1: boiling springs to tent site
It’s 5:53pm. I’m in my giant green cocoon sleeping bag, in MY TENT, Not a shelter, and I just put on a second pair of leggings over the first inside my sleeping bag in perhaps what was the most awkward, physically challenging feat of my life. All because I’m lazy.
Dinner was some cheese and fruit loops. I bought the cheese this morning at a grocery store and the fruit loops I scavenged from the library during finals week when they were handing out free snacks. I cooked ramen noodles for lunch, so I had one nutritious meal today.
I flew in to Pennsylvania yesterday. My mom and younger sister drove me up from Alabama to Nashville that morning, and dropped me off at the airport. Security was a breeze, although the TSA guy was shocked that I didn’t have a laptop in my giant backpack.
I flew delta, which meant all of my flights were delayed and everything was terrible, but I eventually made it. My best friend since middle school picked me up at the airport, and we had a nice drive to her house (with a detour to see her work) to catch up. Despite her doctor schedule and my school schedule, we do a good job of talking on the phone, but there’s always more to say.
I slept like a baby. I’m still not caught up on sleep from finals. And 4:30am came too quick. We hopped in the car and headed to Boiling Springs.
It was hard to say goodbye to Anna. It was cold and she was my last hope of avoiding the whole thing…but the sun was rising and the ATC guy was just opening up and there was a hiker box to go through. I snagged two super soft bandannas and then set off, south bound.
I was slow, and my pack was heavy. There were soft snow flurries all day, off and on. I almost stopped at mile 12, when I made lunch, but instead I boiled extra water and wrapped it all up to stick in my sleeping bag at night. I wouldn’t night hike today, but I would go at least 15 miles. That’s what I need to do every day to finish on time.
LVP: heavy pack
2: tent site to rock quarry shelter
I’ve officially had conversations with 3 people today! First I talked to a hunter on the trail (I saw 4 hunters today and heard many more- I stopped and tore a bit of blaze orange tape to tie on my pack since I forgot/lost my orange hat).
Then I sat and chatted with a section hiker who turned out to be Paul with Bunions! A few months ago I met Bent for a section (I don’t think I ever wrote about this section) and we went through the trail register. Our favorite trail name was Paul with Bunions. And today I met him! He’s out celebrating his birthday, just walking wherever he wants to in the woods.
And tonight, while I was finishing up dinner at the shelter, a thru hiker walked by. Sleeping Beauty didn’t stay, but we exchanged numbers. She said there are a few more ahead and behind. Maybe I won’t be as alone in the woods as I thought.
I’m still having a hard time getting my hiking legs. I don’t know if I’m that out of shape or if my pack is that heavy, or if it’s both, but I’m really struggling.
I did cross the halfway point of the AT today. It’s not my halfway point…yet. But I did do some quick head math, and I’m pretty close to halfway. I’ll be well over halfway by the time I finish this section…if I finish. It’s cold! And my feet hurt.
I was #blest with a heated bathroom this morning, so I took the opportunity to braid my hair back out of my face. And then I had some truly smooth trail today (and some truly rocky trail), so I am thankful for that. And this shelter is adorable! I will take pictures in the morning. For now, though, perhaps I will…sleep? Sleeping beauty told me it’s supposed to snow Monday 😦
Trip total: 36.5
MVP: heated bathroom
Day 3: rock quarry shelters to deer lick shelters
I woke up to snow. Everything was quiet and a soft, gentle snow was falling. I took my time getting ready and made myself a Starbucks vanilla latte, grande, and looked around. This shelter was the definition of hospitality. A swing, board games, an extra notebook for doodles, a sundial, even flowers! Every little touch for hikers who the caretaker would never meet, might not even sign the shelter log, most of whom wouldn’t even stay at the shelter, would just pass through. It made my day, though.
It reminded me a lot of church ladies, and my mom. The former, because they put so much work into flowers and curtains and paintings and decorations that most people don’t even notice, but they do it to make a church feel warm and welcoming. And the latter because it’s the sort of thing my mom would do, if she were a caretaker. She’s good at making a space feel special. Even my first college apartment had paintings on the wall…in frames!
Another heated bathroom gave me a chance to dry out my damp sleeping bag and fix my hair again. Hat hair is…not going well. I hope you like my giant trapper hat, because that’s all you’re going to see unless you see my Appalachian trail hat if it warms up some.
A hunter knocked on the door. I happened to be standing in my underwear for reasons that made sense at the time, with my pack COMPLETELY strewn about, so when I said “just a minute” and then took 15 minutes to open the door, I’m sure he thought I was in extreme intestinal distress. Oh well!
I found a neat little lean-to off-piste (that’s fancy French for “off path” and I learned that while skiing in the Alps so la-ti-da).
There were some ups and downs and flats and yet again, it was hard to get to my 15 mile destination. I’ve been dreaming, for months, of attempting the 4 state challenge- 43 miles in 24 hours. Y’all know I’ve done 30 and 32 miles several times now. And I’m 5 miles north of the starting point for the 4 state challenge. But I know that I’m not in shape for it. I can feel shin splints starting. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, maybe freezing rain. I didn’t want to tent at all, and there’s not a shelter at the state line. And yeah, maybe these are all just a lot of crap excuses, but the point is, I’m not going to do it.
So I had a bit of a break down tonight at the shelter. I’ve always tried to be honest in my blog posts, about the good AND the bad. So here’s the bad: this hike is starting out really rough! Usually I can come out and just crush miles, no problem! But for whatever reason, I just can’t right now. And that’s really hard on me. I can stick to 15 a day, but I know it would be good to finish early or to build in some cushion and I’m really struggling to do that. It’s hard on me that I can’t.
So I had a pity party and I texted Bent and Honeybuns and I felt better. It will get easier. My legs will figure out what they’re supposed to do (those lazy jerks) and my feet will shape up, eventually (why can’t my toes just go numb again?!) and I’ll bang out some miles in Virginia, I guess. Like a beast. But for now…no 4 state challenge for me. Maybe I’ll drive back up when I finish this section and try it then 🙂
The other interesting bit is that I looked ahead at the weather and on Thursday there’s apparently a cold front with a low of 5! So…i may try to head for a hostel that night. I’m ok with 14 but 5 is…too low. I’ve done 9 before, with Gonzo, and I thought I was dead, so I’d rather avoid that.
Trip total: 52.3
LVP: hunter who interrupted my bathroom time. I was charging things!