Standing Indian Loop, Take 3

(I didn’t write about Take 2, so you didn’t miss a post!!)

I leave for New Hampshire in 21 days. That’s insane!! I’m obviously freaking out a little bit, and needed to get into the woods this weekend to see if my legs would hold up.

Since I last wrote, I’ve done Standing Indian a second time

And met up with some internet folks in Georgia for an AT/Benton Mackaye hike.

I drove to Standing Indian after work. I had a rental RAV4 the last time I came up here, and sleeping in the back of my Prius C after the spaciousness of the RAV4 was…disappointing. Between a summer cold and a cramped backseat and a metal loop sticking in my hip, my Apple Watch said I only got 4 hours of restful sleep.

But Saturday morning came and I was up at 6am, and hiking by 6:30, powdered donuts in hand. My plan was to hike 25ish miles, or until 7pm, whichever came first.

Regardless of how far I’m going, I always plan on only going 2mph. This means I don’t have to account for elevation or breaks or picture stops. If everything went well, I should make my 25 miles no problem. The real test would be my feet, my knees, and my desire to keep walking.

I had some new gear on this trip. The biggest one was my new pack- a 35L framed bag by Superior Wilderness Designs. I’d picked out everything I wanted, and then waited 9 very long weeks for it to arrive. I’ll probably ditch the remaining hip belt pouch for my fanny pack, but it’s great that they’re removable, so I can always stick it back on if I want.

I’d recently replaced my hiking poles after the locks got rusted and difficult to adjust. And I had a new umbrella and poncho combination I’d pull out in case of rain.

Well friends, it didn’t rain. It was bright and sunny and hot all day. And this pale redhead forgot a hat.

I watched this little bird grab some dead leaves for a nest. He worked hard at tugging them free!

The wildflowers were blooming and it felt like summer. Honestly, it was beautiful out.

I stopped for a long break at Standing Indian Mountain. The blue blaze up to the summit was definitely worth it.

It’s been about 3 weeks since I’ve hiked this loop (this is my third trip; I didn’t write about my second trip). In that time, the bubble has moved on and the trail was largely empty. It was a nice change from the crowds the last two times I was here.

I also felt completely unhurried. I spent over an hour and a half at a shelter, just resting and eating and helping a first-time hiker with her feet. There’s something very liberating about planning to spend your whole day hiking. Usually I feel pressure to get done by 4pm, make sure I claim a good spot, feel like I can’t rest until my “work” is over, forget that the sun sets later, I don’t know. But today I was planning on hiking until 6:30, so why did I need to hurry? Besides, I was tired and struggling with sunburn, so time in the shade from 12:30-2:30 was probably wise.

But I hiked on, determined to at least get over Albert Mountain. I stopped for water and a quick rinse off just before Albert Mountain. It was hot, but with so much sun I needed to keep long sleeves on. I was sweaty.

I did hike with my umbrella for shade for a while, but I need to work on how it’s attached so I can hopefully go hands-free.

I tried to do a time lapse of the climb up Albert Mountain but it didn’t go well. More experimenting to come 🙂

Once on top, I ate. And drank all of my water. And ate more.

I thought I might stop at the shelter 2 miles down from Albert Mountain, but it was early when I got there, so I kept hiking.

And wouldn’t you know, I was at Glassmine Gap, my turnoff to get back to my car, by 6:15.

That made 22 miles down, and just a couple more to get to my car. I did some quick math, decided getting home by 11:30 pm sounded good, and set off.

It was around mile 20 that I started to get hot spots in my new shoes. I’d done pretty well avoiding fatigue in my feet, so that was great. But it appears I can’t have it all. I have another pair of shoes to try out (maybe a quick trail run in Tennessee next weekend when I’m up at the lake), but likely, the La Sportiva UltraRaptors will be my New Hampshire shoes. They’re burly enough for rocks, super sticky, and comfortable. And despite the hot spots, no blisters!

I made it to my car, changed pants, chugged some water, and headed home. The mental hurdle has been cleared. 25 miles is completely doable. I have 21 more days to make sure my knees are in the best condition they can be in, but I don’t have that sort of panicky feeling I used to. I’ll be fine. New Hampshire is just another state to walk.

I am currently planning on a Memorial Day weekend trip, one last chance to test gear and put in some miles. I’m not 100% sold on the idea, so…until Memorial Day hike or New Hampshire, whichever comes first!!

Miles: 25!!

MVP: new pack. Love it.

LVP: honestly…my pale, easily burned skin? Idk, I feel like we held together pretty well in general. Feet were ok, knees were ok…my ring broke (it’s ok, it was $2, but I really liked it) so I guess I’ll say my ring.

Standing Indian Loop

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 ( 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?

MVP: me

LVP: ☔️

NYE with French Dip: NOC to Wayah Bald

French Dip and I met on my first day of my PA/NJ/NY section this summer. The minute he walked into the shelter that rainy, cold day, I knew he would be my new friend…he just didn’t know it yet.


Over the next few days, we camped together, hiked together, and eventually spent every waking minute together, patiently waiting for the other when it was time to “contemplate nature.”


I left him on the last day of my section, and he continued on to Maine and then flipped down south, Harpers Ferry to Georgia, to finish his flip flop thru hike.

We kept in touch, and when I told him about my NYE plans, he wanted to come with. Obviously I was elated. Hiking with someone who you can talk to for 10 hours straight, every day, is just amazing.

We decided to meet at Standing Indian Campground, leave my car, then drive to the NOC and hike south. As the weather forecast got colder and we got more realistic about our fitness level, we shortened it. And then, eventually, the entire plan would change.

We both arrived at almost exactly the same time. The campground seemed closed, so we drove down a forest service road and left my car, hoping we could find it again.

To the NOC, and then off on the trail.

The climb south from the NOC is long and relentless. We saw some day hikers, but not really anyone else. The weather was surprisingly warm.

We had planned to Camp on Rocky Bald, but with lows in the teens, we stopped short at Weser Bald Shelter. Two guys from Atlanta were out, and we enjoyed chatting with them.

We got our water, spent the next 4 hours eating, and after we finally choked down the rest of my truly awful Spanish rice, we slept.

It was….cold. For a while I was pretty toasty, so I took off some layers. This was great until 4 am when I was DYING. I wasn’t dying, but I was uncomfortably cold.

Miles: 6

MVP: cheddar Chex mix

LVP: Spanish rice 😦


Sunday, Dec 30

Eventually I slept again, and daylight came. With it, breakfast.

After a leisurely “sip sip” morning, we re-evaluated our plan. Maybe just 10 to Wayah Bald Shelter, or maybe even the Bald itself if the sky is clear!

The sky was not clear. It was never clear.

We stopped at the shelter. We built a gorgeous fire and sat and ate French Dip (not the person, the dip) and melty sour patch kids. We discussed resolutions for 2018, remembered funny things from the trail, and just…enjoyed the night, even in the bitter cold.

We rang in the new year at 7:30 (we couldn’t even make it to hiker midnight at 9pm!) and now we’re snug in bags with hot rocks at our feet. Cult of the Hot Rocks lives again!!

Miles: 10

MVP: fire.

LVP: my hot rock didn’t last very long!


Mon, Jan 1

So, it was cold. Cooooooold. We woke up with frost on our sleeping bags and frost on the trees.

Coffee came first. Then a pop tart. Then maybe some chocolate covered pretzels. We sat and talked.

Ok, here’s what the original plan was: hike NOC to a random side trail that would take us down to standing Indian campground. That trip required a 20 mile day.

After some thought, we changed to a different random side trail that would also end at standing Indian. That was shorter. We had left my car on a random forest service road that seemed to be close-ish to where that trail might end.

But then we thought… well, Rock Gap crosses that service road and it would be even shorter. However, that would require road walking some unknown distance to my car, so it was ok but not ideal. In addition, our shelter options were either 7 miles away or 14 miles away. The 7 mile shelter would leave us with another 7 miles to hike to Rock Gap on Tuesday.

So as we sip-sipped, we talked options. And we decided to turn around and hike back to Wesser Bald, and then have a quick 6 miles to FD’s car on Tuesday.

Well, we got up and packed. And WOW was that the quickest packing either of us have ever done.

We set out on the gorgeous trail. It was beautiful.

It was also cold. The forecast for the night was -11 F. So….we decided to bail.

We got to Tellico Gap and sat for a minute. Moss and Grateful Dad, friends from PA/NJ/NY section last summer, had a theory that if you took a break at a road crossing, trail magic would…appear. We hoped a truck would pick us up and take us to the NOC. They didn’t. We started the climb up to Wesser Bald. We tried to talk a couple into giving us a ride. No dice.

Finally, we found a gaggle of college kids. After our best, most friendly chatting, we got a ride in the back of a 4 Runner. Success!!!

A quick run up to the parking lot of the NOC, and FD and I were off to Popeyes.

After a nice dinner, we drove out to my car, said our goodbyes, and headed home a day early.

I had a lot of time to think on this trip. Winter hiking is fun, but it’s hard and slow and my pack is heavier than usual. I used to have a work schedule that gave me every other Friday off. But now, I’m racing home and leaving for the trail as soon as I can on Fridays, arriving well after dark after battling rush hour traffic the whole way. Or I leave as early as I can Saturday and rush back Sunday to try and get ready for work. It’s stressful.

I’m still struggling with my bad foot. And now my other foot has Achilles problems. My knees have been aching.

I’ve been trying to get my life in order- Diet and exercise and budget, but I can’t do that on the trail every other weekend.

So, my New Years resolution is to take a few months to…rebuild. I’ll be back, probably around May. I’d like to do some day hikes in South Carolina, so I may write about some of that, who knows?

So that’s why I’ll be going dark for a bit. All is fine and happy, I just need a bit of a reset. We all do sometimes, don’t we?

My friends, I am so excited to share with you all the trips that happen in the future, when I can enjoy them a little more. Until then, let me know if you have questions about anything or would like a little post about something in particular!

Stay warm, and happy trails!

Then Again: Devils Fork Gap to Hot Springs 

It’s weird to think how much has happened since I first met Bent at that shelter back in Vermont. I finished my NOBO section, hung out with Honeybuns in Hanover, flipped, and caught up with Bent again in Massachusetts. We hiked SOBO together and became fast friends, watching a meteor shower together, picking blueberries, eating sour candies…

And then I went back to school, and Bent kept hiking south. A month or so ago, I went out to Virginia (I didn’t write about this, so don’t think you missed an entry) and hiked a section with Bent and some other SOBOs and a lasher. We caught up again, filling in the details we’d missed between phone calls and texts and snapchats. And I left, and bent kept hiking south. 

And then Saturday, I left my apartment at 3:30am and drove to Devils Fork Gap. I hiked north (slowly) for 3 miles until I ran into Bent. Well, I was stopped on the side of the trail when he texted me and said “why don’t I see you yet?” I replied, “idk I’m being really slow today.” And I started walking and then immediately saw him, so. 

We ran to each other and I gave him water, a grape soda, and a butterfinger (his requests). And then we headed south together. 

We headed south while we talked about our love lives, the trail, my midterms, our friends, musicals, food, religion…Bent and I can cover a million topics, it feels like. 

It was hard to believe how much the forest had changed in just a week. The colors had deepened even more– now we were really in autumn. 

We stopped for a break at Jerrys Cabin and met Achilles and Comet. Comet was from Jacksonville and had someone ask her recently if she knew Honeybuns. She didn’t, but I do! The circle is complete. 
We hiked up to Firescald Knob and sat and wondered what it was about these huge, open vistas that make everyone, no matter where they come from, sit back and appreciate them. I mean, maybe in some cases some people get bored of these big views after a while (ahem, my little sister), but there’s something there, isn’t there? 

I think it reminds us that we’re just a tiny part of something much bigger. And puts our little problems in perspective. And yet, despite how insignificant we are, we’re still so important in the scheme of things. 
We made it to Little Laurel at dark. I do love a good night hike. We talked, while rushing down the mountain, about how we hoped someone would still be up at the shelter, and there would be a fire, and there would be space in the shelter. 

All our dreams came true. 
No Worries was cooking. A fire was smoldering. A section hiker was still up. Two other sectioners were dozing, but I didn’t worry about them. There was space for me, and Bent had already decided he wanted to tent. We got water and started dinner. 
And then I found out that No Worries used to work at the same company where I co-op and his uncle works for the NRC. Go figure. Small world!
Miles: 3 NOBO + 3 SOBO back to Devils fork + 15.7= 21.7
MVP: bent around the corner

LVP: blisters
Bent and I left in the dark (oh heeyyyy winter) and started our hike to hot springs. 

We tried to go to Mom’s, because Bent wanted a candy bar, but they were closed. I gave Bent my snickers. 

So there’s this one climb. Allen Gap. I remembered it from the last time I did this section. I remembered it being terrible. When we started that climb, I thought, “wow! I’m so much better at this! I am INCREDIBLE!” And then it kept going. And going. 

And going. 
And then we stopped to breathe and pick up our legs that had fallen off and I thought, “wow. This is still terrible.” Some climbs are just always terrible, I guess. 
Anyways, we stopped for lunch at a stream. We got trail magic at one gap- a woman picking up her husband had sandwiches and water and oranges and root beer (I took water because I do not care for root beer). It was delicious and she was sweet. 

We hit up lovers leap. 

And we went to Hot Springs. 

And I said goodbye (after we ate dinner and went to the hostel and Dollar General). Bent will finish his through hike in less than two weeks. I won’t get to see him again before he finishes, but I feel like I’ll see him again some time. 

The hike was perfect. It was hard and beautiful and light and there was trail magic– it was everything I could have asked for in a two day hike. 
Miles: 19.9

Trip total: 41.7
MVP: fried pickles at Spring Mountain Tavern. Those were AMAZING
LVP: Allen gap. You know why. 

Bent and Birthday Girl (the feral). FOREVER. 

Then Again: Devils Fork Gap to Firescald Knob (out and back)

It had been too long since I spent the night on the trail. Everyone knows that John Muir quote, “The mountains are calling, and I must go.” But for me, it is sort of a compulsion. I get antsy. There’s something wild in me that has to go back to the woods, have that challenge of climbs and rocks and sweat, and the quiet of sleeping outside, the bugs and feeling of off-balanceness, that uncertainty of not knowing what will happen next. Will there be people at the shelter? Will I make it all the way? Will I see a bear? Will it rain? Will I be hungry? All things I can manage, but situations I like to put myself in. 
So I went. I spent Friday and Saturday with my family at the lake. I waterskied Saturday, which made for some interesting sore muscles as I set out hiking. I wasn’t sure that I’d make it to the trail. The universe seemed to be conspiring against me. First I was too tired to get up early for my 20 mile section (40 total). Then I decided I had too much homework to do that anyways. Then I did (most) of the homework and found somewhere else to park, making it 11 miles. I started driving, pulled over for gas, and realized I’d left all my money and cards at home. I turned around on 2 gallons of gas and tried again. 
But I made it. I held a steady 3mph for the first two hours, then started slowing. My feet and knees were still swollen and not particularly happy to be hiking again, although the rest of me was ecstatic. 

The mouse car is gone!! A mouse-free car waited for me a Devils fork gap. 

I stopped at Jerry’s Cabin Shelter. I’d thought about cowboy camping tonight, but there were some friendly LASHers and section hikers here, so I stopped for the night. Besides, there was a privy and a fire and a spot in the shelter. 

I have to say, though, I do miss the privies of New England. They were spacious and airy (generally; some exceptions) AND they had toilet paper. That was clutch. 
It’s weird being back to hiking in the south, though, and for such a short trip. 
Miles: 9

MVP: jalapeño chips

LVP: knees

I woke up early. Actually, I’m not sure I was asleep at any point in the night. The old guys kept the radio blasting until some time past midnight. It stopped suddenly and I almost cried with relief. 
What didn’t stop, though, was the symphony of snores. 
I must have slept. I know all the men did. But the alarm went off at 5:30 and I was up at once, holding child’s pose for a few seconds like I always do, then deflating my pillow, then stuffing everything away. I grabbed my backpack and carried it away from the shelter before I stuffed everything inside. I left my food hanging on the bear cables, knowing I’d be back before the men left the shelter and the cables would wake them up anyways. 
I set out with my headlamp, silk blazing. The air held the chill of fall– I’d slept in leggings and my pullover, and even put on my new down vest. Fall is coming, and I was excited. 

I made it to Firescald knob as the sky was just turning orange in one corner. I sat down, wishing I had some food. I’d dreamed I had a snack in my fanny pack, but alas, that was a dream. I guess I’d slept some after all. 

I didn’t think about anything in particular. I’d meant to ponder my future or evaluate relationships that maybe weren’t worth my energy or consider life’s mysteries or do some other *deep thinking* but in the end, I just sat on a rock and thought about nothing. L’art pour l’art and sitting for sitting, I guess. We’ll call it “being present in the moment.”
I made it back to the shelter as the men were still eating breakfast. They hadn’t heard me leave, and were a little surprised by the whole thing. I ate some food, said goodbye, then headed north to my car. 

It was still early, and the meadows I walked through had my shoes soaked with dew. I felt blisters forming, but it was only 7 or so more miles to my car, so I figured I’d just go on. 

I passed a woman heading south. She asked how much longer this mountain went on. I was pleased with myself that my time up north had made me classify that “mountain” as more of a prolonged bump when I took it uphill. We chatted for a while, since it was her first solo section and she had that sort of panicky “what in the world did I get myself into” feeling that I had had on my first section. 
I next passed a man and his dog going the other way. He asked if I’d seen any bears; I said no. 
And then, a few minutes later, I felt a sharp, stinging pain under my sock. I reached down, thinking a thorn had worked its way under my sock. Nope, just 5 yellow jackets, all furiously stinging me. They left my sock and went for my hand and my arm and then finally left, amid shouts and curses and flailing limbs. 
I ran the rest of the way back to my car. Except when I stopped to look at my poor stung leg and curse some more. Sorry mom. There was a lot of cussing. 

It wasn’t my best hike. My legs hurt more than they should have. My wet shoes blistered my feet up. Stupid yellow jackets. No sleep. But…but…as Big Critter (remember him? I met him in the Smokies back in March?) once said, “a bad day on the trail is better than a good day out there.” 
And he’s right. Standing on Firescald knob, the sun just spinning fire into the sky, puddles of fog still settled into Hot Springs below me, wind carrying the smell of fall and campfire and stars into my hair…well, I can’t help but feel like everything will work out. Like there’s no point in thinking about my problems, because life has a way of solving them (the trail provides). 
Of course, back at school, there are problems a plenty waiting for me…but I’ve made it this far. I only have to survive until May and I’m done. It’ll work out and I’ll make it, just like I’ve always made it before. 
Miles: 14.2

Trip total: 23.2
MVP: sunrise

LVP: Yellowjackets