Day 20 of hiking has been a success!
Tonight I am updating from the Fontana Dam area while laying in the first real bed I’ve slept in since three weeks ago. To date, I’ve completed about 165 miles of the Appalachian Trail. It’s kind of surreal to be honest. This past week has been a roller coaster ride–including cold, rainy days to birthday festivities and trail magic/angels.
Saturday evening, I returned to Winding Stair Gap from Franklin thanks to a nice couple (Mark and Jan) who stopped to offer Rigga and I a ride. They were very sweet and told us they often look out for young hikers like us in town.
After taking their first “selfie” with us, we trudged up the hill with our heavy packs (only downside of resupplying). We didn’t get far into the woods before running across another group of thru-hikers and decided to set up camp near the creek.
The crew we joined had brought bell peppers, onions and other foods from town. We made shish-kabobs and roasted weenies on the fire. Everyone agreed that town stops seem increasingly stressful the longer we grow accustomed to life on the trail.
Sunday, I woke up and left camp fairly early. Rigga, Mudder and I were all hiking together when we spotted our first snake! He was trying to escape from us by crawling into a hole, but I was able to touch him before he got away.
There was a beautiful view later in the afternoon from the fire tower on top of Wayah Bald.
Monday was mostly rainy, but there was still a beautiful partial view of the mountains from Wesser Bald.
That evening a group of us sat by the fire, cooked dinner and got to spend some time with two families that are thru-hiking together. One family has ten children and the other has seven. Both families only brought five children from each family and one brought an uncle. To sum it up, a group of fifteen people are hiking together! It’s amazing how well put together the families are and they seem to get along wonderfully.
After cleaning up dinner, we all said our goodnights and headed to bed. That night it poured rain making Tuesday another soggy morning. Rigga and I gathered our things and were excited about heading into town for some coffee and lunch. At about noon, we wandered down into civilization at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC).
I sat on the deck at The River’s End and enjoyed my birthday lunch with a group of other hikers–and topped it off with a huge brownie Sunday!
After lunch we did laundry, checked into the hostel and bathed. During lunch we had spotted a fire pit near the river, so many of us thru hikers gathered together and started a fire before dark. Rigga and Gone led the group in singing me Happy Birthday. It was an awesome 29th–thank you to everyone who celebrated with me!
My favorite member of the big families–he gave me a sack of candy bars for my birthday!
Birthday party crowd
Fire by the Nantahala River
Duck enjoying a swim in Nantahala River
Looking down the Nantahala River
Also, thank you to Carol, Frank and Mom for the birthday packages. They made my day! I can’t explain how much the little surprises mean.
Wednesday, we checked out of the hostel, ate an enormous breakfast, purchased necessities and were ready to return to the trail around 2pm. About that time I received a call from Frank saying my ten year old blue tick baby, Sugar Belle, was not doing very well. She has liver issues and I was concerned her liver had begun to fail. Frank said she seemed to be in good spirits, but was lethargic and wasn’t drinking much water. He planned to
take her to the vet that evening. I headed on down the trail, but took it slow so I would have service to receive any news from the vet. I’ve heard the AT is more of a mental game than physical and I believe it now. It was only a 6-7 mile day, but it was the hardest day yet because I was worried about Sugar. Rigga went on to camp, so I was alone until I reached the shelter. It was pouring rain and miserably cold–not to mention, pretty tough terrain. At one point I violently threw my pack down, put my arms out, looked up at the rain and just let it fall all over me. I remembered a piece of advice I had received before I left to hike the AT–“Embrace the suck”–so, I did. Luckily, positive news came in before I reached camp. Sugar is not experiencing liver failure at the time, but she has eaten something foreign and has an intestinal infection. The vet seemed hopeful, but said he wanted to keep her for a couple days. About a half mile or so before camp, I ran into Bodyglide and Rebel Yell coming from the other direction. Apparently, Rigga and the two of them were worried because I hadn’t shown up at camp yet so they came looking for me. It may not seem like that big of a deal to those reading this from the comfort of a warm, dry atmosphere..but, knowing they hiked extra ground in the rain just to check on me after they had settled in at camp is HUGE to me being out on the trail. Their actions allowed me to realize how much hikers look out for each other and that I truly have met some special AT friends. When I arrived at camp, Rigga had even saved me a spot in the shelter so I wouldn’t have to fool with setting up my soggy tent!
Yesterday, I hiked the longest day yet–just over 15 miles! The rain was on and off all day. Surprisingly, I’ve actually grown to love the rain. It’s not pleasant being cold and wet, but the forest seems much more vibrant and green on rainy days..and the foggy trail is eerie, but almost magical.
At lunch, the rain cleared for a bit and I was able to capture a pretty picture at Stecoah Gap. Right before packing up lunch, Quest (a 2004 thru-hiker) showed up and offered us some oranges, bananas, apples, chips and granola bars.
Trail magic is wonderful. I can’t wait to pay it forward in the future.
This morning, I left Cable Gap Shelter and hiked to Fontana Dam. Camel, Rigga and I were hiking together when we approached a road leading to Fontana Village. We stick our thumbs out, and a very friendly woman named Ms. Coleen pulled over and offered to take us wherever we needed to go. She looked at Rigga and I and immediately said, “You girls need a hot shower!” During the ride to the lodge restaurant, Ms. Coleen told us her husband, Box Top, who has hiked a from Springer Mountain to Harper’s Ferry. Also, her daughter completed a thru-hike in 2003. Ms. Coleen and Box Top moved to the area about a year ago and have been helping hikers out since then. She offered us a warm bed, hot shower and home cooked meal. When she dropped us off at the restaurant for lunch, I stored her number and we said we would call in a couple hours. Over lunch, the three of us actively agreed we wanted to take her up on the offer! She came back and picked us up a few hours later which gave us time to unwind and relax with a group of other thru-hikers. Ms. Coleen drove us around the winding roads to her beautiful home that offers a spectacular view of the mountains.
She prepared Skyline chili with garlic bread and brownies and ice cream for desert. I was able to shower, do laundry, ice my ankle twice, blow dry my hair, flush a toilet (haha), charge my phone, and her husband even brought home some icy hot for us!
Box Top also tied up some cord in the garage so we could hang dry our tents. He told us about his journey in the past and we all talked about our gear and how technology has changed over the years. Going through his old
journal and guidebook, you could tell Box Top enjoyed reminiscing his own adventure. Ms. Coleen shared many stories and pictures of her beautiful children and grandchildren.
These amazing trail angels made three foul smelling, mucky, exhausted hikers feel clean, warm and welcome. I can’t thank them enough for all they have done for us.
After breakfast in the morning, as if they haven’t given enough, they are going to take us back to the trail head. We will never forget them and their remarkable hospitality. The experience was truly like going home.
The forecast is predicting rain–but, some sunny days would sure be appreciated. It’s hard to want to put on soppy, cold clothes and shoes in the morning. Luckily we’ve had one night out of it! The positive aspect of this rain, however, is Spring is finally starting to expose itself. Below are pictures I have captured in the past week so y’all can see how spring is beginning up here in the mountains–
As a side note, Sugar came home from the vet today! I’m so relieved. Well, need to get some sleep in this amazingly comfortable bed. Hope everyone is well–
Happy Trails 🙂