The worst day I've had thus far on the trail was the day out of Hot Springs. You'd think after 2 days of rest (drinking beer and eating cheeseburgers) that the body would be ready to go. This is not the case.
Everything is sore and stiff. Your feet are what's in the worst shape. Every step feels like walking on razorblades due to scar tissue build up. I crawled through 12 miles to shelter and for the first time I wondered if physically I was gonna hold up.
Sitting in my tent I had a hard time falling asleep because I truly was nervous about how I was gonna feel during my hike the next day. It was past 11pm when I finally dozed off.
What the trail taketh away always seems to giveth right back. I woke and felt great. With a little help with a knee brace and Advil I was off with a positive attitude!
The next 2 days were 15 milers with great weather and as usual great scenery all around me. In that 2 day span I received trail magic 3 times and cruise control and I hiked off trail 3 miles to find a small grill house that served $3 burgers! The hitch back was with an old backwood local in his pickup track that may have been as old as him. His left hand only had a thumb and I kid you not, I think I may have understood 4 of the many words he spoke. God bless the south and all the things I'm getting introduced to down here!
You may have noticed that I mentioned cruise control. The clan and I have found our way back together. Though we all haven't been in the same place at the same time we always know a couple of us may be ahead 10 miles or so or just behind. We have a new member that's been with us since Hot Springs. Landslide is his name. Younger guy from NC. I've been hiking with him a lot lately. A welcomed new brother to the quest of reaching Maine.
After a 10 mile day we hitched into Erwin which was 10 miles further north. Night one was at uncle Johnny's hostel. God awful. It was packed and everyone seemed to drink as much as they could. I wasn't in the mood and was in my tent before 9pm. With large gatherings around the fire, music playing and a fist fight after midnight I decided that I wanted out of there as early as possible. If it wasn't for free dinner, breakfast and lunch (next day) I wouldn't have any positive things to say about the hostel. They have a bad rep throughout the hiker circle and in my opinion that stands true.
Luckily we caught wind that a mile down the road there was another hostel that wasn't in the hiker book. We agreed to a 0 day and checked it out. For work for stay (Do some work for the hostel and you stay for free!) we were able to get a bunk and shower in an amazing camp ground bunk house by the river. Don, who ran the place was top notch! Took care of us in so many ways and even cooked us BBQ chicken for dinner!
Don drove us back to Spivey Gap 11 miles the next day so we could hike the portion we missed when we were driven into Erwin. We slack packed it. Slack packing is when you leave your stuff where you are, go back to the trail where you got off and hike the portion without your backpack. We did 11 mile in under 4 hours. Man slack packing is nice. You really get a feel for how far you've come when you can fly through the mountains without the weight.
We spent the night at the hostel again and got out early to push forward. 12 yesterday and 12 today and as I write this I'm sitting at greasy gap hostel after some great days of backpacking.
This place takes the cake! CC owns the land and has some beds in her barn. You're basically a guest at her house. Wash your hands! Take your shoes off! No cursing! Bed by 10pm! She loves hikers and is as sweet as can be. I mean you have to be if your life is basically letting hiker trash come and go as they please.
You really can't understand the world of the AT unless you experience it. There's truly nothing like it. I feel I've been welcomed to a crazy, wild, not particularly sane group of people. Anyone is welcomed to join. The only requisite is you have to attempt to backpack 2200 miles from NC to Maine.
Each day now, though difficult with climb after climb, feels much different than weeks back. Obviously I'm lighter and stronger but now it's the norm. It's my lifestyle. I'm not thinking, "How hard is this gonna be?" or "Man can I get through 11 miles up over this mountain without breaking down?" Much like waking and going to work Im waking and backpacking to Maine. The big difference is I don't dread it. Even on the rainy days I still look forward to what the day will introduce to me. This is my life for now....
When I have the opportunity to check Facebook or any news outlet it seems there's a lot of bad occurring in the world. Whether it's a terrible earthquake in Nepal or race riots in Baltimore it has me shake my had and fill with emotions. I'm far from that world right now but it doesn't change the fact that tough times occur.
I'm not using this blog for my opinion. This isn't about that. I'm fortunate to have parents that introduced me to Bob Dylan. I listen to a lot of him during my hikes. I listen to The Grateful Dead, The Avett Brothers, The Lumineers, Old Crow Medicine Show and many others as well. Beautiful music with beautiful and honest lyrics. Dylan constantly reminds me times are changing. With all going on in the world I choose to believe they are changing for the better. Sometimes it just takes some hard times to get there. Kill me for being an optimist.
I believe my journey will lead to something special. Life won't be the same when it's all said in done. When I get home a new chapter will begin and I hope there'll be differences all around me. One I do know is my best friend Chuck will be getting married. Those who know the friendship I share with Chuck know how special it really is. I guess it's safe to say when it comes to Chuck and me, though we will always act "Forever Young" undoubtly "The Times They are a-Changing" ..... And as far as I'm concerned for the better.
One day closer to Maine ya'll and remember, hike the good hike!
Jesse AKA The Boston Mule