Can I just take a moment to thank all the trail angels in my life? You have been doing so much since I started at Springer, y’all are awesome. I sincerely hope I don’t forget anyone here:
Kelly and Milton: you are amazing. I wish you could have hiked with me. But, it was so wonderful to see you and talk. And the Wolfpack and I are indebted to you.
Mom and Dad: you have been handling things in the “real world” for me…not sure what the real world is anymore, but know that I appreciate you more than anything. Miss you both, looking forward to seeing you in Vermont.
Erin: you’re care package meant the world. Best brownie ever, and I loved the triplets art work. Totally made my day!
Gingersnap: I would not be where I am now if it weren’t for you. I mean this so sincerely….you saved my hike. I cannot thank you enough, but, know that if it weren’t for you, I would have been off the trail in Franklin.
Mrs. Jenness: your energy and care in Gatlinburg was truly amazing. You made me feel like family.
Maddie: your help is paramount. Thanks for being my co-producer. I am at ease knowing your taking care of my footage.
Erwin and Rosemary: laundry, food, a bed, rides….your hospitality was amazing.
I’ve encountered other trail magic along the way, but, these instances were individually given to me through friends and family. It means a great deal. Y’all keep me strong. Thank you!
The Trail is like high school. Word spreads so fast on here, and people will just talk without knowing what they are talking about. I have been so proud to camp most nights with and be a part of the Wolfpack. What people don’t know about us? A majority of us are hiking for a cause. Diabetes, fallen soldiers, main street organization, you name it. We range in age from late teens to forties. We relax after a long day of hiking by having a fire and singing along to some guitar playing. We howl as a form of communication, which on a crappy day has made me feel so much better, because I knew a good friend was within earshot. We never let a friend go without food and we make sure a member never goes missing. We look out for one another. We are family. Don’t be threatened by us because we are a big group. We welcome all. But most of all, we don’t spread rumors about others. We are all hiking the trail, we are all the same, no better no worse.
Cannot believe I hit the 200 mile marker today. So unbelievable. And what a place to hit it, on top of the highest point along the Appalachian Trail : Clingman’s Dome. It was freezing the whole way up, windy and I swear it felt like it was 40 degrees at best.
The day just got better as Spam’s Mom met us and took us into Gatlinburg, TN. Kinda a tourist trap and slightly overwhelming, it was still pretty cool, and I was beyond thankful to get out of the cold Smokies and into a warm hotel room for the night.
On another, rip off the thru-hikers note, Gatlinburg will charge you 2.25 cents for say a Corona if you are a “local” as they put it, but, if you are not a “local” you are charged 4.50 for that same beer. Wow, nice southern hospitality, huh?
On one other note, it seems I have become a local attraction wherever I go. If I have a pack on, it is a high probability that I will be asked to have my picture taken with someone’s child, I should start charging snacks for the photos, cause my hiker appetite has picked up something fierce. Also, it seems I can have showered, washed my clothes and still, someone will look me up and down and say: “You must be hikin’ the trail”. Either my stink never goes away, or I have the “hiker trash” look as we like to call it, haha. I do have to say, seeing this tourist mecca only makes me want to run back to the mountains. The silly stores and overpriced goods are so not worth the time and attention. I miss the mountains already!!!! Get me out!!!
I have a bone to pick with North Carolina. First of all, the trail needs some serious maintenance. I can’t even keep it counted on two hands how many huge downed trees there were and how overgrown all of the plants are. Now, alone, that wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that the shelters were so disgusting. Either Georgia had me spoiled, or my standards are too high. But, when there is no broom to sweep out the dust and the dust is inches thick where you are supposed to rest your head for a night, that is a problem. don’t even get me started on the privy’s. Half of them openly face the trail and none of them are maintained. Probably the worst thing, that I must mention, with a serious note, is the road crossings. One in particular. Now, in the towns the people have been wonderful, don’t get me wrong. North Carolina is filled with good people that are kind to thru-hikers. As a matter of fact, I saw some amazing trail magic in this state (thank you to Grits and Possum in particular for that!) BUT one incident occurred which made me, as well as others very angry. A thru-hiker was approaching a road crossing in North Carolina, specifically, And a truck drove in to the crossing area. As it was dark, this hiker had his headlamp on. He shut it off when the truck rolled in. The truck then shut off its headlights and waited. Some of the hikers friends were just a mile ahead. After waiting a long time the hiker went to cross and as soon as he was closer to the road the trucks headlights turn on, blinding the hiker. Two men stepped out of the truck. You know when someone yells “hey, hiker!” that they probably aren’t going to offer any kind of trail magic. They offered the hiker whiskey, to which he declined. They then asked if he was alone or in a group. He replied he was in a group and that there were more behind him too. He tried to walk forward and cross the main road to get back on the trail. They followed asking him if he had any money. Luckily, a car drove by giving the hiker enough time to run away on up the trail. This behavior is not okay. It is amazing to me that this is taking place. Number one, hikers are broke. We don’t have money, so quit trying to mug us, or charge us jacked up prices for food (which we have to eat a ton of, considering our job is to wake up and walk more miles in a day than the average person walks in a week). Number two, If you are waiting for a hiker and harassing them, you’re a scumbag. Plain and simple. Those are the kind of people that make our loved ones scared for our survival. Ironically, most people worry we are going to get eaten by bears or someone deep in the woods is going to murder us and wear our skin, or some incarnation of that. The reality is when we hit civilization we are more likely to get robbed, attacked or harassed. The woods is by far, the safest place I have ever been and it angers me that crazies try and ruin that by waiting at road crossings for us. Not cool. Not cool at all.
Things have certainly gone up, despite more blisters and my shoes not fitting as best as I thought they would. Met a great group of hikers called the Wolfpack and they certainly make me
feel like I’m at home. It started with some amazing trail magic where I wound up driving the trail magic givers truck to the local Ingles to purchase more beverages. There was a great fire and some good food.
Made it to the N.O.C. shortly after in Bryson City, NC. Some of us decided to go white water rafting in the middle of the day before hitting the big up out of the N.O.C. What a blast. I was elected Captain since I had previous experience rafting and got to steer. Everything was going swimmingly, until we went into a rapid with a warning sign that read “BUMP”. Taking the raft sideways into the rapid was probably not the smartest idea as Casanova, Trucker and I went flying overboard. Luckily, Damn Yankee and Squishy pulled us back in the raft. Despite some wet hiking clothes, it was so worth it.
What would follow that? A night hike, for almost 7 miles up a really tough mountain. Couldn’t have asked for a better day, for sure.
There has been a lot going on, and I can’t even begin to get into all of it. But, what I can tell you, my amazingly supportive readers (whose comments I look forward to) is about one moment in the trail today. This moment made me feel like I am a part of the Appalachian Trail. Hiking along side a mountain in North Carolina, the sun has been beating down all day, basking me in this beautiful glow. I’ve been watching my feet and the immediate path beneath, so as not to make a misstep. All of a sudden, this shadow passes overhead…the birds wingspan nearly covers me and I look to my left, and there is the most amazing bird flying away. It had to be as big as I am tall and the seconds it took to pass on out of sight felt like an eternity. This is what the trail is all about. This is why I fight the pain. This is why I am here.