The plan: TN91 to Hughes Gap

For those of you who were wondering, here’s how the horrible, torturous, semester of no eating and lots of crying ended up:

Mechanical Engineering Analysis: A

Heat Transfer: B

Dynamics of Machinery: A (and I made a really cool 3D printed project that I will be happy to tell you all about)

Materials and Processes in Manufacturing: B

Design and Professionalism: A (and I think I got the second highest grade on the written paper for the project)

So, overall, pretty good. 

My heat transfer class
As soon as exams ended I packed up and went to Birmingham to celebrate my sweet baby sister turning 18 (!!!!!!), then lazed about with my mother for Mother’s Day, and then I moved to Georgia to start my fourth and final co-op rotation. 

I love the company I work for, and they are good to co-ops. It was a hectic start, but to be honest, I feel more confident in myself, and that made work a little easier. One of my goals for this rotation is to be more assertive, and I definitely feel like I’ve become that sort of person the more I’ve been hiking. 

Anyways, as you might know, I’ll be turning 30 on May 23. I’ve had in my mind that I want to be in the Grayson highlands on my 30th birthday, but I never imagined that I’d be far enough along on the trail to have connected my dots all the way there. I figured I’d just jump ahead. 

Well, y’all know me. And you’ve seen the miles I’ve been pulling. And I started looking at the map, and since I didn’t end up at trail days this weekend (carpenter couldn’t make it down and I wasn’t going to go without him. Gonzo is, predictably, MIA) I had time to hike. My work schedule gives me every other Friday off, so that’s three full days of hiking. And you all know what my legs look like. (OH! I hate to bury this story down here because it’s SO GOOD, but oh well. At the grocery story Tuesday night, some guy stopped me and asked me how much I lift. I kid you not.)

So I spent a lunch break looking at miles and doing some calculations and then I called for a shuttle. And tomorrow I’ll be driving up to Hughes gap to spend the night just inside the woods, and Friday morning I’ll meet my shuttle (hopefully; I still haven’t gotten it confirmed). 

I’ve got two 27 mile days and then a 20, but the elevation profile looks pretty sweet and I think I can do it. And it should set me up nicely for a very lovely 30th birthday. I hope y’all are prepared for some great hiking this weekend and next. 

My pack weighs 15.2lbs with all my food and no water. That’s not bad. I could cut weight by switching to the alcohol stove instead of the canister, but I know I won’t want to fiddle with it after those sorts of miles on such a short trip. I’d probably just not eat dinner for two days. 

I am switching to my quilt instead of my bag for this trip. The weather looks mild enough, but I switched out the fleece for my down jacket just in case. 

You can also see some of the behind the scenes stuff– the tripod I’ve been using for my phone, and the Bluetooth remote shutter clicker thing (which needs a new battery) that means I don’t always have to set up the timer if I want a decent picture. 

Also, new flask for the bourbon, courtesy of Casey. And new bourbon, also courtesy of Casey. 

The adventure starts…I mean, TECHNICALLY tomorrow, but the hiking is Friday. I hope y’all will follow along!

The plan: Sam’s Gap to Hot Springs

I sure do like to hike. People have commented recently that it seems to be an obsession. There are reasons for that, I guess. 

For one, I like the physical challenge, as I explained in my last post. This weekend I’ll be doing about 44ish miles. That’s a lot, considering I’ve already taken a Dynamics of Machinery test this morning before I left. But I spent all week in the library, first studying for Materials and Processes in Manufacturing and then for DoM. And doing Heat Transfer homework in between. I’ll spend next week coding MATLAB for Mechanical Engineering Analysis (and not understanding any of it) and studying for a Heat Transfer test. After all that sitting, it’s good to move and remember that my legs can do more than just refill my water bottle and go turn in tests. 

For another, the people I’ve met have impacted my life in ways that are hard to describe. That late-night conversation with I Am seems ages ago, but I remember pieces of it vividly (and I’m so glad I keep this blog, so I can remember even more of it). Carpenter and I only spent maybe 3 days actually around each other (and that’s a stretch) but I’d do anything for him and would trust him with my darkest secrets (and have trusted him with things I’d rather not talk about). Kris, the German woman, and I still keep in touch, texting each other about the trail. She says I helped her with an emotional adjustment that changed her hike; I’d say she did much the same for me and my attitude about section hiking. Gonzo, of course, is Gonzo. I still don’t know how to characterize what an impact he had on my life. I met Dr Love on a weekend section hike and while I can’t say that everything about our smokies hike together was fantastic, I wouldn’t have met Kris if I’d been hiking alone. And my conversation with I Am would probably have been a lot different. Everything and everyone for a reason?

Accomplishing something is nice, too. It’s been a rough semester. I’m 90% sure I’ll pass all of my classes but in the meantime I often feel like a big old failure. Being able to do something, anything, successfully helps. Even if it’s just hiking for a while. It makes me feel like I’m chipping away at self-actualization or something. On Wednesday, I worked on heat transfer homework with a classmate. We worked a problem differently and got different answers. He asked the professor how to work it and it turned out I had solved it correctly. Y’all, I was so shocked that I actually managed to do something right that I could hardly believe it. That’s how rough this semester has been on my self-esteem. I am not alone in this. It’s a common problem among my classmates. We have also recently discussed our mental health issues and things are looking bleak. I hike, they tend to hunt. We all need to escape and do something that doesn’t make us feel like idiots. 

And studies have shown that spending time in nature is good for your stress levels. Lord knows mechanical engineering students probably need help with stress levels. Especially me, the biggest overthinker on the planet. 


I saw this in an article on

Sorry that screenshot just abruptly ends. But you get the point. People are selfish jerks, blah blah. Being on the AT, meeting mostly incredibly generous people, I like the reminder that there are places you can go where people aren’t animals. The animals are animals and the people are people who look out for each other, for the most part. They share food and pass on warnings and if you need help most of them will go out of their way to help you. Sort of like Austria, but smellier. I loved Austria. When I was traveling in Austria we (Chris, the guy I was traveling with, and I ) stopped a busy looking guy for directions, asking in my very, very bad German. The guy stopped, looked at our map, explained carefully in English, then said, “perhaps I can simply show you?” Then he turned in the OPPOSITE direction of where he was headed and walked us several blocks to our destination. That was Austria and that is the AT. Mostly. That is not my life, except for maybe engineering school and sometimes work (people like to look out for co-ops) but both of those situations are generally so fraught with stress that I can’t appreciate the generosity right now. I need to recalibrate in order to appreciate humanity again. In fact, just writing this blog entry has made me realize how much that’s true of my school friends and work friends, so there. Even *writing* about hiking makes me a happier person. 

This is a page from Les Misérables. My older sister marked it to show me and I liked it so much I took a picture. I’ve reread it several times. I need more space than a little garden. I like to move and explore and find things and people and places and stretch my limitations. And I’m crap at growing plants, honestly. But I understand wanting the time and space to contemplate and study and meditate. I like having the opportunity and excuse to do that. Sometimes I burden myself with school work when I hike and that’s a real shame. Sometimes I indulge myself wth books and that’s a real treat. But usually I like to sing or think or remember or just be. And that’s easiest when there are trees and flowers and stars. At church sometimes they’ll use a labyrinth, so you have a path to follow while you pray or meditate. Here, I just follow a very long, very brown path that sometimes goes over and down mountains and sometimes wants to kill my knees. Same thing, really. 

So sure. Maybe I am a little obsessed with hiking right now. But I’ve survived most of the semester and haven’t quit school and I’m going to credit hiking with getting me through this crap semester. 

That and some really great study groups. Love my boys (and Casey and Dakota, who aren’t in my study groups but are essential to survival nonetheless).

This is possibly why the whole section hiker/thru hiker thing has bothered me so much. Hiking has been a place where I felt capable, where I escaped the “giant idiot” label (or could at least embrace it in a safe space), but the crowding of the trail with thru hikers changed that. Now I’m getting moved into a classification of hiker that I don’t want to be in, something approaching “less capable.” And that feels like school. 

It’s possible I’m overthinking this. 


I’m driving to Sam’s Gap and hiking south to Hot Springs. I’m not planning shelters this time. I’ll get there when I do, and grab a shuttle back to my car on Sunday. 


Only 4 more weeks and I’m done with this semester. Hard to believe. One more year of engineering school left! (Pending grades.)

I spent some time talking to Carpenter the other night. I hope y’all are all excited for fast-approaching adventures with him. I know I can barely wait!


I left my house at 5:45am this morning for my 7am DoM test. I got home from the library at 1am last night. I bet I sleep pretty good tonight. 


Weekend Section: The Plan

After that big January trip, I felt like I was on top of the world. Seriously, I had the confidence of ten Amazonian women. I walked into all of my classes like I was the smartest engineering student to ever engineer. And it was magical. Even my personal life felt perfect. Everything was just…perfect.

And then it started falling apart. Slowly. Like energy moving through a concrete block or something. I don’t know. First came the Mechanical Engineering Analysis project that was all differential equations by hand. Then came the uncertainty in my personal life. Then came the crying and the doubt and the dreams about all the mistakes I’ve ever made.

So I’m headed out this weekend to try to regain a little confidence in myself again. We’ll see if it works. Right now I don’t feel like I’m capable of even the simplest gear train problem. I don’t feel like I can read situations correctly or trust my instincts at all. And a weekend isn’t very long, but maybe it’s long enough.

Unfortunately, I have a Heat Transfer test on Tuesday night, and a Materials and Processes in Manufacturing test on Tuesday morning, so I’ll be bringing some work with me on this trip. The good news is it looks like I’ve got my pack weight down quite a bit. Right around 17lbs this time. Of course, that’s without a tent. I’m thinking I’ll go without this time, but I might still throw it in at the last minute. Or I might just throw in a pencil and some notes instead. We’ll see.



So I’m headed NOBO on this quick little trip. This is the real plan, but since there’s a Heat Transfer review on Sunday at 2 pm, I’m might *try* and do 23.3 miles on Saturday to get to my car and just have to drive out on Sunday. We’ll see how the knee holds up. I’ve had a few days of physical therapy and I feel stronger already (like a horse!) so maybe I’ll be alright.

Or maybe I’ll just spend the whole weekend crying. It’ll be cathartic.


(Oh! If you’re wondering about Tellico Gap to NOC, I actually did that section back in November with some friends. But I’m planning on doing it again with a friend from school when it gets a little warmer.)


The Plan

Tomorrow I’ll head out on The Big Hike. Dad will shuttle me; we’ll drop my car off at US Forest Service Rd 42 just a mile north of Springer Mountain. This is the beginning (generally) of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia but this time I’ll be hiking south, so I’ll be ending there. I’ll have to double back to my car.

After we drop from my car, we’ll drive another 2.5 hours north to Tellico Gap in Franklin, NC. Dad plans to hike a mile or so with me then turn around and head home. I’ll only have 8 miles to go before I hit my first shelter of the trip. Here’s the entire itinerary:

Every night I plan to stay in a shelter except one night– I’ll be camping at a tent site close to the Top of Georgia hostel where I’ll do my resupply, right in the middle of the hike. I’m a little unsure of what I’ll find at the resupply. I’m probably a bit overpacked on food. Here’s generally what I have, although I’ve amended it some:

We’ll see how it goes. At least I won’t be cold at night.