Then Again: Elk Garden to Thomas Knob Shelter to Elk Garden

I met Keisha in college…the first time. We were both English majors, and Keisha also took French with me. After we graduated, we lost touch, I guess, but we both ended up in Nashville two years later. I remember meeting her at a bar in East Nashville, nervous to reconnect with someone I hadn’t really known well but had always liked and admired. 
We were both at a point in our lives then where we weren’t quite sure what we were going to do next. Things weren’t always great for us, and we didn’t handle it well, and it was good to have Keisha as a friend. 
Keisha figured it out first–she went back to school to become a nurse. That helped me when I decided to go back to study engineering. If Keisha could do math, I guess I could too, right? 
We kept in touch, even after we moved. I visited Keisha in NYC and we caught up over pizza and beer in East Nashville when she moved back. And when she asked to go backpacking, I knew I had to take her to see the ponies. 
We left early Saturday morning. We got to Elk Garden around 12:30. It was…well, it was cold. There was snow and wind and it was cold. But the hike started out with a climb up into a pasture so we warmed up pretty quickly. 


Once we got into the woods the wind cut down some. Walking through the autumn leaves with snow on the ground, bringing out old memories and laughing about whatever we came up with…it was a great hike. 


We stopped for a quick break, and Ryan and his adorable dog Kenesaw caught up to us. We hiked together to the shelter, finishing the 7 miles by 2:30. We decided to hike on to find the ponies. 


And we FOUND them. They weren’t interested in us though. 


Back to the shelter, where we ate and warmed up and shared stories until night. 


Of course, no shelter is complete without clueless hikers. In this case, it was a group of guys who decided to sleep in the loft with their two big dogs. Watching them shove their dogs up into the loft was…something. 
The wind gusted something fierce all night, but the three of us were snug. Ryan, unfortunately, had the mice. But Keisha and I slept great. 
And in the morning? Well, the three of us headed out. It was still cold, but most of the snow was gone. 


The miles slipped by and we were done before I knew it. I wasn’t ready to go. It had been so easy to hike with Keisha and Ryan, and the easy miles had been a nice break from my usual pace. It was relaxing and peaceful and exactly what I needed. 


Did you notice the footwear? I tried to break in a pair of boots to see if I wanted to wear them this winter. They were warm but not comfortable. These are not my boots. 
Next up? Well, Bent and Wilson Wilson have 3 weeks left on the trail, so I’m going to try to find them. And I’m glad to know that Pennsylvania didn’t completely steal all the joy I find in backpacking. 

Trip Total: 14ish? 7 to the shelter, but probably an extra mile or to to the ponies. 

MVP: bourbon

LVP: loft dwellers 

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