I'm gonna try something a little different with the blog. I'll do quick recaps of each day and elaborate on what stood out most to me during the day's mentioned. Because reception is spotty at times blogging can be difficult but I do promise to get them done when possible. Wouldn't want to let down my faithful follwers.
Back on the trail with NC on our mind. Beautiful day with weather and by early afternoon we reached a new state. We hung at the border for a while to regather and decided to trek 4 more miles to the top of Rocky Mountain to camp for the night. It didn't take long for NC to show us the climbs would be a bit different than GA.
HELLOOOO Weather! Waking up on top of a mountain with temps in the 30's, rain and lots of wind isn't the most pleasant thing I've done and breaking down camp in these same conditions is even harder. I'm hoping practice makes perfect because I wasn't very good at getting everything in my pack quickly and my hands were frozen to the bone.
As soon as I was packed up I got moving as quickly as possible. Finally moving I got myself warmed up and before I knew it some trail magic presented itself!
Now 99.9% of the time trail magic is a blessing but today I'm not so sure it was worth the wait. The grill was slow to get working and the rain, wind and cold was whipping through the gap. By the time I ate my cheeseburger I was soaked through with my hands in a bad state.
I got moving fast but my hands just wouldn't warm up. I needed to stop hiking and take care of the problem. I stuck my hands in my pants between my thighs to warm them best I could. It was a bit embarrassing when a solo female hiker passed by and witnessed this. She looked at me and said, "life on the AT."
Finally I was off and got myself warmed up. The climbs in NC want to see what you are all about. There's no cheating the trail out here. You have to suck it up and push on. I did so and got myself into camp. There's no better feeling when you can cook something warm and know you're done for the day....
The mountains are getting higher and the climbs are getting longer. Today we hiked long switchbacks that finally got us to Standing Indian Mountain which stands at 5498 feet. The views were worth the climb.
After spending some time at the top of Standing Indian we started the long trek down to our campsite. The knees were feeling it and when all was said in done I had my biggest milage day with 12.5 miles in the books.
Much like yesterday today was much the same with beautiful views as we reached the peak of Albert Mountain. Up top there was a fire tower but those who know me know I'm not the best with heights on man made structures so I passed and loaded up on food. The mini victory of the day was reaching 100 miles! It retrospect its a small amount traveled compared to the full journey but small goals hopefully will lead to the biggest of all.
Getting into camp we had a bit of extra excitement in us. Tomorrow we will hike just over 7 miles to grab a ride into Franklin for the night. Warm shower, real food and a shower means the world to us hiker trash.
up early and out. We hiked that 7 miles in just over 2 hours! We grabbed a ride at 1030am and had a full day to eat and relax!
I have to admit for a small town in NC I was pretty impressed with the nice Mexican meal we had. The margaritas didn't hurt as well.
Even with the hike in the morning this was a close to a day off as you get. We all felt nice and rested.
We got on the trail just after noon. This was one of the tougher hikes I had thus far. The first 4 miles I felt pretty decent but soon after I just lost my energy. No matter how much water or food I got in me it didn't make much of a difference. I was dragging and nothing was changing that.
With the temps in the high 70's I dragged my butt over three 5000 footers. Wayah Bald helped the day because again we were greated by some amazing 360 views. Far off in the distance you could make out the great Smokies. They seemed so far away but soon enough I would be at the foot of them ready to take them on.
Easter Sunday brought on beautiful weather and trail magic twice! I received a bag of Easter candy from a trail maintance worker and soon after that I came to a gap where the local church had a tent set up with burgers, chili dogs, desserts and drinks. Though it's not the same as Easter dinner with the family it certainly was a nice surprise on this Sunday hike.
After the magic we made our way to Wesser Bald. This bald also had a fire tower and with a bunch of badgering from the crew I sucked it up and made my way to the top. Was I shaking going up the old wooden stairs? Yes... But I did it and the view was worth it.
We made camp just a mile later and crammed into Wesser Bald Shelter. It's become quite the debate who is the worst snorer. Pretty much explains why we set up camp more so than sleep in shelters.
Just under 9 miles today due mostly to the fact that we took a nice long break at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. It's a great area located next to a river where a lot of hikers gather to eat some food, pick up packages and relax. With awesome weather yet again that's exactly what I did.
With a steep climb out of the NOC we camped at the first available spot that was suitable for camping. With some dinner and a good nights sleep I was ready for a new day of hiking. As it turned out I needed it.
In the am the cold returned. Soon after the hike started the rain followed. After 4 miles of straight up hiking we met up with some of the guys who stayed at Sassafras Gap Shelter.
The conditions were only getting worst. After eating a bit of food I got moving to get myself warm. This hike hurt. Tough ups and harder downs takes it toll. Its hard not to feel it all over as you take each step. And with the rain it's takes just as much to stay positive.
As I approached our camp site I needed to deal with one last climb called "Jacob's Ladder". It was close to 800 feet in just over a quarter mile. I put my head down and used all the energy I had left to get through it.
Coming into camp I was lucky enough to set camp up in a down pour. Yet again a lesson I need to master. I was in my tent using what little I had left dry to get warm and waved the white flag early. I was in my bag by 6pm and read myself to sleep.
Up early and on the trail quickly. In soaking wet clothes with a stench I'd advise anyone to avoid we decided to push hard for Fontana.
Early on the rain continued to fall. I passed Cody Gap and grabbed a quick photo. The going was tough. The rain made the trail more like a brook and mud bath. You'd think with the hike being mostly a descent it would be a bit easier. This was everything but. Because of the dangerous fall offs and terrible footing you had to watch every step you took. This made for a long and difficult hike.
After 13 difficult miles, 2 falls, some aching knees we reached Fontana Damn. We got a ride to the lodge and settled down for the night. Once again home cooked food, shower and a bed was a great reward after 2 extremely hard days.
A zero day and some time to reflect....
Im learning so much about myself out here. I'm just over 5% into my thru hike and already my world is changing. I have the opportunity to do some soul searching with each day. I'm doing what I can to seize that opportunity.
When I first decided to hike the AT I wanted to do it for me and to better myself. Since I've started my hike I've heard from many people expressing the inspiration they feel because of my journey. Some have mentioned changes and new commitments they are making because of what I'm doing. It's been really humbling. It seems in actuality that the hike isn't just for me. If I'm helping others better themselves with each step I take then that just adds some extra motivation to my hike.
As hard as it is out here it's much more rewarding. The people I meet, the beauty I see, the way of life I get to live is truly a gift. I can't say that I'm 100% sure I'll finish this hike because anything can happen but I will take each day as it is and hope it's one day less to Maine.
I'm holding up well. Have some pretty common aches and pains but my feet are in much better shape than most. I have my moments that mentally I'm tired but I use visualization to get myself out of a funk.
At this present moment I'm sitting in a rocking chair looking at the great smokies. Some say they are the toughest stretch of the AT. Difficult climbs well above 5000 feet throughout, hard conditions of rain and possible snow, tough footing that can cause hard falls and possibly a bit more wild life than seen thus far.
Tomorrow I enter this stretch with the same determination I've had since day 1. I'll take it step by step and day by day and hopefully it gets me that much closer to Maine.
Hike the good hike every one...
Jesse AKA Boston Mule