By the third morning in Hot Springs we had come to terms with the fact that our stay was over. I loved Hot Springs. It was the simplicity of the town that made it so lovable. Sitting on the riverbank relaxing, cooking our meals over the camp fire coals, and huddling around this very small iPad for movie night. Those are what zero days should be about. But at some point we would have to put down some miles so we gathered our stuff (the contents of a backpack can really spread out over the course of two rest days) and hit the bricks. Our Floridian friend Thunderfoot was unable to make any headway with the swelling in his foot so he elected to sit another one out and visit the doc for some antibiotics. A smart move. More and more we are hearing stories of hikers we have met along the way dropping out and leaving the trail. The majority of whom have injuries that are all but self inflicted. People get massive blisters on their feet, rip off the skin and shove the exposed wound directly back into their salty, sweaty, fungi ridden boots with the expectation that the sores won't become infected. We've seen people hiking with sun boils and rashes that appear so amazingly uncomfortable it is a miracle they can even stand to have clothes on. But my all time favorite are those who hike sick. Every now and again you come across a hiker that looks like they' could collapse and die at any moment. If you cant eat, you cant hike; its that simple. Calories equal energy and if you have none, I doubt very much you will be able to make it onto the ridgeline from whichever gap or town you started in. Not to mention the fact that its pure misery to be on your feet when you're not right in the belly, let alone climb these big bastards with a 40lb pack. Often these simple little injuries are thought of as par for the course out here. You hike the AT, you gotta toughen up and hike through the pain every now and then right? I disagree. Yes you will inevitably experience some discomfort while hiking, but discomfort associated with weather or hunger or fatigue comes with no risk of infection, or incapacitation. Taking the time to lick your wounds and start back on healthy feet is an investment worth making if you plan to finish. I'm not saying you should hold up in a hotel room for a hang nail, but don't take any chances with your feet. It's a recipe for airfare home.
With Brown Sugar hobo hopping freight trains back to Connecticut to finish her degree and Bigfoot still in Hot Springs taking care of his big ass feet, we are light a few comrades, but the weather was in the 80's all day so I believe everyone was able to find some enjoyment from the hike. Being out of the Smokies (or Lucifer's knuckles, as I like to call them) cAping wherever the hell you please is back on the menu, and as a result the daily distance no longer needs to be predetermined. You simply hike til you don't feel like hiking anymore and make camp. The weather report for Hot Springs, NC all this week calls for highs in the mid 80's and lows in the mid 50's with a 0% chance of precipitation. Life is good. We have 64 miles to get to Erwin, Tennessee (51 miles as of right now, 4/10 9:40 pm), about a 4 day hike. And I know for certain that little Talula and I plan on basking in the relief of good weather (although I think we may have overlooked the sunscreen... Perhaps I can formulate some type of connect-the-dots game with his chest freckles?)
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