2: uncle johnny’s to Hughes gap

I stayed up longer than I should have last night, chatting with a bunch of thru-hikers at the picnic table at uncle johnny’s. I shared my bourbon and my frito honey Bbq twists, and Jeff, who had rescued me from certain death under the bridge, shared his jack Daniels Apple whiskey. A good time was had. 

I turned in to my bunk, and, unfortunately, so did one of the loudest snorers I’ve ever met. Well, he didn’t turn in to my bunk, he turned in to the one next to mine, and then he climbed down and slept on the couch next to me, and then he went out the loud door to the bathroom, and then he went back up to the bunk, then back to the couch, then out the door, etc. Sleeping and snoring between it all. 

So, between Thursday and Friday nights, I’d say I got about 5 hours of sleep. 

I woke up, posted Friday’s entry, packed and headed out. I was feeling rough. I wasn’t sure why I hurt so much. I’d only done 25 miles. I guess I’d gone a lot faster than my previous 26.2. And the constant rain meant my feet had been soaked and blistered. Bad. Aaannndddd my beast thighs had chafed pretty bad. But the worst pain was the front of my left ankle (like, the part that joins your leg to your foot) and the front of my right hip (what joins your body to your leg). I couldn’t get either to stretch out at all, and it only got worse. 

There were wild flowers blooming, and I thought about my former coworkers at the church in Nashville. Ken and Angie would have loved this section!

Stopped for breakfast, of course. 

Climbed a hill and wasn’t very happy about it. 

Stopped at a shelter to dry my feet out. It wasn’t raining but it was really humid. My Friday socks hadnt dried enough for me to change into them. I even stuffed one pair down my shirt, hoping my prodigious body heat would dry them out, but instead I just smelled like a wet dog. 

I saw things. I would say more, but here’s the real truth: this was a really hard hike for me. Every step was painful. It was mentally and physically grueling. 

At this point, I started hiking with Training Wheels. She had been in the bottom bunk under He Who Snores Like A Freaking Diesel Truck Owned By A Tennessee Redneck. We chatted about guys at the hostel, her master’s degree, my engineering degree, thru-hiking, Iraq veterans, obamacare, pooping…all sorts of things. Eventually I got to ask one of those burning lady hiker questions that I’ve not been able to figure out but haven’t known anyone well enough to ask. It’s funny that we talked about pooping long before I felt comfortable asking her. Huh. Anyways.  That was a load off. We hiked together for several miles, until we got to the shelter she was staying at. That was 17 miles done for the day. It was a high point for me, honestly. Good conversation helps when you’re not enjoying your hike.

But I still had more to go after I said goodbye to Training Wheels. I was grasping at straws, trying to keep in mind the biggest compliment I’ve received yet: Carpenter had left a comment on my last blog post that I was a thru-hiker who just didn’t have the time to thru-hike. 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough. I texted Gonzo for inspiration. “Yeah dig deep.” That was it?! I gave him the side eye emoji. 

But the more I hiked, the more sense it made. Maybe I was losing it. I kept repeating to myself, “I’m in control of this body. I say when we stop! Dig deep, let’s go.” I thought back to my first 20 mile day, hiking to Plum Orchard Shelter, thinking that Gonzo would be there. Well, Gonzo wasn’t going to be at the end of this section, but my car would be, and so that meant McDonalds would be there. Good enough. 

I looked at the distance I had left. If I kept up a pace just over 3mph, I should finish by 10:30pm. 

I had to change the batteries in my headlamp, which meant I needed my knife to pry it open, and I sliced my finger open. Nice. 

Friends, adventurers, people who adore me, I finished my first 30 mile day (technically 29.7) at 10:10pm. I saw the tail lights reflected in my headlamp and started feeling my throat tighten. “Tears? *This* is when I’m going to cry?!” 

Yes. I got to my car and I was bawling. I couldn’t stop crying for a good five minutes. In my defense, I hadn’t eaten anything since 1pm, at Beauty Spot. 

I take screenshots of my phone to remember what time I get someplace. 

I stopped for the first fast food restaurant I saw. Burger King. And then I also stopped for McDonald’s, but I slept for an hour in my car before I ordered more food. 


And thus concludes my 55 mile section from Sam’s Gap to Hugh’s Gap in 2 days. It’s funny…a 30 mile day has been this unreachable, lofty goal that I’ve wanted to accomplish for so long. And now I’ve done it. I did it in April. Remember in January when I did my first 20 mile day? And my first 21 mile day? Sure, I hurt like the devil right now. But I have advice from Carpenter for the next time I decide to pull a few big mile days in a row. 

There’s one more number I have in mind, but it’s a New England challenge, so until I go hike up north, I guess… Well, I guess I’ve done it. I’ve proven myself. I have no idea how I’ll plan my section hikes now. I’ve always just planned them longer and harder to challenge myself, but I don’t think I need to start planning successive 30 mile days or anything. 

Something to figure out. 

Check back later for a list of what I packed to make that 15.4lb pack weight. Carpenter’s request 🙂

Until next time, friends! I love you all! 

MVP: I had 29.7 miles to come up with an MVP but now I can’t remember it. I’m going to say my walking playlist. I listened to it like 3 times. It’s not that long. I listen to it in the same order. I needed it. 

LVP: snoring guy

1: Sam’s gap to uncle johnny’s

In high school, I was president of the Interact Club, so I got to go to a Rotary Youth Leadership conference. I don’t remember much about it except while I was there a rotary dude asked me to speak at regional rotary meeting. I went, and in a door prize drawing I won a set of Frogg Toggs. I had never heard of them before, and they sat unused in my closet for a few years before we finally gave them away. 
Today, I would have given anything for those. 
I woke up at 3:17am and left my friend Dakota’s apartment. Thursday night i’d agreed to go to a party with my study group, and I’d dragged Dakota along and asked if I could crash at his place. (The party was INCREDIBLY fun.) My shuttle was at 9am and 4 hours away, and I didn’t want to be late. 

I was overly cautious, because I got there at 8:17am. I had called the shuttle to let him know I was running early, so he arrived minutes after me. I used hiker shuttles again, because they really do tend to be the cheapest around Erwin and I like them. This time it was the husband, Tom, driving me. 

We started chatting, and I found out that he had a lot of family graduate from Tennessee tech. And then I found out that he had a near encyclopedic knowledge of the section I would be hiking. It was impressive. He started advising me on alternative campsites to hike to, and we started talking about our hiking styles, and then finally he challenged me to hike to Erwin today instead of the easy 8 miles I’d planned. That would be 24.7. 

Of course I said yes. He asked me to text him when I got there. 

I started off my hike chilly but quickly warmed up, and then got chilly again when the rain started. And then it didn’t stop until 4pm. I was utterly soaked. 

Two weeks ago the trail was just glittering with green. Now it has erupted into flowers and grass and leaves. 

Big Bald. I swear I almost got hypothermia up here. Didn’t want to get any more clothes wet though. 

LOOK AT THOSE LEGS. Something else, huh?

This is my face when I almost bit it and made a new home in the mud. 

This is not from falling, this is just from walking. 

It stopped raining, and I was almost dry! The trail was gorgeous. 

Nolichucky river

I was booking it at this point. I was going about 3.2 mph for the last 6 miles. I passed No Business Knob Shelter, full of hikers. I said hello as I walked by, and one woman said, “ooooh dear. Oh no. Well be careful. You’re probably pushing yourself and tired and not watching where you’re going. It’s muddy and slippery.” I said thanks but rolled my eyes. Honestly. Of course I’m tired. You get tired when you hike all day instead of stopping at 1 pm. 
I made it to Erwin at 8pm on the nose. I texted Tom from Hiker Shuttles. He told me congrats, he knew I could do it, and then informed me I had 30 miles left to go. 55 miles in 2 days? 

Also texted Carpenter, of course. 
I started setting up my tent under a bridge next to the nolichucky river. I was just about to pull out my sleeping bag when a man appeared next to me. He told me his name was Jeff and he worked at Uncle Johnny’s hostel across the road, and that river could flood tonight, and did I want to stay at the hostel for free, because they had 2 beds open? 
Well, I weighed my options (tent and possible drowning or hostel) and went for the hostel. 

I packed up and walked over, then set up again. It’s packed here, but everyone is friendly and I’ve had a great time chatting. 

Also they were all impressed by the miles I hike. I do wonder what kind of miles I would do on a thru hike. 

Jeff said “well look at those legs! They’re miles long!!” 
It’s been a good day. 

MVP: Pack weight. 15.4!

LVP: raaaiiiinnnn. But I did get some rain pants out of the hiker box, so if it rains today I’m prepared.