2: uncle johnny’s to Hughes gap

I stayed up longer than I should have last night, chatting with a bunch of thru-hikers at the picnic table at uncle johnny’s. I shared my bourbon and my frito honey Bbq twists, and Jeff, who had rescued me from certain death under the bridge, shared his jack Daniels Apple whiskey. A good time was had. 

I turned in to my bunk, and, unfortunately, so did one of the loudest snorers I’ve ever met. Well, he didn’t turn in to my bunk, he turned in to the one next to mine, and then he climbed down and slept on the couch next to me, and then he went out the loud door to the bathroom, and then he went back up to the bunk, then back to the couch, then out the door, etc. Sleeping and snoring between it all. 

So, between Thursday and Friday nights, I’d say I got about 5 hours of sleep. 


I woke up, posted Friday’s entry, packed and headed out. I was feeling rough. I wasn’t sure why I hurt so much. I’d only done 25 miles. I guess I’d gone a lot faster than my previous 26.2. And the constant rain meant my feet had been soaked and blistered. Bad. Aaannndddd my beast thighs had chafed pretty bad. But the worst pain was the front of my left ankle (like, the part that joins your leg to your foot) and the front of my right hip (what joins your body to your leg). I couldn’t get either to stretch out at all, and it only got worse. 


There were wild flowers blooming, and I thought about my former coworkers at the church in Nashville. Ken and Angie would have loved this section!


Stopped for breakfast, of course. 


Climbed a hill and wasn’t very happy about it. 


Stopped at a shelter to dry my feet out. It wasn’t raining but it was really humid. My Friday socks hadnt dried enough for me to change into them. I even stuffed one pair down my shirt, hoping my prodigious body heat would dry them out, but instead I just smelled like a wet dog. 


I saw things. I would say more, but here’s the real truth: this was a really hard hike for me. Every step was painful. It was mentally and physically grueling. 


At this point, I started hiking with Training Wheels. She had been in the bottom bunk under He Who Snores Like A Freaking Diesel Truck Owned By A Tennessee Redneck. We chatted about guys at the hostel, her master’s degree, my engineering degree, thru-hiking, Iraq veterans, obamacare, pooping…all sorts of things. Eventually I got to ask one of those burning lady hiker questions that I’ve not been able to figure out but haven’t known anyone well enough to ask. It’s funny that we talked about pooping long before I felt comfortable asking her. Huh. Anyways.  That was a load off. We hiked together for several miles, until we got to the shelter she was staying at. That was 17 miles done for the day. It was a high point for me, honestly. Good conversation helps when you’re not enjoying your hike.

But I still had more to go after I said goodbye to Training Wheels. I was grasping at straws, trying to keep in mind the biggest compliment I’ve received yet: Carpenter had left a comment on my last blog post that I was a thru-hiker who just didn’t have the time to thru-hike. 


Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough. I texted Gonzo for inspiration. “Yeah dig deep.” That was it?! I gave him the side eye emoji. 


But the more I hiked, the more sense it made. Maybe I was losing it. I kept repeating to myself, “I’m in control of this body. I say when we stop! Dig deep, let’s go.” I thought back to my first 20 mile day, hiking to Plum Orchard Shelter, thinking that Gonzo would be there. Well, Gonzo wasn’t going to be at the end of this section, but my car would be, and so that meant McDonalds would be there. Good enough. 


I looked at the distance I had left. If I kept up a pace just over 3mph, I should finish by 10:30pm. 


I had to change the batteries in my headlamp, which meant I needed my knife to pry it open, and I sliced my finger open. Nice. 


Friends, adventurers, people who adore me, I finished my first 30 mile day (technically 29.7) at 10:10pm. I saw the tail lights reflected in my headlamp and started feeling my throat tighten. “Tears? *This* is when I’m going to cry?!” 

Yes. I got to my car and I was bawling. I couldn’t stop crying for a good five minutes. In my defense, I hadn’t eaten anything since 1pm, at Beauty Spot. 

I take screenshots of my phone to remember what time I get someplace. 

I stopped for the first fast food restaurant I saw. Burger King. And then I also stopped for McDonald’s, but I slept for an hour in my car before I ordered more food. 

*****

And thus concludes my 55 mile section from Sam’s Gap to Hugh’s Gap in 2 days. It’s funny…a 30 mile day has been this unreachable, lofty goal that I’ve wanted to accomplish for so long. And now I’ve done it. I did it in April. Remember in January when I did my first 20 mile day? And my first 21 mile day? Sure, I hurt like the devil right now. But I have advice from Carpenter for the next time I decide to pull a few big mile days in a row. 


There’s one more number I have in mind, but it’s a New England challenge, so until I go hike up north, I guess… Well, I guess I’ve done it. I’ve proven myself. I have no idea how I’ll plan my section hikes now. I’ve always just planned them longer and harder to challenge myself, but I don’t think I need to start planning successive 30 mile days or anything. 


Something to figure out. 


Check back later for a list of what I packed to make that 15.4lb pack weight. Carpenter’s request 🙂







Until next time, friends! I love you all! 

MVP: I had 29.7 miles to come up with an MVP but now I can’t remember it. I’m going to say my walking playlist. I listened to it like 3 times. It’s not that long. I listen to it in the same order. I needed it. 

LVP: snoring guy

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