I have a great pillow. It’s super light and you can inflate it to just the right pressure. I actually have two, due to the beneficence of my dad, so theoretically I could have one under my head and one between my poor exhausted legs (side sleeper).
Unfortunately, I did not bring either pillow on this trip.
In January, when I first met Gonzo, I gave him SUCH a hard time for his clothing pillow. He would arrange it just so and then cover it with a cotton scarf that he’d been given. It was lumpy and you couldn’t reposition it easily. I think I made fun of it every single night.
And now, here I am with barely any extra clothing. The extra clothes that I do bring I intend to sleep in. So my extra clothes are…a rain jacket, a pair of shorts (that I brought to wear when I retape my knees or to wear over my extra leggings, because they’re thin and a little see through), and a rain jacket. I decided to make do with just the hood in my jacket so I could add my hat to the lumpy pile too. It would usually be at least one pair of socks, but the trail is so muddy and slushy that both pairs of my hiking socks have been soaked at the end of the day, so they’re always drying out.
Anyways, all of that goes in my dry sack that I carry clothes and sleeping bags in. And I roll it up with a little extra air and use that as a pillow. One night I got to cover it with my down jacket because we had a fire and I was warm enough, but usually it’s just gross plastic on my face. What I wouldn’t give for a soft cotton scarf to cover my clothing pillow.
So I’m sorry I ever made fun of your clothing/scarf pillow, Gonzo. It was way better than mine.
I woke up early with the section hikers sleeping next to me. I ate a pop tart, packed up quickly, and set out before the sun was even completely up.
It was still slow going with the snow and I had a good 18.something miles to make, so I was glad for the time.
I stopped for a picture at Eagle Rock, a place I’d stopped before with Stewart.
And I went by Charlie’s bunion, another place I’d stopped with Stewart.
I stopped to chat a lot. I ran into a group of section hikers out for a loop, all college guys. One of them even went to TTU and was a mechanical engineering major! None of them could believe I was doing the trip by myself or for as long as I was. At Charlie’s bunion, though, I chatted with some day hikers who were just getting in to backpacking. They were excited to meet someone who did section hikes and asked about food and shelters and all sorts of things.
I also finally met a nice NOBO– Major Teepee. We talked for a while about the trail and standing bear and stoves. And I met another section hiker, Turkey Tracker, doing the smokies alone for her birthday.
I got to the shelter around 6:15 to find Dr love already here with some college guys on spring break. All pretty cool. He had brought me cool ranch Doritos and chocolate, so that was very exciting. Later, 3 more (very cool) NOBOs showed up, so my distrust of NOBOs is unfounded. Big Critter, Fresh Ground, and Mustard were all highly entertaining and a lot of fun.
I did leave another pair of glasses in the woods, but Big Critter is going to look for them and if he can’t find them then I’ll go back to newfound gap and search myself. I have a good idea of where they are but it’ll be easier to find while the snow is still there. I promised him a care package mailed to whatever town he wanted. “Hey, hikers have to take care of each other!” He said.
Not a lot of pictures today. The trail was crowded with day hikers and honestly, the shelter last night had me in a foul mood in the morning.
The afternoon improved considerably when I got to speed past the day hikers in my microspikes while they slipped in chacos and tennis shoes. The only downside was an outdoorsy bro and his girlfriend who would NOT let me pass them. He was trying to show off (he commented on my water filter when I was stopped for water at one point) but he was just being a jerk. His poor girlfriend was having a really rough time and he just refused to help her.
I did get to tease an entire lacrosse team for being so slow to climb up the trail, which was great.
Everyone smelled way too clean, even the lacrosse team who just got done playing two games, which is how I KNOW I smell awful.
I passed a mom and daughter sitting on the side of the trail. “Now there goes a brave woman!” The mom said. I laughed, but what I wanted to say was that I never feel brave. I feel strong. Sometimes I feel ferocious. Sometimes I feel exhausted or scared. I definitely feel hungry. I feel lonely and frustrated and elated and triumphant and wracked with pain and cold. I feel happy and content and smug and all sorts of things that are good and bad. But I’ve never once felt brave.
I think, maybe, if you’re doing something you’re compelled to do, it’s not really bravery. Or maybe bravery isn’t a feeling at all but a characteristic. Regardless, doing this, it doesn’t require bravery. It’s just walking for a while with stuff on your back. There are people all around me who will look out for me, like Dr Love and Carpenter and Big Critter. As Big Critter says, “a bad day on the trail is better than a good day out there.”
I think he’s right.
I’m writing this in the morning, actually, because I spent all night talking to Fresh Ground and Mustard and oh boy someone got up early and is starting a fire!! It’s Fresh Ground, that Saint. I’ve just found the motivation I needed to visit the privy in the snow.
MVP: cool ranch Doritos
LVP: left knee. Left foot? Can’t decide.
Ps: dr love knows carpenter. Small hiking world, huh?
PPS: mustard told a hilarious story about getting frozen to a privy once and I just want to make note of that for myself. I never want to forget that story in his good ole boy Georgia accent. Man last night was a good night.