I Am and I went to bed in our bunk room in a good mood, both content with our lives. He lives in Asheville but there are ways our paths might cross and that would be neat. We didn’t exchange contact info and I’m not sure I even got his real name. I won’t ever forget him sitting down at the table and helping me plan out sections and figure out when I could do my own thru-hike, though. Or the rest of his life advice.
We decided to both get up early.
I woke up before my alarm and started moving. I was headed to Newfound Gap by 6am, saying my goodbyes to new friends.
Once I got there, though, I didn’t really want to get started. That took a few minutes. The hiking was slow and I’ll go ahead and apologize for the lack of pictures. Here’s what happened: I hiked 11.4 miles into the smokies. I met a thruhiker from Alabama with whom I have a friend in common. I stopped for lunch, I talked to a ridge runner. I didn’t find my glasses. I searched even more slowly coming back out. I climbed up into every likely area. It was a huge pain.
I ran into Ninja, Dr Love’s friend. That was a little awkward but nice. And then I ran into Kris (Chris?), the German woman from the other day. We talked for quite a while and when we parted ways I was kicking myself for not exchanging contact info with her. I did tell her to be on the lookout for I Am, because I thought they would enjoy each other.
Late in the afternoon I ran into two men headed to the same shelter that she was at. I asked them to leave a note for I Am telling him not to bother with the glasses, that I couldn’t find them, and to give Kris my contact info and tell her just that I’d enjoyed talking to her and if she wanted to keep in touch or needed anything, that was how.
They agreed. I was glad.
At a certain point I knew I had passed the glasses point, so I started hoofing it back. I made it to newfound gap just as the sun was setting. I saw a man sitting alone and wondered if he needed a ride, but then recognized him as the father of a father-daughter pair dr love and I had met at spence field. I stopped to talk to him and learned his daughter had taken a wrong turn and was being brought to him by the Rangers, but he had to wait hours for her. I stood and chatted with him for a good bit, hoping I was helping him pass the time. He was a nice guy and his daughter was very capable, so I knew it would all be fine. It’s just waiting is hard.
I was glad I did those 23 miles. I didn’t find what I was looking for, exactly. But I did find people I wanted to see again. And I think I found people who needed to be found at a certain moment. Ninja had thought I was Dr Love’s girlfriend, I think, so I was glad to correct that.
The German woman sent me a text later saying she had just decided to get my contact info from I Am when my trail magic had arrived via the two men, so it was nice to know that she wanted to keep in touch as well. And that I was someone’s trail magic!
And I think I helped that dad feel a little less worried and alone while he waited for his daughter. Or at least I helped pass the time some.
So maybe, when I wrote that I just didn’t feel like I was done hiking yet, I was right. There were things I needed to do.
After Max Patch, I joked with my mom (a minister) that she should just keep in mind what all of this solo backpacking is doing for my relationship with God. And while I’m pretty flippant about religion and God and church in general, that part is becoming more and more true. Are there people and experiences brought into our lives when we need them? I mean, not like chess pieces. But maybe if we seek them out and listen to those compulsions, those “I should go back” voices, then we end up where we need to be.
I did get what I needed to out of that day. I’m not done, though. There’s still more I need to do. (That means more trips, mom.)
I like the challenge of the big miles. I’ve never been athletic and I like having people assume I am (even ask if I do triathlons HA). I guess that’s something I’m looking for in myself- can I challenge myself physically and meet it? How far can I push myself? Can I get to 25 miles? 30? Could I do the 4 state challenge? (43 miles in a day.)
It’s mental too. There’s not a reason I have to make it to a particular shelter, really. I’ve just never fallen short of my mileage goal and I don’t want to break that streak.
If only I applied myself to my studies like this. Maybe if dynamics of machinery involved more snickers.
So I’m not saying I’ll avoid the trail. I Am asked if I was going to trail days and while I don’t think I’ll be doing that (it would take a pretty specific invitation from someone for me to go), I would like to do something for my birthday. Ponies, I think. I’ll have to see where the bubble is and plan accordingly. There is hiking in my near future. After the interactions I had on my last day, I think it’s clear that I need to keep hiking. Even after Max Patch and my chat with I Am.
It turned out to be a good section, if not what I expected. I did smoke the smokies, like Carpenter said. I did 20 miles most days. I learned new recipes and I’m not a master at the alcohol stove but I’m getting there. I did 23 miles…twice. I still don’t really have a trail name (redstar just doesn’t feel right to me), but it’ll come. I feel more comfortable with my center of mass and how I balance going downhill. I feel more comfortable being out of breath going uphill. I work out the stiffness quicker and I push through it better when I walk.
And my legs…well, they are something else.