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 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!

20120514-143951.jpg

20120514-144006.jpg

Day 12 Siler Bald, NC

Camping at Siler Bald Shelter, Mile 114 from Springer. It’s crazy to me that I’ve hiked over 100 miles since I started.

The AT is easy. You’re like a space monkey, you get into this routine. No stress, just pack up your stuff and walk, eat, walk, chill at campfire, relax, eat, sleep, push a button get a treat. People are friendly, scenery is spectacular, life is beautiful.

The AT is hard. You hike up and over every mountain in your path. Your legs and knees are constantly tight. You’re away from home, a little homesick, you feel alone sometimes even in a crowd of people. The food is what you make of it. You hike whether or not you feel like it, through the rain, wet blistered feet. You stink. People snore.

Anyways, I’m taking the good with the bad and still having fun and staying positive.

20120407-214619.jpg

20120407-214559.jpg

 

20120407-214545.jpg 20120407-214529.jpg 20120407-214504.jpg20120407-214619.jpg

Day 11 Sapphire Inn Franklin NC

Writing this from the Sapphire Inn in Franklin NC, a trail town about 10 miles from the AT.

Last night we had a crazy rain storm around 9pm as we were just drifting off to sleep in Carter Gap Shelter. The rain was beating down on the tin roof so loud I wondered if I would be able to sleep. We all mobilized and grabbed our packs to secure them on the dry inside wall of the shelter. The rain continued for several hours, but I managed to drift off to sleep.

I was awoken in the middle of the night by two hikers entering the shelter who apparently had been night hiking and were caught in the storm. I was surprised to see in the morning that it was Shakespeare and Uncle Grant, who I hadn’t seen for a few days.

Last night I decided that I was sick of my food (quinoa and Vienna sausages are a bad combo) and wanted to haul ass into Franklin to resupply… So we hiked 12 miles through the rain and fog and ultimately sun over rain filled creeks, scary granite escarpments, and Mt Albert, down through flat hollows and green tunnels to Franklin.

josh and I yogied our way into these guys camp and dried our socks over their fire.

For much of the morning the fog was so think that otherwise expansive vistas were replaced by an abyss of fog. (see picture).

Josh and I hauled ass with Rollin and Strider in the afternoon to Rock Gap where we were picked up by Ron Haven who owns most of Franklin it seems and has about about 17 jobs and is running for county commissioner.

Anyways heading back for the trail tomorrow after a AYCE church breakfast.

20120406-233457.jpg

20120406-233516.jpg

 

Day 10 – Standing Indian Mt. NC

Sitting in a green tunnel near the summit of Standing Indian Mt. Elevation is 5498, highest point so far I think on the AT.

Crossed into North Carolina yesterday. Eleven or twelve mile day into Muskrat Creek Shelter. Lots of big uphill climbs…. Dubya said “don’t tell me we have to climb that one. Did he even have to ask? The AT seems to march over every mountain in its path.

Still having fun and feeling strong. Check out the pic from the ridge last night.

Oh yeah and I have a trail name…. Its Weatherman. I predict the weather better than the geniuses sitting at their desks with their hearts in a box. Starting to go a little native… Day 10 holy smokies here we come.

Will be in Franklin NC on Friday or Saturday.

 

20120405-140758.jpg

20120405-140814.jpg

Day 6/7

It’s the morning of Day 7. I’m at Indian grave gap somewhere around mile 56.

I’m at the Feast in the Forest. It’s unbelievable. These guys from Wisco are having a weeklong trail magic session for thru hikers. Such a welcome change to not have to hang a bear bag or cook a generic flavorless dinner!

Hiked 13 miles or so yesterday – met alyson about four and went into Helen, which is like a Georgian Gatlinburg. Had a 3/4 burger and no issues downing it.

Still having a great time. The AT is like this parallel universe, a mix of a pilgrimage and a party of wheels, a marathon and Bonnaroo.

20120402-075636.jpg 20120402-075645.jpg

 

Day 4

Camping in Neels Gap, mile 30 on the proper trail, have hiked 38 miles so far.

Woke up around 530 and watched the sunrise. Around 730 ran into some 40-something brothers who had thru hiked before and encouraged us to be nice to the locals. Starting hiking about 8, saw a family of white tailed deer.

Hiked with Ryan and Tom for most of the day.

No trail name yet

Thunderstorms briefly prior to our Summit of Blood Mtn, beautiful and expansive views. Lots of rocks on the way down. Tired bruised feet (not that bad).

Got a cabin in neels gap with a group of guys. Took a shower!!!! Laundry!!!

No bears unfortunately.

20120330-191541.jpg