Hi everyone/howdy y’all (despite efforts to resist southern American slang is contagious!). A lot has happened since I last posted – I wanted to share where I am and what’s been going on.
I’m currently sat in the shade escaping the fierce afternoon heat at “Uncle Johnny’s” hostel. The hostel sits right next to the AT and the Nolichucky river just outside the small town of Erwin, Tennessee. This is the 31st day of my Thru-Hike and so far I’ve covered 343.7 miles – will probably do ten or so later today when the heat dies down.
Physically/health-wise I’m in good shape. No major injuries or illnesses sustained yet (touch wood!) and I definitely feel like I’m getting into the swing of the hike after the first few weeks. There have absolutely been some tough times along the way, but I haven’t had a single day when I regretted being out here and embracing this challenge.
When I last posted, I had recently crossed into North Carolina for the first time. Looking back at the miles I’ve covered, the hike is characterized by “hops” from one major waypoint/landmark to another, which typically takes three days plus. At each waypoint, hikers are concentrated in a few well-known spots. Time in town flies by. People recharge (literally and metaphorically!) and resupply. They shower, clean stuff and heal up. They indulge in the delights of town food/alcohol (the stuff of dreams when you’re out in the backcountry). Separated friends catch up and regroup, people socialize/party, some wait for mail drops and others organise fun side-adventures like going fishing or white water rafting.
The hiking “hops” from my last update near state lines to present day have been as follows:
- GA/NC State lines to Franklin
- Franklin to Fontana Dam (Gateway to Smoky Mountains)
- Tbrough the Smoky Mountains (Fontana Dam to Standing Bear hostel)
- Standing Bear Hostel to Hot Springs
- Hot Springs to Uncle Johnnys/Erwin
Looking ahead – everyone is focused on hitting as many miles as possible to get to Damascus for the 18th, which is the start of Trail Days”. Trail Days is a legendary multi-day thru-hiker festival and party which attracts a huge number of people – D-Town residents, thru-hikers (past and present). Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to or hiked with is going to be there (one way or another!) and people are excited. Damascus is 126 miles ahead and we have seven days to get there. I want to get as close as I can by hiking – a hitch (there and back afterwards) is very much plan B. It’s going to be intense!
If internet and battery permits, I’ll revisit these previous sections on the blog and share the stories from my hike, it’s been awesome.
I’ll leave you for now with an amusing story from yesterday. I “cowboy camped” (no tent, just sleeping bag under the stars) day before yesterday on “Big Bald” mountain. In the middle of the night, I rolled over and a sudden gust blew my inflatable pillow off the side of the mountain! I’d raised my head for just a second and it was gone. I got up but it was pitch dark and the wind was howling. Zero chance of finding it, so I grumpily went back to sleep. You never appreciate just how nice a pillow is out here until it’s gone!
The next day, after watching the sunrise I told the other hikers about my pillow woes (to their amusement and sympathy), then we hurriedly got off Big Bald after being ambushed suddenly by a cloud that dumped horizontal rain right on top of us. I scrambled two miles down to the next shelter to regroup. All the while, I scanned the hillsides looking for my pillow to no avail. At the shelter, I was tucking into some porridge and ramen (separately) when another hiker (Chandler) popped up and handed me the pillow! He’d found it just off the trail in a bush about half a mile from the summit. I could barely contain my excitement and the reunion caused great amusement to everyone in the shelter. “The trail provides” – as they say! Here’s a pic of the historic moment (featuring the latest in trail fashion, my Zpacks Rain Kilt).
Lots of love everyone – T x