Oh hey, didn’t see you there. Wow! Time sure does fly when you are having fun, or sometimes soaking wet and miserable. So, where did I leave off? Oh right, about halfway through the Smoky’s. Well, I am now nearly 300 miles north in Damascus, VA. That is 3 states down! Let me catch you up on what’s been happening…
5/30 Woke up with a smile on my face, happy to be going back into the woods. I felt that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. Mom and dad joined me for a few miles up to Charlie’s Bunion and said our goodbyes. Terrible night of sleep but best night on trail so far.
5/31 Walked up some hills and then walked up some more. Spent the night at a beautiful tent site between two creeks with cascades.
6/1 Happy June! 20 more days till my birthday. Hiked into standing bear hostel and spent the afternoon eating pizza and playing with their dogs. Had another fun night at camp.
6/2 I’ve gotten used to being in the woods for so long that I forget how lucky I am to be able to be out here. Realized that this is the place I would always want to be when I was stuck in class or at home. I should remember to be grateful and enjoy the serenity. Got to see max patch, a beautiful spot to try and watch the sunset, but we could see rain in the distance and decided to move on.
6/3 Slept in to wait out the worst of the rain. Hiked into the laughing heart hostel and had a nice dinner in hot springs.
6/4 Cinnamon bun Saturday at the dinner in hot springs. Had a nice walk around town and resupplied at the outfitter. Had to wait for the post office to reopen at 1:30 and played frisbee with Sunny, Buzz, and Compass. Turns out the post office did not reopen at 1:30 and our leisurely morning turned into a 0 day.
6/5 While on our way out of hot springs we stopped at a cafe. I got a sandwich which made for a great breakfast. Littlefoot, Sunny, the newest addition to the tramily, and myself started down the trail, which happened to be the main road. The hot sauce girls stayed behind to try and deal with some personal things before losing service. Unfortunately they would not be getting back on trail that day, or for the foreseeable future. At camp we saw a 5 1/2 ft rattle snake. It was a gorgeous looking snake with patches of green, which I haven’t seen on a rattler before. He didn’t care about us much and just moseyed along.
6/6 We came up short on the amount of miles we were trying to achieve today. Had another encounter with two more rattle snakes who were less happy to see us than last nights. Sunny was leading the charge over an exposed rocky ridge and stepped on a loss rock, which happened to be the snakes home. He was awoken from his nap with a bonk on the head. I’d be pissed too. He rattled at Littlefoot and I, and we quickly backed away. We tried to find a navigable way around the snake and ended up finding another larger rattlesnake blocking that path too. Littlefoot and myself turned around and we’re going to back track half a mile to the bad weather bypass. Luckily Cobra Chris, now named the weather man, came to save the day and offered to move them for us. When we returned the snakes had left and luckily we didn’t see any more that day.
6/7 Today was a longer day to the natures inn hostel. The hostel was closed but all the doors were unlocked and myself, Sunny, and Littlefoot made ourselves right at home. When sitting at a picnic table to enjoy my cold ramen dinner, (it’s really not that bad), I got stung by a wasp.
6/8 Today was a short day with great food. We resupplied at a Walmart in the morning and I got 4 days of food for 2 days. Whoops. At least I won’t be hungry.
6/9 Hiked down a massive hill into uncle Johnny’s hostel. The long steep downhills are killers on the feet. I need to get new shoes at some point. Littlefoot and I went to a festival at the rafting place a mile up the road. I hate to do sideways miles, (miles that aren’t on the AT), but it was a good time and we met up with the Weatherman, Boxer, Muscles, Chloe, and Smiles.
6/10 Today wasn’t the best day. I woke up feeling like shit, with a headache and a stomach ache. Luckily I don’t think it’s norovirus, a common AT illness in the bubble. Today is the first 0 that I actually wanted to take. I missed out on a 20 mile Slack pack where Littlefoot, Sunny, and Sunshine ran downhill. It sounded like fun and I was very impressed with how fast they did it.
6/11 Still didn’t feel great but I didn’t want to miss another day of hiking. I felt better after lunch, being able to keep some food down.
6/12 Today has been my favorite day so far, going over the roan highlands and getting into The Station hostel. The highlands were amazing, going over grassy balds with different shrubs and beautiful flowers.
6/13 Leaving the hostel I could tell it was not going to be as fun as yesterday. It was a hot morning, the start of a heat wave. Luckily there was two waterfalls and a river to swim in which improved my mood. Being able to cool off in the water helped keep my moral high.
6/14 Unpredicted thunderstorm hit our camp at 2 am and lasted until 9 am. Stayed pretty dry in the tent but all the clothes I left to dry outside were soaked. Luckily my tent is a one wall tent, meaning it is always waterproof, but Littlefoot was not as lucky. She slept without her rain fly on to keep cooler at night. She was woken up by the rain but was able to throw the rain fly on before the heavy rain. We changed the plan to sleep in rather than get an early start. At least the storm helped with the heat.
6/15 We decided to cut our day short and spend the afternoon and night at boots off, a popular hostel. Got to swim in watauga lake and cool off from the heat. It was a good day, relaxing with friends. We caught back up with Boxer, Chloe, Vintage and the Weatherman strolled in later.
6/16 Started the day off with a nice walk around the lake. Stopped for lunch and was farther into the miles than we expected. When sunshine caught up he told our group he was hiking thru the night to Damascus. Immediately I was on board, and with a little convincing our plan to do 16.2 and then 26.2 became a 42.4 mile day in a single push. Hiking for 24 hours and taking a 2 hour nap break around 2 AM we made it to Damascus for breakfast.
6/17 Had breakfast in Damascus after hiking for 24 hours. Spent the afternoon resting and napping. Got to meet up with the gang for dinner and celebrate boxers birthday and completion of his hike.
6/18 Lovely day to do nothing. Taking a 0 in Damascus.
The Trail Is The Teacher
(This is not my best work so I apologize for the poor writing. I haven’t felt inspired to write lately but wanted to get the post out.)
To quote Pony, “The Trail is The Teacher”, and in the short amount of time I’ve been out here it has taught me a lot.
Slow down: The world and social media has curated the idea that the grind is the way to happiness. Working hard and long days to make money, to buy a nice car, a house, and taking expensive trips. I’ve known since freshman year of college that the grind mentality would never work for me. The trail has confirmed that I can live simply and happily, without many possessions, and in uncomfortable situations. The trail has taught me that the grind is less fun than slowing down. Doing longer mile days by myself is less fun than hanging with friends.
Comfort is subjective: cold showers and self discipline in other ways have taught me being uncomfortable is necessary to truly enjoy the comforts. The trail is uncomfortable but you can find comfort through other means than normal. Friends, thoughts, a text or call to loved ones, or a book to escape the pain. My friends have inspired me to get a book, not very ultralite of me, I know. That may not seem like a big deal but for me nothing goes in my pack that I feel is unnecessary weight, so for me to add something like a book is a big deal. Being in an uncomfortable situation makes you cherish the small things like a shower, a toilet, laundry, and even being able to throw away your trash.
How to deal with hard times and how to enjoy the good ones: suffering is a part of living. The lowest lows make the highest highs. Being with friends makes the hard days easier and the good days great.
Go with the flow: planning is important and helps me stay on top of tasks but it can be stressful to try and stick with a plan that may be to far out of reach. The trail has taught me and my friends that you can make a plan, but Mother Nature doesn’t care what your plan is and sometimes you need to change it. Whether it’s due to thunderstorms, heat, or underestimating the terrain. As I always say, make a plan, start hiking, throw away the plan.
Short term goals: having short term goals like a spot to stop for lunch or meet up with the group when we get separated makes the days more enjoyable and less stressful. Focusing on the end goal can be overwhelming as it is still many miles away.
Discipline: I am pretty good at being able to know when my brain doesn’t want to do something because it is going to hurt and then telling myself to shut up and go. It helps with many things, not only physical but mental as well. For example, approaching new people has always given me anxiety, which is an irrational fear, and being able to realize that and tell myself to push through helps.
(I wanted to upload the pictures with the stories but it is hard to do on a phone so hopefully posting them in a gallery like this doesn’t take away from the reading experience.)
This video is me being an absolute idiot before our 42.4 mile overnight hike. I was overly stoked to do it.