Sunday, April 26, 2009
Resting at the Hike Inn in Fontana dam, NC. rest, recuperate, refuel, rehydrate, resupply, reorganize. We're groaning that with the new 4-day food supply our packs are up to 30#.
I need to eat more. I have lost 7 pounds in 20 days. Gack, that means carrying more food, more weight in my pack. Well, it's 7# less on my body to lug, so it evens out, I guess.
Yayyy! Sally got to NOC about lunchtime yesterday, all hale and hearty and bubbling over with trail and shelter adventures. when I saw her I sat down and burst into tears. I told her how worried I'd been: to my vision, she'd been missing. She enthused about her hike and I protested about my trauma, neither of us relating. Finally she told me to get over it so I did.
Too late to start hiking so we camped. The same beautiful unofficial campsite, which I'd shared each night with whatever group of people I'd told about it, and occasionally someone who saw our campfires and came on up. It was on such a steep hill that there was a rope to climb up.
today we got underway once more. climbed up, up, up....3000ft elevation change over 8 miles. We were nervous for a while about what looked and smelled like a forest fire, watching the smoke, checking the wind, watching the reactions of birds and animals, who remained unconcerned. Turned out it was a controlled 200 acre burn in the Smokies, someone learned somehow.
So now we're camped after going down, down, down, six tents here, one hammock, 3 girls, 4 guys. Sally and I agree on a meeting point if we get ahead of each other, when one of us reaches that point, she does not proceed until the other has arrived. No more separation anxiety for me. I was ready to call out an App. Trail Comission search party for a missing hiker.
Miles today: 10.5, 6 hours including breaks.
Total miles so far: 163.7
Miles to go: 2032.8
Marathons down 5.5
Marathons to go:77.8
My pack weight at NOC, including 4 days of food and 36oz of water, was 26.5 pounds.
Day 3 of living at the Nantahala Outdoor Center waiting for Sally. I feel like Novalee Nation living at the Wal-Mart. (Where the Heart Is). "Muscles"-a girl- came in this morning and says Sally's about 6 miles out, as are a bunch of other members of our original "gang" whom I assumed were far ahead. Things are looking up. I'm a veteran at living here...I show all the new-comers where the showers and washing machines are, and the hiker boxes, and the all-purpose common room, and the location of whatever they're looking for in the outfitter store here. I should be paid.
It turns out that Sally is most likely behind me, not ahead. Found out last night via grapevine that she stayed in Franklin nursing a sore knee. I called our next mail drop place Fontana and she has not picked up her box. So I'm waiting for the outfitter here at NOC to open this morning; I never thought to ask yesterday if she'd picked up THIS drop because I assumed she was a couple days ahead. I'm kicking myself for not knowing by ESP that she was behind me. I'm worried. If she hasn't picked up her box here, I'll wait until she does, and start calling places back in Franklin if hikers coming in today haven't passed her.
"Fidget" (a guy) pulled in later and had been with Sally overnight a couple shelters back. She's on her way. Should get here tomorrow. We (Fidget, N-Da-Wind, Jessie's Girl, Jedi and Matt) found a wonderful unofficial campsite on a flat topped hill overlooking the rushing Nantahala River which sounded wonderful all night. We had a campfire, beer, and a great time. I'm SO relieved...I thought everyone was ahead of me and that I was all alone out here. I guess they all stayed an extra day in Franklin!
Baltimore Jack, a Trail legend, and his pal Sergeant Rock showed up yesterday. They had some serious hooch - Jack is packing 25oz of Jim Beam which he ships himself in his mail drops - and gave me some. Then someone gave me a beer. This is like, about noon and I haven't eaten much since I'm not hiking. Whoo. Spin City.
BaltimoreJack unpacking his mail drop box
Baltimore Jack, me, Sergeant Rock
Baltimore Jack signing my hiking pole
Sergeant Rock signing my hiking pole
I found a rain jacket discarded in a "hiker box" here (take what you want, leave what you don't). I cut the sleeves off to fit my water bottles and made carriers for them (dental floss for thread) to go on my pack straps for easy access. threw the jacket back in the box - maybe someone will want a short sleeved rain jacket.
My new water bottle carriers
Then Sergeant Rock had a proposition: his car was parked at Fontana Dam, 30 miles away, and he needed a 2nd driver to go with him in a borrowed car to get it. So I did that, but told him I needed an hour to sober up before we could go, since he and Jack got me drunk. Hard to believe that 2 days ago I was so miserable I wanted to go home.
We're stopped - Constant, Shaun and I - at the Nantahal Outdoor Center, Wesser, NC, to do laundry, get a shower, buy food, etc. I picked up a mail drop I'd sent myelf with ETA April 15th - Bingo!! Spot on!
Naturally it's a beautiful sunny day, since we're off the Trail. As soon as we head out it'll turn cold and rainy.
Cold and rainy reminds me of another thing I've learned: It's hard to open a Zip-Loc bag when you're wearing fleece mitts covered with dog poop baggies.
Total miles so far: 135.0
Total marathons:5.15; 78.15 left
Miles to go:2,036.4 = NEW SECOND DIGIT!! Actually hit that days ago.
Miles today: 15.5 - Wayah Shelter to Rufus Morgan Shelter which is 0.8 miles from the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Wesser, NC. "Constant" Amy and I hiked together. Tomorrow is her 27th birthday. Weird...when Avery was 7 months old, I had no idea that a woman I'd be hiking the AT with was being born then.
It was so funny in the shelter last night, 4 women and Shaun. The women talked about what women talk about - periods, PMS, hot flashes, pregnancies - and shaun read a book. At one point he tossed out "Pretty soon you're all going to dive for the chocolate and eat it all and then not have any until your next resupply."
Partly because I'm encased in my down comforter in the middle of the day. Partly because I've been feeling down.
In Franklin my phone wouldn't work and I couldn't find sally. Yesterday I started the trail again assuming she was ahead of me, then learned via trail grapevine that she was "zeroing" (rest day, 0 miles) in franklin. So I was ahead of her. I could stop somewhere and wait for HER to catch up with ME. Yay!
Testerday was warm and sunny, a beautiful Easter hiking day. I'd found a church - Methodist - with an 8:30 service and great contemporary songs. During the sermon, I got feeling icky. Hot, faint. I'm no longer used to sitting still in a closed space. I had to go out for a while.
Got back on the trail about noon and hit 7 miles in 3 hours despite a newly-resupplied pack (heavy). Started down the path to the shelter and didn't like the looks - half a mile down a long hill and close enough to town that others might bypass it. I wasted probably a mile trying to decide and then headed for the next one, another 7. Met up with a high-school group whose teacher/counselor/fearless leader person told me it was a rough 7 miles and too late to be trying it. I kept on for about another half mile and decided he was right. turned around, knocked off anothe redundant mile till I found them again, and camped near them.
Today, doing the 7 I'd started yesterday, I'm glad I didn't try it. It was rough.
Figured if Sally starts from town today, this shelter here would give her 11 miles, I'll wait here for her. But she must have gone on to the next for a 16-miler...no sign of her, and I've been here almost 4 hours. Finally got a little spasm of residual life on my phone and had 3 voicemails from her, desperately trying to find me in Franklin. Now my phone is croaking again, hers is either turned off or no signal, and I'm trying to communicate with her via Trail grapevine.
It's cold, so foggy that 4 of us are looking through mist at each other in the shelter, sitting inside our sleeping bags for warmth. Now that I've decided Sally went on, it's too late to try the 5 miles to catch up with her.
I'm with "Itchy", a young woman who started south from Harper's Ferry, WV in late January after a personal crisis, Shaun, a young man who hasn't said much, and a woman with a sprained ankle and a bad cold who is carrying her mother's ashes to scatter on Clingman's Dome, NC, the highest point on the trail, after which she'll continue on to Maine. That's about the most heartrending story I've heard so far.
Yesterday I was alone all day hiking, and today I was alone because no one had stayed where I started from so I was alone again today. Last night and today were the first times I've seriously thought "Why am I out here? I want to go home."
Now that I've found other humans I feel better. Amy, newly named "Constant" just showed up and I may start hanging with her.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
There's a gang that's formed, mostly women, and last night we all got shirts made up: AT logo with "Hiker Trash" and our trail name, surrounded by color bursts. My shirt is light pink, made with the sleeves and collar "ripped off" (looks like trash, $2.99 on the clearance rack), the color swirls are light blue and lavender, and the print is black. Goes perfectly with my black running/hiking mini skirt. I'll get a picture and see if Steve can coordinate it with this post!
My name isn't MacGyver anymore. I'm Yard Sale. When I'm setting up or breaking down camp, I can't get myself organize unless I lay all my stuff out on the ground. They say it looks like I'm having a yard sale. N-Da-Wind named me. She said it's also a skiing term: when a downhill skier wipes out and gear flies everywhere, they call it a yard sale.
So I'm Yard Sale. I like its metaphorical lilt, too: a yard sale is where you get rid of stuff that doesn't serve you anymore and is just cluttering up your life.
Friday, April 24, 2009
205 miles down. Another 13 (one day's hike or less) and I'll have 1/10 of the distance done. Just have to do it 9 more times. That makes it sound totally doable.
We did one 17 mile day and an 18; usually, lately, it's 12-15. Up, down, up, down, up, down.
No tendon trouble. The skin is coming off my heels, though, despite blister bandages, tape, abrasion covers, everything I can think of. Judy (who brought me to her home) says it'll pass.
Going through Great Smoky Mountains National Park now. Gorgeous.
I hope Judy's scale is wrong. It's showing a 10-pound loss. Last time I checked (motel in Fontana Dam, NC, 4 days ago) I'd lost 7.... over 2 pounds a week. So another 3 in 4 days is alarming. I mean, I'm not too skinny or anything.... I'm just losing so fast it appears I need to eat more. But that means I have to carry it.... Maybe 10 pounds off my body means I can carry 10 pounds more in my pack. Ew. Not.
Gorgeous scenery and wildflowers; funny stories, like the night in a shelter where a mouse gave birth to babies in someone's backpack. I wasn't there for that but Sally was (when she was in one place and I was in another) and the story is all over the Trail.
Have seen no bears, snakes, wild hogs, or even many birds. Couple of white-tailed deer. But the wildflowers are gorgeous. White trillium, trout lilies, YELLOW trillium, and Spring Beauties, gorgeous star-shaped little white flowers with delicate pink brushstrokes.
I miss my family. I miss my husband. I've had some miserable days but mostly I am loving every inch of this Trail.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Ten miles farther, yet. Coyotes during the night raised a ruckus, awesome. I thought the first whoops were some kind of owl, until they all got in on it. I loved it.
Rain started just as we were breaking camp. Poured ALL DAY LONG. Cold rain. 11 miles to Carter Gap shelter, which was not in a gap but on a mountain. Glad I stopped when I did because we got horrendous thunderstorms and hail. Stayed under the shelter roof until it let up then hit my tent at 6:30pm and stayed there. Glad I at least was under the rhododendrons and not in the open.
There was a reason i didn't go on. When I went to the spring for water I found 2 young men, one with a Bible and the other with a guitar, which he was playing barehanded in the freezing cold. They were out there (WAY out there) seeking Answers. I told them I was, too, and we talked theology until they were near hypothermic. I brought them to the shelter and made them hot tea, they signed my hiking poles, and said they'd found some of their answers in the words we'd exchanged. I told them i had, too.
Last night in the shelter we had 7 people (I was the only woman). Inside we pitched 3 tents and the other 4 slept in between and behind them, so they also had protection from the tents. Envy not, girls....
Plan was to go to shelter 5 miles out, I got there and set up my camp, my friends came along and said they were going 5 more miles to the next one.
I stayed Moved my tent into the shelter. Only girl among about 8 guys of various ages. 2 more have their tents in the shelter, 2 in between tents in sleeping bags, several outside in tents. One has a tarp pitched over a hammock. It's windy and snowy. Rhododendron leaves are curled = temps below freezing. Prediction tonight is 21 degrees. sunny tomorrow, 60's, I'm going to try for 11 miles to Hiawasee, where Steve will meet me.
I woke up feeling like crap. All shaky and sickish and jittery, like after a really hard marathon. N-Da-wind was rarin' to go until she heard the weather forecast, wind advisory and 3-6 inches of snow. So we stayed in Helen, GA for the day. funny "rest" - we walked and walked. We were told there was an outfitter at the other end of town, so we walked maybe a mile there, found out they only sold fishing supplies, and walked back. Then i made a couple more mile round trips to the Dollar Store, drug store, etc.
I have just realized that if I write out all this long prose I'll never keep up. Already I'm backtracking writing entries a day or two late.
R&R = rest and relaxation (or is it recreation?)
RRRR = refuel, rehydrate, rest, relax.
New hiking pal N-Da-Wind and I were together today. We started as a trio including sally, who quickly left us in the dust. We plodded along. N-Da-Wind hikes more slowly than I do, taking more time to stop and smell the roses. But I was slow today; picked up new food and too much of it trying to eat enough. I had more weight than I should have. I also had new boots. I was getting tired very fast. We came to a road after 5 miles. N-Da-Wind was out of water. The only prospect for some shelter was a shelter 2 miles away, 1.2 of that down a steep hill that would have to be re climbed. It's being recommended to avoid actually staying at that shelter due to bear and possible human interlopers. Next one was 5 miles. a lady hiker offered us a ride to town for water, and said she could then return us to the trail afterwards, so we went with her. During the 10 mile ride, I looked at my guidebook and said "N-Da-Wind, there's a million motels there...what do you say about staying in town and getting back on the trail tomorrow?" "Hey, I'm all over that idea," she said. so we did. We'll start tomorrow where we left off.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
(Steve) I met Ellie in Franklin, NC with her next weeks supplies. We went out to dinner at Shonny's all you can eat seafood buffet. She was staying in a motel with plans on attending Easter services the next morning. When I talked to her on Monday the 13th her phone battery was dying but she had made 5 miles after church on Sunday and planning on 10-12 that day. I'm mailing her a new phone.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
The first real milestone! The trail passes right through a historic stone building that houses an outfitter, 18-bunk hostel ($15 a night) showers, TOWELS (you don't have to dry yourself with a bandana), washer and dryer. Everyone's been saying for three days "When I get to Neel's Gap I'm going to..." It's all you hear, like some kind of Mecca. and it really is. I got food - Trail Dames, a hiking group, were hosting a huge barbecue, like the most awesome post-marathon food station including hamburgers, hot dogs, chili, sauerkraut, chips, cookies, Krispy Kremes, just awesome. A couple of them "knew" me already from the Women Hikers List yahoo group. We were so excited to meet!
n the outfitter a woman the age of my daughter Avery helped me go through my pack, toss unnecessary stuff, and re-organize it. She helped me shed 2.5 pounds. That's significant but nowhere near the average 12.5. So I'd done a pretty good lightweight job from the start. My weight is 27-30 pounds depending on how much food I have.
Best of all - Steve met me here with love, kisses, and a food box. I'm afraid that with the pack shakedown and flitting about with my new friends I didn't spend as much time with him as I could have. He brought me a 4-pack of little Sutter Home Merlot to share with my hostel mates tonight.
And I finally caught up with sally. This is her second night here. She beat me by a whole day. Well, now that I'm toughening up, maybe I can keep up with her. Or not. We're going to start together, anyhow!
Tomorrow is a 10-mile day. There's a closer shelter but there's a Bear Warning and hikers are advised to skip that one and move on.
It's 5:30 am. I've been awake since 3:30. Went to sleep about 10:30. I thought insomnia wouldn't be a problem on the trail but it is. Anxiety goes with it. I feel "attacks" starting as soon as I settle down in my tent. We are so out in the middle of nowhere. Instead of kicking my anxiety and sleep meds, I'm taking the max of both. Had I not had that humdinger panic attack in October, been hospitalized overnight, tested out the wazoo, and pronounced healthy other than a panic disorder, I'd probably have had one on the trail and quit by now. Instead, I recognize it, breathe deeply, remember there's nothing wrong, and get over it.
Maybe God arranged that big one for me to get it over and done so I could hike armed with that it's "only" anxiety. And quite possibly as we continue, I'll get over it.
Sally walks ahead of me, N-Da-Wind behind me (although we are together a lot) but the lord always walks with me. In the rustling grass I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Last night at Carter Gap Shelter, we had torrential rain, high wind, thunder, lightning, and hail that sounded like a dump truck unloading gravel. Learned today that there were tornadoes in the area; Murfreesboro, TN had a touchdown with fatalities.
My tent held firm.
Tendons are holding out. Legs are holding out. Spirits are holding out.
At a motel waiting for Steve, he just pulled up.... later!!
Friday, April 10, 2009
I've been noticing with some astonishment the amount of trash there is on the trail. Lots of top strips torn from foil tuna packets (Like power gel top strips at a marathon or triathlon) And plastic baggies. Bits of candy-bar wrappers. And dog doo. People are supposed to "go" 200 feet away from the path and bury it 6 inches deep, but they're letting their dogs do it right on the path and just leaving it.
Like most hikers, I keep my trash in a Zip Loc bag. Except then I can't remember which pocket its in so I start a new one, and then I can't find THAT one, so by the end of the day I've got several going.
So last night I pulled out a Wal-mart bag I'd been carrying in case I needed a Wal-mart bag, and found all my trash bags and consolidated them into that. I picked up some trash around the shelter (Gooch mountain). In the morning when I packed up, I hung it by its handles onto my pack belt where it couldn't get lost andI could easily add to it from my own wrappers or anyone elses.
At least that was the plan. At a break I ate a Pay Day bar and picked up someone elses tuna packet and...where's my Wal-mart bag? Definitely not on my belt. I looked around. Maybe it fell of when I undid my belt buckle. Nope. Gone. Non-existent. So I started a new Zip Loc and the losing-it pattern started again.
Now, I'd done a lot of griping and criticizing and beefing to hike-mates about "I can't believe how much trash people leave on this trail. What happened to Leave No Trace? Are they just careless or really don't care or what? It's inexcusable." And now I'd dropped a whole BAG of trash somewhere without knowing it.
My hike-mate of the day, "N-Da-wind" laughed and laughed. I thought she'd break a rib. I laughed too, but I started thinking.
I criticize people a lot behind their backs. This person does this, that person does that, people do xyz. The implication being "Of course, I don't behave like that, I'm better." Yup. Uh-huh. Right. I'd never be two-faced, or talk too much, or annoy anyone, or complain, for that matter. Because I don't do things like that.
My Hero said "Don't try to take the speck out of your brother's eye until you take the plank out of your own. Then you'll be able to see to help him with his speck."
N-Da-Wind, a hardcore biker chick and heavy duty construction worker, when she was finally able to stop laughing, said "Maybe God brought you out here where it's quiet so he can talk to you. There's things he wants you to learn."
So I'm making a special effort to say something nice or say nothing at all.
It rained off and on the whole windy day. There were views bu we couldn't see them. I took pictures of fungi.
The shelter was drafty and cold, and I thought my tent would be warmer. More people showed up and it started crowding up because the weather was so nasty. One guy said if there was no room inside, he'd take the picnic table under the overhang.
I moved out. I might get a little damper in the tent but I'd be warmer, and could get up in the night to pee without stepping on people and/or falling out of the loft. So I moved out. A singing, dancing Irish guy about my age thanked meand quipped "Aye, it's yer Chrrristian dyuty, Mum." I laughed back "Now THAT'S a little below the belt!!" He's walking from Florida to Canada, road-and-trail combo, raising money for Parkinson's disease.
N-Da-Wind and I hiked ELEVEN miles, crashed a mile short of Woods Hole Shelter, and found a great campsite. A gale was blowing and we hung our tents and sleeping bags up to dry. One the lea side of the hill, there was an old logging road, flat, unused, out of all wind. Three men about our age (50's) had built a campsite. Oh, warmth!!
As I cooked my awesome lentil stuff, I realized I hadn't eaten much all day. Some Granola and milk at the shelter, a Pay Day, and 2 six-packs of cheese crackers. Over 11 miles of strenuous up-and-down hiking. I was tired, having given up a mile short of the shelter. No wonder. I can't hike if I'm going to eat like that. I get on a roll and just don't bother. That's gotta stop.
Tendons are doing well, praise the Lord. The last couple hours or miles today they ached about a 1.5 on a scale of 10. I have gone 27 miles in 3 days - a marathon with a warm down. 2156 miles to go. another heartening drop in that third digit. One marathon down, 82.3 to go.
Thank you, Lord.
Like the toilet paper. I can't find my pit bag. Honest. I've only been on the trail one day and already I'm classifying plants by how well they work as toilet paper.
8 miles down, 2, 175 to go. It's nice to have a new third digit already. Actually, I walked NINE miles - Steve and I parked in the parking lot and walked the mile up Springer Mt. to the trailhead, where my miles started to "count". We kissed goodbye, I gave him my gaiters which I already didn't like, and I was on my own.
Beautiful, misty day, saturating the color of the moss and lichens and tree trunks. Rhododendron is just starting to show buds.
After I stopped at Hawk Mt. Shelter, bugs were a problem. Gnats or something. I have a head net and the guys in the camp were jealous. I said I'd barter: 15 minutes with the headnet for a foot of toilet paper. One of the guys (trail name Bluegrass) said "That's the true mountain currency - toilet paper!"
Later, someone had a craving for dessert- she gave me TP in exchange for instant pudding.
I'm still scatterbrained. I couldn't find my knife - someone lent me theirs. I lost my lighter - someone gave me a few matches. I'm glad I already have a Trail Name (MacGyver) - I'm sure if I were waiting to be "christened" I'd already be "TP". Or "Losing It". Or "Moocher".
Thursday, April 09, 2009
67 miles down, 2016 to go. Eighty-one marathons left of the 83.3. Four pounds down. I better eat more fat. Most days I get to my destination 1-2 hours ahead of my estimate. Tendons are fine, ache a little sometimes but no real trouble. I bought full-length Spenco arch-support orthotics and pitched my prescription ones and my feet feel so much better. I hated those orthotics. They were stupid. I have a toe blister that's bothersome; I'm taking care of it. I got new boots at Neels Gap and love them to death, way better than my worn-out trail runners. Pair of microfiber dress tights I picked up for $6 in New Orleans have held up so far w/o a single hole. They're my lightweight bottom layer and I've worn them every day.
Night before last it was 21*F at Tray Mountain Shelter where I stayed, blowing snow into the shelter, wind sounded like Niagara Falls. I was with about 10 guys, no other girls!! Three of us pitched tents inside the shelter, 4 more slept in between the tents (actually very efficient use of both shelter and tents, everyone got the benefit of both) and the other die-hards camped, one in a hammock w/ tarp over it. My 20* down bag kept me nice and warm.
I have a new Trail Name:Yard Sale. My stuff gets disorganized inside my tent, and in the morning I lay it all out on my ground cloth to make sure I can find everything and get it reorganized. They say it looks like I'm having a yard sale; before I get it laid out it looks like when a skier wipes out and his gear flies everywhere and they call it a yard sale. Reminds me again of that phrase I want on my gravestone...."Did I Miss Anything?"Speaking of missing, I'm missing about a 13-mile section already. Getting a ride into town (Helen, GA) and back to the trail didn't work out to the same stop-start place. It could have but I wanted to stay with my friends. Ironically, we all started in different groups with different rides (most had stayed overnighit in Helen due to weather forecast), moved at different paces,and I'm not with them currently anyway. I'll catch up today, waiting for a parcel at the post office. I will no doubt go back and do that section within the year. But I'm wondering if part of the purpose of this trip is to teach me not to be so compulsive about getting everything exactly right, going back, doing over, editing, re-editing..... but you can't call it an authenticthru-hike if you miss a section and don't make it up.
Characters on the Trail:Me (MacGyver aka Yard Sale), N-Da-Wind, hardcore biker-chick construction worker. Patience, a deaf fellow, Impatience, his service dog, Muscles, who has become his girlfriend, to all appearances, Ten-Sticks Arriba (that's my starting partner Sally, "The Fastest Mouse in the World-- she BOOKS, which is why we're not together at the moment, I'm not as trained as she is and I'm still coming back from injury), Fleet and Gaia, both women, traveling together, Wishbone, Bluegrass.
Today or tomorrow I should move into NC, depending on when the mail is available at the P.O.
Well, it was supposed to be a quickie... :-)Ellie/MacGyver aka Yard Sale
(Steve), the new tent came in the mail, so Ellie unpacked everything next to the post office and repacked with the new tent.
I dropped her off at the trail and she headed north. I talked to her on the phone and she had caught up with Sally, etal and had made the NC bourder.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
I got new hiking boots, and a new backpack via "Trail Magic" -- someone thought I needed a different one and pre-paid the outfitter at Neels Gap (Blairsville) and asked them to notify me to come in and be fitted. It's a ULA Catalyst, very awesome.
Hiked 7.8 miles the first day (rained), 7.3 the next(rained, then a monsoon all night) 11 the third (windy but dry,) then 5 (warm and beautiful,) then another 5, then crashed and burned and took a rest day. That's just about what I figured, rest about every 5 days till I get my "trail legs."
Wildflowers are coming up everywhere and it awesome to watch them in different stages of bud and bloom as the elevation changes and we move into early spring from late winter and back again. Red trillium, white trillium, some starry little white flowers that look like tulips when budding and turn into daisies (Star of Bethlehem?) Rhododendron is budding. Light blue, dark purple, and yellow violets. Awesome fungi with patterns like striated rock (think Sideling Hill if you know the Cumberland, MD area; google a picture of it if you're not). Amazing views -- couldn't see much the first 2 days b/c of rain and fog, but the next two it was gorgeous, and the trees aren't leafed out yet so they don't hide it.
On top of Blood Mt., someone had cut off and left an entire headful of light-brown dreadlocks 2 feet long. I heard from someone else that he'd had some kind of moment of truth and cut his hair as a symbolic expression.
One blister on my toe, not too bad.
I'm so glad I'm doing this. Steve met me at Neels Gap and is going to meet me again in Hiawassee. I called him yesterday to tell him I'd taken a rest day in Helen and he said he'd driven right through there on his way to his new campground job. Neither of us knew the other was there. Made me feel sad.
OK, time limit on hotel computer is up, ride back to Trail is coming soon, life is good!