Day 41 (May 3rd): Bog to Campsite at Unnamed Gap

Miles hiked today: 22.9
Miles hiked total: 461.2
Miles to go: 1724.1

Biggest mile day so far! The weather was really nice, sunny but breezy, and the terrain was pretty gentle. We got to the campsite at 6:30, which is pretty impressive, I think.

We left camp this morning at 8:00 and shortly after leaving a bunch of runners told us they left donuts at the road after the mountain. We had no idea how far away this road was, but Stylez and Wing It wanted those donuts so we passed the first shelter without stopping in and kept on going until we reached the road at 10:30. Not only did they have donuts waiting for them, they also got trail magic left by a church right before the road.

On our way to the road, a man we’ve seen a couple of times these past few days made a comment when we passed him at the shelter. He said to Merman, “I gotta beat these kids to the road so that I can get those donuts!” I shouted back to him not to worry, that I don’t eat donuts and he can have mine. Then, after hiking for a bit, we all stopped because two deer were on the side of the trail standing perfectly still and looking in our direction. I took my phone out to take a picture and Stylez and Wing It kept hiking. I had the phone raised and was about to snap the picture when the man came up behind me. I told him that there were two deer on the side of the trail, and instead of stopping, he raised his poles up into the air, walked in front of my camera, and yelled, “photobomb!” His noise scared the two deer away and I wasn’t able to get my picture. What an ass.

We talked with a trail maintainer for a bit while Stylez and Wing It ate their donuts. We also hiked on and off with Merman and two other hikers named Fletch and Sam.

At Low Gap, a man was waiting with water for any hiker who needed it. His name was Polar Bear and he’s been serving the trail for 30+ years. He’s living in a full house and uses his trail magic duties as a means for escape.

Tomorrow we cross into Virginia! I’m so excited to finally be there! I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. We have six miles into Damascus and we should get there by 10:00 at the latest. We’re going to grab an early lunch and then hit up the outfitters. I’m ready for this zero!

Ta-ta for now!

 

 

Day 40 (May 2nd): Waycaster Spring to Bog

Miles hiked today: 19.1
Miles hiked total: 438.3
Miles to go: 1747.0

This morning I started the day with an epic uphill climb up Pond Flats Mountain, which was anything but flat. It took a couple of hours to climb up and down the whole thing, and by the time we reached Watauga Lake, it was lunch time. The lake was really pretty with picnic areas to rest at and even bathrooms with flushing toilets! We enjoyed lunch, threw out our trash, used the bathrooms a couple of times, and then continued hiking. We wanted to get some big miles in today because we’re anxious about making it to Damascus in two days for our next zero day.

After leaving the lake, we got stuck behind a prison crew out maintaining the trail. Once we passed them, we were able to pick up our speed a bit. It was a six mile climb, or so, to the next shelter (mostly uphill), and we were all anxious to get there. Stylez quickly got ahead and reached the shelter maybe 10 minutes or so before I did. The climb up was a bit of a drag, in my opinion. I kept thinking the shelter would be right around the corner, and then ten minutes would pass and there was still no sight of it. I started to think it just didn’t exist, or that I had missed it. But then I heard voices and knew it must be close.

At the shelter I talked with a section hiker for a bit and also met a new thru-hiker named Merman. He has long red hair and a red beard and ultimately looks like Ariel’s twin brother, which is rather awesome. I only stopped at the shelter for maybe 20 minutes or so before deciding to press on. There were still four more miles to hike and not a lot of time left in the day, so we boogied on down the trail.

We’ve set up camp tonight in a bog and camping near us is a thru-hiker named Sherpa, who’s an older hiker and he has the same tent as me (except the 2-person version).

Okay, time to sleep! I’m hoping to hike a 20-miler tomorrow so I gotta get a lot of rest!

TTFN.

Day 39 (May 1st): Upper Laurel Fork to Waycaster Spring

Miles hiked today: 14.2
Miles hiked total: 419.2
Miles to go: 1766.1

Not much to mention about today. The rain held off during the night, and I slept great! Best sleep I’ve gotten since entering North Carolina.

We left camp around 8:00 and crossed several streams and springs before finally reaching the “Hardcore Cascades”. There was really nothing hardcore about the cascades, and I found them to be rather disappointing. They were nice to look at, for sure, but the cascades looked like every other river crossing we’ve come across. Anyway, we filtered water and kept moving. We planned to take a snack break three miles later at some rock outcroppings, but when we got there a cloud engulfed the mountain and we weren’t able to see anything so we continued on to the shelter, which was only .1 miles away.

When we got there, everything was still in a cloud and I got very cold and had to put some layers on. Wing It and I ate lunch while Stylez ate some snacks, and then we got moving again. After lunch we kept hiking and had some uphills before we got to the really big downhill of the day. We talked a bit about the songs that have been stuck in our heads, which led to talking about musicals.

During our hike, we came across an old abandoned barn. I went to pee behind it and it sounded like the shutters were banging against the window frames, but there were no shutters! Very creepy!

We also finally got to see Laurel Falls, which actually were impressive (unlike the Hardcore Cascades). We had to climb down a bunch of rocks to get there and it was a rather difficult descent. It was incredibly steep and slow-going. When we finally got to the falls, though, it was worth it.

After leaving the falls, we came upon an awesome little campsite right next to the river with a fire pit and we decided to stop here for the night.

Wing It has a nice fire going, so I’m going to go enjoy it!

TTFN!

Day 38 (April 30th): Mountain Harbour Hostel to Upper Laurel Fork

Miles hiked today: 13.2
Miles hiked total: 405.0
Miles to go: 1780.3

We left the hostel today around 11:00 with a plan to hike 8.7 miles to the Mountaineer Shelter and decide how much farther to hike at that point. The trail went up for a bit before finally going back down and leveling out. We probably could have moved much faster than we did, but we went at a nice relaxed pace instead, which I enjoyed. We caught up with Fitty Shrimp (part of the original Shrimp Gang) at a side trail to Jones Falls, where we stopped for a couple of minutes to enjoy the massive waterfall.

When we finally got to the shelter, it was 3:00. We ate lunch and decided to keep hiking for another couple of hours. The weather was cooperating and the terrain looked pretty decent, so we saw no reason to hang around. We eventually came upon a bench erected in memory of a man who apparently had very little, but gave so much. We were offered a pretty view, and I had service and got a text from Woodstock, who’s going to try to meet up with us in Damascus. That kid hikes so darn fast!

I felt pretty good today hiking. My pack was a little heavy, but not unreasonably so. It did start to hurt my back though and I was fidgeting a lot with the straps. The balls of my feet keep getting pretty sore and I think it’s from the SuperFeet. I’m just not sure how long it takes to break them in. I’m going to hike with them for another couple of days and see how my feet feel then before making any decisions.

TTFN.

Day 37 (April 29th): Overmountain Shelter to Mountain Harbour Hostel

Miles hiked today: 8.7
Miles hiked total: 391.8
Miles to go: 1793.5

The wind from inside the barn when we woke up this morning sounded treacherous, and many people decided to zero at the barn to stay out of the bad weather. I had a reservation at Mountain Harbour Hostel in Roan Mountain, TN, though, so I packed up and then braced myself for whatever weather I was about to experience.

Thankfully, it never rained on me, but boy was it windy!! I went over a couple of bald summits on my way into town and the wind literally knocked me over at times. I’d have to say that the wind blew at a constant speed of 30 or 40 mph, and the wind gusts reached 70 mph. I got blown off the trail numerous times and had to bend my knees, bow my head, square my shoulders, plant my poles into the ground, and try as hard as I could to stand my ground and stay standing up right. As soon as the wind would die down, I’d book it up the trail only to make it a couple of feet before being blown off it again. It was fun, for sure, but incredibly exhausting.

The rest of the hike into town wasn’t bad, but I had to side step a lot of worms that got washed up to the surface. There was one worm that I saw that actually made me stop in my tracks. It was the largest worm I’ve ever seen in my life. It looked like this worm ate all of the other worms in the entire world; it was a worm on steroids, a genetically modified super organism. It was probably a quarter in diameter and more than a foot long. It was so massive that I forgot to be grossed out by it and instead was insanely intrigued.

Once we got to the hostel, we were pleased to see Longhorn and Lotus there, as well as another hiker named Tortoise. They all zero’d there to avoid the rain that never came, and we’re now all relaxing in the common room watching Apollo 13.

Stylez, Wing It, and I have all decided to watch as many Tom Hanks movies as possible while on the trail. We’ve already watched Turner and Hooch, and now Apollo 13. Let’s see how many more we’re able to fit in before this adventure is over!

TTFN.

Day 36 (Apil 28th): Clyde Smith Shelter to Overmountain Shelter

Miles hiked today: 15.0
Miles hiked total: 383.1
Miles to go: 1802.1

Today we had a threat of thunderstorms all day. We had 15 miles to hike and Roan Mountain to go over, which was a 2000-foot climb over roughly 5 miles, so we tried to move pretty quickly.

Last night, it rained a bit while we were sleeping, but when I woke up this morning, my rain fly was almost completely dry. It was so windy that most of the raindrops had been blown off.

The rain, thankfully, held off for most of the day, though ominous rain clouds were present in the sky. As I climbed Roan Mountain, it was incredibly windy, which I loved because it cooled me off, but it also made me hike with a sense of urgency because I kept expecting the sky to open up. At the top of Roan Mountain is Roan High Knob Shelter, the highest shelter on the AT at 6,194 feet. Stylez, Wing It, and I all agreed that the last place we wanted to be in the middle of a thunder and lightning storm was at the top of a mountain in the highest shelter, so we pushed on to Overmountain Shelter, which is an old converted barn.

We all thought the day was supposed to be rather easy  after hiking Roan, but then we got to Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Grassy Ridge Bald and thought differently. The path up all three was incredibly rocky and unstable and by the time I reached the top of the third bald, my feet were in a lot of pain. I led the downhill to Stan Murray Shelter and went slowly because every step hurt my feet. When I got to that shelter, I had to sit down and elevate my feet for a couple of minutes before continuing on to the barn. From Stan Murray Shelter, the barn was 1.9 miles away and it was mostly downhill. We took our time because we all had sore feet and finally made it to the shelter at 3:30.

The rain held off all day. It was windy and we hiked through clouds at times, but overall the weather and temperature weren’t bad. About 30 or 40 minutes after reaching the barn, thunder started rumbling and it started to pour. The storm probably only lasted for 30 minutes and there was no lightning. The sun came out after and the sky was blue again. It was actually really beautiful to see.

Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy with storms, but I’m hoping we’ll be able to make it to the hostel we’re staying at before it gets really bad since we only have 9 miles to go.

TTFN

Day 35 (April 27th): Indian Grave Gap to Clyde Smith Shelter

Miles hiked today: 17.8
Miles hiked total: 368.1
Miles to go: 1817.2

Today was a hot one! It got up into the 80s today. I love the sun, but it definitely does take a lot out of me!

At the beginning of the day, I had an incident with a bunch of thorn bushes. This seems to happen to me a lot, actually. Every time I have to pee, I try to step off the trail and find a place in the woods to go. However, it seems like thorns grow all over the place down in these here parts and I’m constantly walking through dense thorn bushes, despite my best efforts to avoid them. This morning, I was climbing up what I thought was a grassy bald when the urge to pee struck, so I dropped my pack and walked off the trail to go. However, what looked like long grass actually ended up being long grass with thorns. Lots and lots of thorns. By the time I peed and caught up with Stylez and Wing It, the blood from my cuts was dripping down my legs and I had to take a few seconds to clean myself up with some alcohol wipes Stylez gave me. Oops! (and ouch!)

At the top of Beauty Spot Gap, a couple of people were out for a weekend hike and offered to carry our trash out for us. Awesome trail magic! Trash can take up a surprisingly large amount of space in my pack and it was nice to be rid of it!

After saying goodbye to the day hikers, we got to climb up the beautiful Unaka Mountain, which is covered in a dense spruce forest. It felt so nice to enter the shade. The temperature dropped significantly, and that’s where the three of us stopped for lunch.

A little later in the day we stopped at Cherry Gap Shelter to get more water, and the Kallin Family and Lotus were there. We rested with them until a scary incident happened that prompted us to get out of there as quickly as possible: Robin Hood, the 9-year-old, went to pet a dog belonging to section hikers and the dog nipped at him. The owner of the dog then brought the dog behind the shelter and we all listened as he beat and yelled at his dog. It was terrible. The man kept swearing and saying that his dog has never done that before and that he should put a bullet through his head. Eventually Wing It spoke up and said, “I think the dog’s got the picture”, and Stylez and I practically ran from the shelter in an attempt to put as much space between that man and ourselves as possible. It was just awful. The dog definitely didn’t deserve that kind of treatment, and Robin Hood and the Kallin family felt terrible.

At Iron Mountain Gap, we found trail magic, and the Kallin Family, Lotus, Stylez, Wing It, and I took another break and rested in the shade. We left the gap at 3:00, hiked six more miles, and made it to the shelter by 5:30. We were expecting to see Blacksmith here, but he’s apparently Pink Blazing Cowboy, one of the German girls, again, so he hiked past the shelter in an effort to catch up with her. He evidently learned nothing from his talk with Wing It.

Also, good news – my parents are definitely coming down to Virginia to visit me during Trail Days! I can’t wait!

TTFN