I’ve had a lot on my mind recently.
Since I last hiked (NYE with French Dip), I’ve been a weekend waitress, done a (sort of) big presentation at work, gotten back in the gym, and spent a lot of my pizza server money on new gear.
I wanted to get back into lighter pack weights, and I wanted to develop some new skills. Lighter socks, a tarp and bivy, a new quilt, new headlamp…all helped me drop my baseweight down to about 10 lbs. that’s…kind of impressive for me, haha.
I wanted to get back to that feeling of invincibility, the utter confidence I used to have in myself.
So I set out early this morning for a 25 mile loop on the AT, the Standing Indian Loop.
There are lots of ways to do the loop, because there’s lots of different side trails that all lead back to this same campground. I started out on a loop based off of This (rmignatius.wordpress.com) blog post.
Actually, if I’m being honest, I read all of that guys posts about this loop a week or two ago, then didn’t screenshot anything, so when I got to the campground this morning and had no service, I just picked the trail that sounded the most familiar.
And the Kimsey Creek Trail *is* beautiful. If you start at the backcountry information lot, you’ll do a brief walk through the woods, then cross a road. The trail continues on the other side of the bridge. Within that small wooded section, there’s a few spots that may hold a small tent. Not much though.
You mostly follow the creek up the mountain to Deep Gap on the AT. It’s about 3-4 miles, I think. Here are a hundred pictures of the gorgeous creek.
I made a note : about 40 minutes in, 1.4 miles from Deep Gap (ish, I don’t think that’s terribly accurate at all, come to think of it) there’s a great spot for several tents in a grassy area.
At Deep Gap, I skipped some trail magic and started hiking. It felt good to be back on trail. I have started a regimented weightlifting plan, and promised myself I would quit doing legs and shoulders on fridays. I could feel my sore muscles with every step! It was nice, though, to feel which muscles were activating as I hiked.
I stopped for lunch at Standing Indian Shelter. I chatted with two thru-hikers and then headed on my way. It’s NOBO season, and the trail was a little crowded.
I added the eyeballs.
Kimsey creek trail had been green and lush. The AT here was…black and brown. Not much was blooming, and the smell of old smoke hung in the air, another reminder of past wildfires.
I stopped for a break at Beech Gap. The tent sites here are spacious. I spread out my z-lite and soaked in the sun. A little trail tree yoga finished up my break.
My foot may be healed, but I am not in trail shape. My hips and back were tight, my feet aching. I’m going to have to work hard to be ready for New Hampshire in June.
I decided to set up at Carter Gap Shelter. The shelter was full, but there’s loads of tent sites and this gave me the opportunity to spend more time renting AND to test out some new gear. Here’s half of me setting up my tarp. Sorry you can’t see the other half. I’ll do better next time 🙂
I had dinner in the shelter with a bunch of hikers. It was a good laugh. But now I’m snuggled up in my toasty quilt, clean socks on my feet, and soft earth under me. One single bird is still calling. The wind is rubbing some trees together, and I can hear the movement in the leaves. Everything is calm, though, and ready for night. I am too. I haven’t been sleeping well, and I’m hoping the physical exhaustion and the wind that sounds like waves will help me sleep well. If not, there’s always Benadryl.
I feel content. The bag of goldfish that I brought gets some credit, but the rest, I think, is a day walking away. Walking away from doubts and worries and little annoyances. It’s good to be back home.
Miles: ehhhh 12.5
MVP: pink lemonade drink mix
LVP: feet, as usual
So, I mentioned that I switched up my gear. Instead of a single-wall TarpTent, I now have a tarp and a bivy. Actually, I have a giant tarp and a small tarp, and a bigger net with bathtub floor and a small sack that zips over my face.
This weekend, I took the small tarp (MLD Grace Solo) and the Small bivy (Borah Gear cuben bivy). I thought I had done pretty good with my site selection, but there’s always a learning curve.
I woke up around 3am to very, very heavy rain. There was some splash back, but for the most part I was dry. I scooched down into my bag, away from the netting, and went back to sleep.
I have to say, my new quilt is astoundingly warm. It wasn’t a super cold night (maybe mid 40s?) but I was only using a torso-length foam pad, and my new Hammock Gear Burrow 20 quilt was soooooo comfy and warm and delicious. I loved snuggling into that.
So anyways, the point is that I need to work a little on my tarp pitches, but it was fine because my quilt is awesome.
I got up and was packed within maybe 10 minutes? It was impressive. I walked over to the shelter to see if I could use the privy but everyone else was already up, so I just started hiking. The woods are my privy. Just…with no roof 😦
It rained all day. I was wet and cold. My leggings were comfy but utterly soaked. I put away my hiking poles, started an audiobook, and walked on.
There are few pictures of today. Mostly because my fingers were too wet to use my phone and it was generally too wet to stop. The entire trail was a stream. I’m not kidding.
This went on for 12 miles. I got to Glassmine Gap and took Long Branch Trail down to my car. It was a nice trail, and my pack was light enough that I even managed some light jogging (dog trot?). It felt good to move so confidently and quickly.
But I was still glad to get to my car.
My legs were covered in mud, so I dug out my sleep pants from my pack and changed as much clothing as I could. Next time I’m keeping dry clothes in the car.
My knees are tired. My shins and ankles are sore. My shoulders were unused to my pack. But two days, talking to people, stretching my legs down the trail… I feel like myself again.
I can’t wait to do it again, rain and all.
Miles: ehhhh 13?
Trip total: 25? 26?