2: tent site to spring mountain shelter

The wind roared last night, like freight trains rolling through the mountains. I had staked out the sides of my tent with my trekking poles. One of the poles blew over and woke me up at about 9:30. I got out and restaked it. They both blew over at some other point. I didn’t bother restaking them. 
  
I slept well but woke up early, as usual. I wanted an early start anyways. I ate breakfast then packed up and headed out into the dusting of snow about 7:30. 

   
I leapfrogged with another SOBO section hiker. He was going slow and steady, and I was racing along. My legs felt strong and I enjoyed stretching them long and fast. I could remember back to Kindergarten, running the mile run for the Presidential Fitness Test, and Jay Locklin’s mom yelling, “Come on Lindsey! Stretch those long legs!” My legs are long, as long as my dad’s, and he’s taller than me by several inches. They are made to be stretched down the trail. 

  
 I stopped to eat breakfast at a shelter and spent quite a while chatting with the thruhikers still abed (also eating breakfast) there, so the section hiker caught up to me. That’s how our day went. 
The hikers at the shelter were a fun bunch. I stayed there longer than I meant to because I enjoyed talking to them so much. It turned out that one them them turned 30 this morning, so I offered him some of the bourbon I’d brought along. He was very excited, as were the other hikers. That bourbon was a good idea. 
We talked about pocket rockets, which is a design project I have for one of my classes. I’d promised my group I’d try to do some field research this weekend. We have to find things to improve about our product, so this was a good opportunity to gather ideas. The hikers were all excited about my project, and we spent quite a while talking about heat transfer as well. Engineering makes me a lot of friends. 

I hiked on, then stopped to chat briefly with a turkey hunter. All of my study group at school are hunters, so I’d known it was just now turkey hunting season. 
I stopped at Shelton graves, the burial site of two Union soldiers who were killed while home visiting family. 

    

Two paths diverged in a wood. 

  
Guess which one I took?

  
I climbed Firescald Knob. The views were lovely. 

    
The climb was intense. 

   
   
This was the check to see if I’ve eaten too many snickers. I passed. Barely. 

  
I hit 20 miles at 4:30pm today. That’s a little insane. I was booking it. The trail was also pretty forgiving. 

  
I kept going. 
This climb about did me in. I was 22 miles in and I was just done. The blue dot is me and I was headed to the orange house. I think. 

  
I made it to the shelter well before sunset though. It was tent city, but I tomorrow I only have 11.3 miles to go. The guys I’m tenting with are all really fun. I like them a lot. We had a nice time chatting. Makes me look forward to sectioning in warm weather when we don’t immediately retreat to tents. 

  
But look at this blister! 

  
I am so cold. I took a Benadryl. I hope I can just pass out. 

MVP: caffeine water. I chugged a bottle of it and then noticed I was even talking fast. Lol. 
LVP: that blister. I pricked it with my knife so it could drain tonight. Hopefully it’ll dry out by the morning. 

3: spring mountain shelter to hot springs 

Last night was cold, but I actually slept pretty well. I liked the little enclave of NOBOs I tented with. They were jolly and funny and friendly. 

  
As I’m sure you can all imagine, though, I woke up stiff and sore (but I had my pillow this trip, so at least there’s that!). Most of the stiffness worked itself out on the walk down to the privy. My knees are in remarkably good shape. 
My hair, however…

  
I packed up and didnt dawdle in camp. I gave the rest of the bourbon to the guys as a thank you for being so nice to a section hiker. They were excited. The bourbon will have to be a staple on my hikes from now on. It’s been a good addition to my pack. I don’t really drink much, just a sip or two, but it sure helps to make friends! 
I had an intense climb this morning, but most of the trail was sweet and gentle. It was a fast hike, even after yesterday’s miles. I wasn’t hurting much at all, except maybe my feet. 

  
I stopped to caffeine up at a water source. 

  
I hit Mill Ridge (I think that’s what it’s called). I could smell the sweet grass and hear the birds before I even saw the meadow. The sun was shining, the wind was just a breeze, and the birds were singing all around me. It was beautiful. 
I stopped to smell the air and smile more than I should probably admit. 

    
At the pond, I sat on a bench and finally ate a long, leisurely breakfast. I’d already hiked 6 miles, and I was starving. 

  
I walked on, heading down. 
Lindsey alone at Lover’s Leap. 

    
Shortly after lover’s leap I saw a day hiker talking to a NOBO thruhiker. Something about the thru hiker looked familiar, so I slowed down. 
“Hey,” I said, “didn’t I run into you in the Smokies?” 
“Maybe!” she said. “Were you the one who told me about standing bear?” 
“Yes!” I replied. 

We chatted, and she told me her name was Sunshine. I explained how I ended up headed in to hot springs, and she explained how she ended up just now headed out of hot springs. 
“Well this must be a sign,” she said. “We’re going to have a good day now.” 
“I think you’re right.”  

  
I always wonder how the people I run in to are doing. I’m glad I could see Sunshine again, and add her to my list of People I Care About. You can never have enough people on that list, I think. 
It has been a good day. It’s been a good weekend. I’ve only thought about school in incredibly positive ways, by which I mean thinking about the smoke of a fire as free convection or seeing louvers on the bottom of a jetboil as enhancing heat transfer. School has made me understand the world around me better, and that’s something nice to remember. I had also woken up to a text from my friend Sarah, an engineer I’d worked with at my co-op in Birmingham. She’s since moved to Hawaii (rough for her) but we keep in touch. She gave me a nice pep talk and it was just nice to know I’m not alone. 

  
 I got to the forest service lot at 1:15. I wasn’t rushing, and I spent plenty of time enjoying the trail and taking jackets on and off. 

    

  
My shuttle driver came and we talked on the drive about hiking alone and section hiking. I got to my car and started driving back home. I was surprised that my directions were taking me a different way…in fact, they were taking me right next to my Aunt and Uncle’s house. I called them up and asked if I could drop by. 

  
I stayed longer than I intended to, mostly because it was so nice to see my Greeneville family again (minus cousin Kelli and her fiancé Caleb). My cousin Samantha was there with her husband Brandon, and I’d missed them a lot too. Samantha is pregnant and I hadn’t seen her in a while, so it was great to see her cute pregnant belly. 
We chatted about sports and babies and family things. Eventually I had to head out, and I was sad to say goodbye to all of them. Fortunately I’ll have another section hike or two that puts me near Erwin and that area, so I’ll have more excuses to drop by. Hope y’all are ready 🙂

  
Last night, when I texted Gonzo and carpenter that I’d just walked 26.2 miles, I added “I am dead.” 
Gonzo replied, “no you aren’t. You are alive and doing amazing things.” 
Sometimes, I feel like maybe I am. 

  
MVP: well it can’t be my fanny pack every day. Or can it?
LVP: I loved my shuttle driver but she was 20 minutes late. 

   
PS: since I’m not posting this until Monday, I can add the good news that I made an 86 on that DoM test. Sunshine was right; things were going to go our way. 

   
    
   
   
   
  
Until the next time, my lovely friends! Thank you for joining me on this walk! I love you all. 

1: Sam’s gap to … A stealth tent site 

There were lessons learned today. 

  
1. Always check google maps to see if you’re driving within 10ft of where you’re ending your hike. I could have gotten a shuttle today and saved myself the trouble on Sunday. I spent some time beating myself up for not doing my research, then forgave myself. I was busy this week. 
2. Always check and make sure that the gps location of the trail head won’t confuse your navigation system. Apple maps (and google maps) both wanted me to jump off an interstate overpass, evidently. I spent an extra 30 minutes trying to get underneath the interstate, once I figured out what was going on. 
3. The sun sets later now. I could have hiked further. But honestly, I was exhausted from so little sleep. You can probably tell how tired I am from my face in these pictures. I look haggard. 

  
4. Always check your leggings to see if there’s a hole in the seat. Spoiler alert: there’s a hole in the seat of my leggings. I didn’t bring shorts because it’s freezing all weekend. Good thing I’m hiking south so the chances of someone watching me hike up a mountain from behind are slim. 

5. My fanny pack is my new favorite piece of gear. 
But it’s been a good trip. I headed east after a terrible test and once I saw the mountains I felt enough stress lift off of me to actually listen to music. 
There was a confusing road walk, but the sun was shining and I was outside. 

  
  
The hills were green, a color I haven’t seen yet on the trail. They looked like they’d been colored with a glitter crayon. This could be due to the fact that I decided to be risk averse and leave my glasses in the car, so everything is a little blurry. 

  
I passed some hikers, including one guy playing a …tiny island banjo ? What’s the word for that? While he hiked. It was beautiful, to hear music drifting to me. 
Then I thought, ‘my word, is it snowing??’

  
‘Yes. It is.’

  
  
The trail was fast and pleasant and I laughed out loud at how much I loved being back here. 

  

  
I stopped hiking about 6 today. I did about 6 miles. I could have kept going, if I’d pushed myself, but since there are so many more hikers on the trail it’s definitely not a great idea. And then the weather is supposed to be crap tonight, so I wanted to make sure I got a safe tent site. Don’t want a tree falling on me because I hiked too late. I haven’t gotten my lesson in tent site selection from Carpenter yet, so for now I’m sticking to established sites and hopefully with other people. At least for tonight when there are supposed to be huge gusts of wind. 

  
I’m camping with Cambria, Turtle, Lionheart, and …lionheart’s brother. They’re all NOBO thruhikers and I like them all. Cambria has a trail journal, which actually I think I’ve read some of, and she’s heard of Gonzo, also through the trail journal community. 
But now it’s cold and I’m tired and I wish the dang sun would set so I wouldn’t feel bad about going to sleep. 

MVP: fanny pack

LVP: snow

  

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 thebillfold.com:

  
 
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.