asked Steve (Wiggy, 2010) for advice. He had a lot of it, all of it excellent! I can’t really summarize it into a line or two, so I’ll try to paraphrase what I remember. Wiggy says:

It’s all mental. All of it. General knee pain, physical discomfort… when those drive people off the trail (short of an actual injury), it’s mental.

Surround yourself with positive people. If someone is continuously negative, get away from that person; they’ll drag your mind to the negative, and you might lose the mental game.

As soon as you can, stop being boxed in by the shelters and the trail guide. By a thousand miles, you’ll be a professional: You’ll drink when you find water, you’ll camp when you’re tired, and you won’t be afraid anymore that if you miss a meal you’ll die. You’ll be out of camp qiickly, and you’ll just walk.

Stay happy. Listen to music, drink your hot chocolate… whatever you need to do. Enjoy.

If you want to see animals, get on the trail by 6 AM. If you wait until 10, you’ll only see hikers. The animals are long gone into the woods.

The mountains have been there for a billion years. You, walking through, are a blink. You’ll never, ever change the mountain—so find a way to enjoy it no matter the conditions. If it’s uphill, find a way to make it fun. Downhill? Find a way to make it fun. Snow, sleet, rain, cold? Make it fun

Wiggy is wise. 🙂

I think it’s fairly obvious that I’ve had a rough start. There are things I didn’t anticipate that have completely blindsided me. The cold, sure. The altitude. The fact that my short stride makes me one of the slowest hikers out here, when at home I’m fast.

But the worst is that this is so lonely! I somehow expected that I’d hook up with people right away. And I did—but they’re long gone. The people here at Aquilone are couples. And their chatter is all about hikers I’ve never met. The solitude is relentless; everybody passes me, and the next batch of people are their own bubble, one that I haven’t been part of.

But I get it now. That may simply be the nature of my hike: to walk it in quiet solitude. I think I’ve been fighting the mountain. The lighter pack will help. I’m sending 3 or 4 pounds home from the NOC tomorrow (and I’ve sent so much stuff home already that it’s hard to believe I could reduce by that much). When spring comes, warm green weather… that will help, too. I’m not a winter person!

The rest of this week will be cold with snow showers and rain. Nights in the 20s until Thursday, then up into the Smokies. I have a feeling that spring will come in the Smokies.

Oh, and I had an epiphany about this tent issue, which has now driven me into town twice. The tent is three parts: footprint, fly, tent. Sometimes the tent is relatively dry. After a rain, the fly is always soaked. But in my haste to pack up, I’ve been jamming all three pieces into the outside pouch of the pack. Result? By the end of the day, the fly has saturated all the other pieces and the. backpack as well. That sets me up for one of those horrible nights.

I’m going to try this: I’ll pack the three pieces into ziplocks—not to keep them dry, but to keep thhem separated from one another and from the pack. If the sun comes out for a half hour, I’ll dry the tent, then the footprint. Then the saturated fly won’t keep soaking the rest.

Adapt, adapt, adapt.

I feel great. I think I’ll start my hike over tomorrow. The trail will show me how. 🙂

Edited to add: Two new hikers arrived this afternoon: PopPop and Blackhawk Bob, who started the day after I did. PopPop hiked the trail in 2001. He said, randomly during the course of a conversation, ‘It’s hard to make friends this early. People are still dropping out and finding their pace. But later in the hike, the friends you’ll meet… we’re still having reunions.’

So there it is. Every question brings an answer out here.

Wiggy and Maggie:






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Day 17: Meltdown! And a surprise!

In the middle of the night, it started to pour—icy rain that was only a degree or two from snow. Wayah Bald Shelter clings to a hillside; the few relatively flat spaces for tenting aren’t flat at all. And for the first time, I managed to pitch my tent sloping both to the bottom and to the side. I spent all night trying to keep myself from rolling to the right and soaking my down quilt.

I woke up with three inches of water in the bottom corner. In the deep mud, two of my tent stakes had pulled out, and the fly had emptied into the tent Disaster. Not only was the tent soaked again, but again there was rain predicted all day and all the next night, with low temperatures in the twenties.

My first plan was to go a short five miles then claim a space in the actual shelter, and spread the tent (and everything else) out to dry. But as I marched, I just started to cry. A big huge ugly cry. That stuff was saturated; no way was it going to dry. I remembered that last icy night with a wet tent, and I was overwhelmed with the logistics of the upcoming Smokies leg (the resupply issues, the mandatory 15-mile days, the weather extremes and probable snow), and my pack was too frigging heavy.

I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t trudge up any more mountains. But there’s no other choice out here. You have to walk. You have to. There’s nobody to call (short of 911), no road, no taxi. Even if it hurts, there’s no choice but to walk.

So I walked and cried and discussed it with the trail, asking for some wisdom or clarity with regard to the best possible decision.

And I remembered a new hostel that had opened. I had their phone number. I checked my notes. They had a pickup point in four miles.

So here I am, in the Aquone Hostel. And this is a magical place! More like a high-end hotel than a hostel. Maggie and thru-hiker Wiggy, from England, built this amazing house themselves. I’m here with another group of hikers in their fifties, two married couples and one woman whose husband and children are at home. Socks I met before; she’s the hiker with the torn meniscus who underwent serious medical treatment in Franklin. That whole group is slackpacking this leg, thanks to Wiggy. Although they didn’t know each other, coincidentally they’re all from Michigan.

This isn’t a rout, like Hiawassee was; it’s more of a controlled retreat. I got nine miles today. Tomorrow I’ll work through that Smokies schedule and nail down the terrifying resupply issues and mileage. I’ll get the pack dry (everything in the tent absorbed that bathtub full of ice water; I wouldn’t be surprised if my pack was 40 pounds today).

Aaannddd… it’s time for the come-to-Jesus meeting with my pack. I’m sending everything home. Everything. Half my toothbrush. My underwear. My shorts. The second half of my trail guide. My camera ( I’ll use the phone). It all goes home at the NOC in two days. I’m chucking the tissues, the baby wipes, all but a few drops of liquid soap—literally every spare gram that doesn’t involve safety.

There are a lot of new friends here, with starting dates ranging from the first through the fourteenth. I wish I were making better time. Coming to grips with my inner Lord of the Flies will help. Also, we talked gait last night, and Slow-but-Sure told us she figured out a way to double her pace on the grueling uphills. She’s pushing off more with her back leg. Brilliant! I think I’ve been more or less exclusively pulling myself uphill with my poles and the front leg. I can’t wait to get out there and try what she demonstrated. Makes me wonder if I can figure something out for the rough downhills, too.

Ironically, here in the Taj Majal of hostels, there is no internet (they have a computer for guests to use to check email and such). 🙂

My advice? Skip the NOC and stay at Aquone. They even have a small resupply area. Wiggy’s done it; he knows what we need.

In the photos, the lone guy in the rain is Quaker from Pittsburgh. On the couch are some of the Aquone gang: Blackhawk Bob, who’s traveling with a humidor; Spow-but-Sure; PopPop; Bud; and Marky, who felt like a long-lost sister.





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Day 16: Tell the truth but tell it slant

Wayah Bald Shelter [mile 120.8]

This was a long day! Got a shuttle to the trail from Ron Haven, the king trail angel in these parts. He’s a phenomenal cheerleader, loud and exuberant and genuine. He regaled the busload of is woth a summary of what to expect for the next hundred miles. I still have no clue, though!

The walking should have been easier today—lots of ups and downs, but mostly easy terrain, dirt and dead leaves. But either the town stop deconditioned me or I oversupplied in Franklin, because I felt every single step of those twelve miles!

The bughlight was my first two balds—great treeless peaks blanketed in brown winter grass. I acccidentally lost the grakl and climbed to the top of Siler Bald by mistake. A grueling climb, but what a reward: 360 devrees of magnificent mountains, layer on layer on layer to infinity.

Now I’m at the shelter. Hobo and the Postman and two young guys are here, too. Thw crowds have thinned, and some hikers are staying in Franklin. We’ll have rain or snow tonight—probably my coldest night yet, but I’m snug in my down. Spring won’t arrive for another week or two. I have to say, I’m ready!

And I might even have internet service! That’s weird.





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