Day 55 – Back in Nashville

So all good things come to an end.

It’s been 55 days since I started walking at Springer Mountain Georgia.  I ended up in Damascus Virginia 466 miles later. Of the 55 days since I started this adventure, I spent 40 days and nights in true wilderness.  I took zero mile days in Hot Springs and Erwin, three days in Elk Park, and five days in Nashville, plus four days in Damascus at Trail Days. It was hard to leave the friends I’ve made and my ambitions of continuing on behind on the trail, but I’m at peace with the decision.  Some day I’ll go back and finish, maybe later this year, maybe next year, maybe five years from now.  It’ll happen on its own time.

Practical Lessons / Observations

I saw no bears but hallucinated plenty of them.

Nothing makes me feel more alive than night hiking in a thunder storm.

Rain and wet socks are really not that bad as long as the temperature stays above 45 degrees F.

If you hike 10+ miles a day, you can Snickers bars all day and still be in great shape and feel like a million bucks — I lost 9 pounds.

Bigger ahas.

The trail will give you exactly what you need when you need it.  Maybe 5 minutes after I remarked that it would be great to have a trekking pole for the descent into Nantahala, one appeared.  I saw and heard countless examples of this axiom.

Life is beautiful but it is also difficult.  The beauty makes it worth the difficulty.  The two days of relentless rain and cold in the Smokies were redeemed by the most beautiful rays of sunshine on Day 3.

There is nothing to be afraid of — for instance, solo camping was incredibly freaky at night, but in the morning when the sun came out I realized it was all in my head.

God is most powerfully present when he is most apparently absent.

Angels are alive. From Sweet Spot’s (Candy Henderson) much needed shuttles to spirit-lifting trail magic along the way, the generosity I experienced on the trail was incredible.

Big Thanks

Thanks to the Mudbutt Crew for making the last month of the trip so fun.  Shout outs to Firefox, Hambone, Sunshine Ninja, Baby Scrooge, W, Water Boy, Jabbs, Red Bull, Rollin, Strider, Sweet Spot, Yodel, Yukon, Love Machine, Sheep, Slopes, Slayer, Desperado, Micro, Eastwood, Byline, Lady Forward, Daffy, Tom, Firestarter and Bushwacker, Animal, Alyson, Brad G, the Chandlers, the Rosses, and everyone else I met along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 51 Closing in on Damascus VA

Day 51, Mile 456.

To close the loop on the beginning of the adventure to Nashville: Sweet Spot picked me up in Hampton TN (near Johnson City), we drove to North Georgia to pick up my car. On the way we passed through a number of trail towns and saw familiar sights and old friends.

Upon arriving at Amicalola State Park my car battery was dead (expected due to call from the ranger to home — apparently my lights came on during a storm). Worse the car was flooded (cause unknown) with an inch or two of water only on the driver side floorboards. As if the car decided to roll down the windows and roll them back up again? Anyways, we mopped up the water with our pack towels and jumped the car. The car started thankfully and other than some weird electrical issues (spontaneously engaging hazard lights for four hours provided the comedy for the four hour journey) and constantly sloshing water on Slopes feet in the back seat it made it home. However something is wrong with the battery because it won’t hold a charge. If you leave it turned off it goes dead.
Needless to say car is in the shop. And I left my car at home for this next leg of the journey.

Settling back in to life on the trail. On Monday I drove a rental car up from Nashville with Slopes, Sheep, and Love Machine. I dropped them off and then returned the rental. After trying to hitch for a few minutes the sky opened up and I sheepishly secured a shuttle in a town car. He dropped me off where I left off at approximately 9pm. Rain had stopped and it felt good to be back on the trail. Night hiked up and over Pond Mountain through a violent and voracious thunderstorm….everything got wet and some stuff is still drying two days later! Trail welcoming me back I guess.

Tuesday morning hiked down to Watauga Lake and enjoyed some Gatorades and a Coke that were left as trail magic. Did about 15 miles and wound up at Iron Mountain shelter. Rain started about 9pm and I called it a night.

Today I hiked about 15 miles and also dashed to Shady Valley TN for a small resupply + burger. Burger was just ok.
Hitched back with a 2011 thru hiker headed for Trail Days.

Which brings me to Damascus, 10 miles north and the site of Trail Days which begins on Friday officially. It’s the biggest event on the trail and full of workshops, free food, gear vendors. It’s supposed to be awesome.

After Damascus I may try to get a ride back to Nashville and wrap up this journey – we will see. A part of me would like to continue on but I feel like I need to get home and move on to the next chapter. Really want to spend some time in Seattle this summer.

Hope everyone is well!

Day 46? Driving back to the trail

Spent the weekend in Nashville. Went to Lindsey’s wedding, had a cookout to celebrate Erin’s birthday, got a hair cut showered and shaved, caught up with friends.

Headed back to the trail for at least a few more weeks. Will have to download everyone on the crazy adventure to get my car back. Happy to be headed back out. Enjoy the before and after pictures. The beard is gone for a while!

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Day 38 – Erwin to Elk Park

This entry covers the section from Erwin TN to Elk Park NC.

Sitting by the side of the road waiting for a ride.

Left Erwin five days ago after taking a zero day. Walked with Firefox and Sunshine and we made it to the first shelter out of Erwin, which was tucked into a nice grove of rhododendron and spruce.

The next day we hiked 13 miles over Unaka Mountain. I saw an owl and a nest of baby phoedes (sp?). The climb up Unaka was strenuous, but the summit was an expansive spruce forest and really cool. Clouds started rolling in and I remarked to Firestarter and Bishwhacker that I sure hoped it wasn’t going to rain. Soon thereafter the sky opened up and there was a thunderstorm. I huddled in a spruce grove and waited for the worst to pass. Cheese Wiz and Firefox came running down the trail and chilled with me for a minute to avoid the nickel sized hail. We made a run for it and my shoes were immediately drenched. We weren’t far off from the next shelter and about an hour later we were dry and listening to Firestarter play the uke and cooking dinner and filling our bellies and all was good.

The next morning we had our sights set on food from Greasy Creek Hostel. On the way we encountered some trail magic and drank Cokes. We made it to Greasy Creek around 2pm and I ate a Cheesburger and a pint of Cherry Garcia. The hostel owner Connie was a hoot – she was an excellent cook, friendly as could be, and a great host. Apparently she has an unfriendly mentally ill neighbor that constantly tries to sabotage her operations. She showed us signs that he had made great pains to post on the trail that read things like: “Attn hikers. Greasy Creek Hostel is closed due to sickness” and “Hostel closed due to death in family… Please respect us during this time of profound grief. No calls or visits please.” The food was great and well worth the trek… We avoided the crazy neighbor.

Leaving Greasy Creek around 3pm I wondered how I would make it to the top of Roan Mtn by nightfall. My shin started to hurt about 10 miles in so that only made matters worse. I finally made it to the base of Roan around 7pm at Hughes Gap and some nameless carless road.

The sunset hike up Roan was beautiful. The hillI began with broad switchbacks and a gently graded trail. I popped in Bon Iver and Jack Johnson in Concert on the iPod and jammed up the hill. The sun was setting beautifully through the spruce trees as the climb got steeper. As I was nearing the top of the bald I turned on my headlamp, which promptly stopped working (dead batteries). When my batteries get low, I’m still able to flash the headlamp on and off, so essentially I was hiking to a strobe light for the last 30 minutes of the journey. The bald didn’t have expansive views and I couldn’t see much anyways, but I sat in the unusually warm spring night, resting in the grass and enjoyed another moment of the clarity and serenity that comes when everything is just right, even when it isn’t, headlamp out of commission and all. I stumbled for the last few minutes to camp and was grateful to hear familiar voices, yogi some new batteries, and tent in the spruce forest near the summit of Roan (probably the highest elevation I will camp at on the trail at 6200 feet).

The next day we hiked for 14 miles in a hurry to close in on Elk Park, where we planned to stay with Sunshine’s family. We hit trail magic twice, both near the base of Roan – a class of middle schoolers from Bristol and a local couple. The hike was beautiful and climbed several balds with incredible views. I flushed a grouse for the first time. I ate lunch at a shelter and was soon joined by the band of hikers that had been at Roan the night before. We wrote a community postcard to the middle school science class that had provided trail magic and shared in the plunder.

We hiked on to Overmountain Shelter, a converted red barn with incredible views, and hung out there for several hours. We got motivated around 5pm and started off, despite the foreboding looming clouds. The rain started as we descended Little Hump and we could see lightning miles off in the distance. We decided to keep going as the weather looked more promising above Big Hump. So we started up the Bald, rain spitting horizontally into our ears wondering how stupid we had been for deciding to continue but stupefied also by the beauty of the clear skies to our left battling with the storm to our right. And then the storm literally vanished and we had a breathtaking hike off of Big Hump, spotted some white tailed deer near the summit, and walked for an hour or so longer descending Big Hump, off the bald, through the forest and camped near a cow pasture called Doll Flats. It was just the Elk Park Crew (Sunshine, Firefox, Hambone, and myself) and we had a fire and listened to music and stayed up too late – it was a nice end to one of the best days on the trail so far.

The following morning we rolled into Elk Park which has been an adventure in and of itself.

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