The Appalachian Trail from The Great Smoky Mountains to Damascus, VA

The Appalachian Trail from The Great Smoky Mountains to Damascus, VA

Table of Contents

Trail Day: 25

Thursday, April 15, 2021

  • Location: Max Patch *Camping is no longer allowed at the spot
  • Start/End Time: 9/3:45
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny but Windy

This morning was a nice slow one as we were only hiking 13.6 miles to Max Patch which has a 360-degree view for both sunrise and sunset.

Hoagie and I set out without Iris as her partner was coming to pick her up so they could spend some time together. We’ll be meeting up with her on Saturday in Hot Springs.

Most of today was uphill. A drastic change from yesterday’s unending down. I was a little worried about how I’d do today after all the miles yesterday, but ended up with on a little bit of pain from my pinched nerve. I did lots of stretching throughout the day and took plenty of ibuprofen.

As a whole the trail wasn’t very exciting today until the end. I walked most of the day by myself and enjoyed listening to the Duke and I on audiobook. It’s pretty much a trashy romance novel, but I won’t apologize for listening to it.

In the afternoon I met up with Hoagie and Brad (who I met back in Fontana) at Max Patch Road. Brad gave me a PBR and we relaxed by a little stream while trying to keep warm in the sun and it was a little chilly.

Hoagie and I had decided earlier that we were going to camp as close to Max Patch as we could. She found out they allow camping at the top so we did one more uphill to set up out tents for the night.

When we reached the top I was awe inspired by the amazing view. We had the best view of the Smokey Mountains and couldn’t wait for sunset!

Unfortunately, it was really windy so setting up our tents in the wind was a bit of a challenge. Making sure things didn’t go flying away as I pulled them out of my bag was interesting.

Once my tent was set up I put in a bunch of layers to keep warm. The door of my tent was facing away from the wind which helped to keep me warm.

I made hot chocolate for Hoagie and I (Brad didn’t want any) and we waited for the sun to set.

The most challenging thing about camping on Max Patch is where to go to the bathroom. There are people everywhere and the 360 degree view makes privacy difficult. With Hoagie and Brad as lookouts I ended up peeing right next to my tent because it provided the most protection from people and the wind. 2 guys ended up seeing me pee anyway. What are you going to do?

Sunset was spectacular! There where lots of thru hikers at the top, a local couple got engaged, and the sky looked like it was on fire. So far this is the most amazing sunset I’ve seen while out on the AT. Hopefully the wind dies down so we can get a good nights sleep.

Trail Day 26

Friday, April 16, 2021

  • Location: Deer Park Mountain Shelter
  • Start/End Time: 8:15/4
  • Weather Conditions: Partly Sunny

While the wind ended up dying down around 2am, it was a cold night. I had to get up to pee twice. One time all I could hear was Brad laughing at me (at 3 in the morning). He’s been teasing Hoagie and I about how easy it is to pee in a bottle as a guy. While I’ve never wanted to be a man the equipment they have makes peeing in the woods so much easier!

I started hiking at 8:15 this morning. With not much to see as far as views go, today was pretty boring. I hiked all morning without headphones, as I do most days, to clear my head and be one with the forest. There were lots of trilliums in white and red all over the forest.

One big plus about today is, while we were doing 16.6 miles, there was plenty of spots to get water. When there is lots of water around I don’t need to carry that much, making it easier to hike faster.

Over the past few days, a group Hoagie and I are calling The Siblings have been leap frogging us. They’re all in the 50s I’d guess and are really lovely people. The oldest brother, Randy, always has a question for me and for some reason they’re about ice cream. We decided today that when we get to Hot Springs we’re all getting hot fudge sundaes together! I’m so excited!

About halfway through the day I just wasn’t feeling it. I still had 8 more miles to go, but really didn’t want to hike. It’s been 8 days since my last shower and non-camp meal. And I haven’t done my laundry since Franklin. I’m so ready to go into town tomorrow. I put my headphones in and tried to get into a groove.

While it didn’t really work and it took me a while to get to Deer Park Mountain Shelter I made it. As with all longer trail days everything gets better once I put my camp shoes on. Someone started a fire and all the AT hikers at camp (There were several section hikers that had showed up to camp then left. It’s like we smell bad or something.) gathered around the fire and swapped stories. 

One guy was doing a lot of farting, which is always funny (sorry not sorry). A future doctor was telling us all why we should get colonoscopies. And Hoagie and I further bonded over or mutual love for Christopher Lloyd movies. We both agreed that the Back to the Future trilogy are some of his best.

We’re planning on going into town early tomorrow and get breakfast at a diner before, hopefully, picking up our packages at the Post Office before it closes. My alarm is set to go off at 5:30am, ugh. But a breakfast I don’t have to cook myself and a birthday celebration weekend is well worth it!

Saturday, April 17, 2021
The Great Smoky Mountains to Damascus, VA Day: 27
Location: Hot Springs, NC
Start/End Time: 6:15/7:30
Weather Conditions: Sunny

I woke up with my alarm and packed up quick to get down to the diner. I was super excited for breakfast food, but not particularly thrilled about the mile going uphill this morning. It also happened to be in the dark so I could get there in a timely fashion with Brad and Hoagie.

Brad beat me down the mountain and into Hot Springs, but Hoagie had a later start. I ended up having breakfast with Brad, Data, 2-pack, and a hiker that’s 18 years old who I’ve seen before but don’t know his name. 

The Smokey Mountain Diner had homemade sticky buns which were delicious! Then I had a grilled sandwich with apple butter and bacon. I couldn’t eat the entire thing, so I saved half the sandwich for later.

When the waitress brought the bill she out my food with that of the 18 year old because she thought we were together. I can’t decide if it’s because I look young or if she thinks I’m robbing the cradle. I’m fine with either.

Hoagie arrived at the diner as we were finishing breakfast. 

From there we went to the post office and while my package from my friend Megan that was supposed to arrive in Hiawassee didn’t make it here, my new hiking shoes arrived!

I was so excited for the shoes I walked out of the post office chanting “Shoes, shoes, shoes!” at Hoagie who was across the street. By doing so I happened to scared a Tibetan Mastiff that was walking down the street. We were both fine.

The next step was to do our laundry, but fun fact: there is no laundry mat in Hot Springs. Hoagie and I headed to the Laughing Heart Hostel to do a load of laundry together.

At the hostel we ran into the siblings and a girl they were hiking with named Kat Kall. Turns out Kat Kall needed a place to stay and we had an extra space! Score for everyone and it get the price down on the AirBnB Iris booked for us in town.

After doing laundry we went to the adoring Creek Tavern to meet Iris for lunch and checked into our AirBnB which was literally across the street.

Then we started drinking to celebrate my birthday! Iris brought all kinds of yummy goodies from home and 2 boxes of wine to share. I’m feeling really loved by Seal Team 3 today.

Randy sent me a text for our ice cream plans and we all got together with him and the siblings for tasty ice cream. They’re heading back on trail tomorrow so we might not see them for a few days.

For dinner we went back to Spring Creek Tavern and I got a big bacon cheeseburger with tater tots. The bouncer who was open carrying told me he really liked my little crocheted Pikachu as he knows how to crochet. This is the type of masculinity we need more of, just saying.

While at dinner I saw Linger through the window which was such a great surprise!

Afterwards we went back to our AirBnB and told a few trail friends to come over. However, lots of people we didn’t know began knocking on our door. It was very strange. 

At one point we had a group of people knock at the door and walk in saying, “We heard it was Pikachu’s birthday! Who’s Pikachu?” Best and strangest birthday ever!

After everyone left around 12:30am (WAY past hiker midnight) Iris, Hoagie, and I stayed up a few more hours chatting and enjoying each other’s company. I’m so thankful to have found this crazy little Tramily.

Sunday, April 18, 2021
The Great Smoky Mountains to Damascus, VA Day: 28
Location: Hot Springs, NC
Start/End Time: 
Weather Conditions: Sunny with light wind

Surprisingly, I woke up pretty early at 8am.  I had a bit of a hangover. Hiking a bunch and not drinking will do that to you after a few drinks.

Ate my leftover dinner for breakfast and generally hung out and did nothing all morning. Caught up with emails and other blog stuff a little bit.

Around noon we went over to Big Pillow Brewing for tacos and drinks. I got some tasty nachos and a flight so I could taste a bunch of their beers.

After lunch I went back to the apartment to take a bath with epsom salt. I wore my underwear so I could keep the door open and socialize. I put some music on and painted my nails with the crappy nail polish we found in the hiker box.

Iris ended up coming in and sat in the edge of the tub dipping her feet. Then, Kat Kall came in and sat on the toilet (with the lid closed) eating peanut M&M’s, and fed them to Iris. I wish I had a photo. We were definitely a sight to see.

Since Hot Springs is a tourist town and the AT goes straight through it the people watching is amazing! Hoagie and I headed down the stairs (because our AirBnB was located in the second floor about some shops.) and sat in the benches outside of Bluff Mountain Outfitters to people watch. 

While we were sitting out there we met Nimbus and Trail Pilgrim from ALDHA (American Ling Distance Hiking Association) they’re traveling the trail doing trail magic. These guys are pure trail angels! They’ve both hiked the trail and we had an amazing conversation about Dixie and how the trail needs more knowledgeable women out here.

They also informed us the ALDHA will be formally recognizing AT hikes this year because the ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) isn’t.

For dinner I went to Vaste Rivière Provisions, which I located directly under our apartment. I had pasta salad, a tasty brownie, and I got a free beer because I kicked the keg of this delicious beer called Sexual Chocolate.

For the first time in about a month I sat down and watched television. Hoagie logged into Netflix and we watched a few episodes of Space Force while we packed.

Then right before bed, because I haven’t finished it yet, I watched an episode of A Discovery of Witches thanks to AJ giving me access to how Shudder account.

Monday, April 19, 2021
The Great Smoky Mountains to Damascus, VA Day: 29
Location: Spring Mountain Shelter
Start/End Time: 9:45/4
Weather Conditions: Sunny with a slight chill

It was a little sad to leave our cute apartment this morning. We all finished packing, did the dishes, and cleaned up.

Hoagie and I went over to the post office where I mailed my boots home and checked to see if Megan’s package had arrived. It hasn’t. I guess I’ll be chasing this package forever! Thanks fully Hoagie got her package though.

I started hiking and Iris caught up to me. We stopped and sat at Lover’s Leap, a beautiful view over Hot Springs, and chatted for a while.

I started off the day super nervous about my new shoes. I’ve never not hiked with a full pack on without hiking boots, so my new hiking shoes are a completely new experience for me. Poor Iris listened to me muse about how worried I was and that I wasn’t convinced that I made a good decision. While I’m still unsure of the change, I ended my day with feet that felt great and I didn’t roll my ankle. Hopefully this change continues to be positive.

When we stopped for lunch Hoagie caught up to us and we ended up hiking the next 5-ish miles together. We came across a hiker walking in her underwear, which while a bold move, I applaud. The guys do it all the time so why can’t we? There where 3 women in the woods doing trail magic and we each got an orange, and Iris told us some crazy stories about her previous thru-hike attempt.

Unfortunately, my pinched nerve (not sure if that’s really waist it is, but for now I’m going with it) started acting up so I told Iris and Hoagie to keep walking and that I’d meet them at camp.

I took some more ibuprofen and did some stretching. While it took me a while to get to camp I was able to finish The Duke and I on audiobook so that’s a positive. 

Evening at camp was great! Hybrid and Green, who I’d met officially the day before Hot Springs set up there tents near Iris, Hoagie, and I. Iris started a campfire and we all gathered around. Hybrid played DJ on his phone and we chatted and danced a bit. 

On and off all day I kept feeling a pain in my right shoulder blade. Iris tried to work it out, but even a few hours later I can feel it.

For dinner I had Mountain House’s Chicken Pad Thai for the firs time and it was AMAZING! I finished off with a Hershey bar Iris gave me for my birthday.

Even after 2 days of rest my body was giving me some problems today. I’m hoping tomorrow things start to fall into place and my hip and shoulder blade starts to cooperate. And that my new shoes continue to be a god fit.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021
The Great Smoky Mountains to Damascus, VA Day: 30
Location: Jerry Cabin Shelter
Start/End Time: 8/4:45
Weather Conditions: Partly sunny and cool in the morning.

I did not want to get out of my sleeping bag this morning. It was chilly.

I’m trying to meet up with my friend Cheryl, who was one of my roommates during my trip to Antarctica. I’m hoping we can make it work within the next few days. It would really make my day to meet up with her.

After I got my butt out of bed, I was up and  hiking by 8. Hoagie hiked with me for a while in the morning. Her knee was giving her a hard time and I’m still worried about my hip, so we took it slow. 

At a road crossing about 4 miles in there was Trail Magic! A hiker named Andrew, that is taking some time off from the trail to rest his ankles, was giving out apples, kiwis, Capri Suns, coke, and a bunch of other stuff. It was a great way to start the day!

Iris was hanging out at the Trail Magic, so she hiked with us for a bit. And as it usually happens when we all hike together they end up hiking fast because they’re fast and I slow down. Sometimes it’s a bummer, sometimes I’m happy to hike alone. I can’t decide how I feel about it today.

I ended up slowing down a lot as the pain in my leg was off and on from the constant uphill. I stopped a bunch which was nice to rest, plus I ate the entire bag of BBQ chips I had packed out the day before. It was totally worth it and I’ll be doing it again.

As I usually do in the afternoon I put my headphones in. I wasn’t feeling a new book so I started relistening to The Book of Life.

All of a sudden the landscape started to change into this beautiful white rock and before I knew it I was walking in and amazing ridge line! I had views on both sides and was so thankful that the weather was good.

Soon after my decent from this area I came across the 300 mile mark! Over the past 30 days I’ve hiked 300 miles! It seems like only yesterday when I hit the 200 mile mark in the Smokies.

I’m overwhelmed by the progress I’ve made and how far I’ve come. Each day my hip doesn’t feel better I worry a little more that I won’t be able to make it. Mentally I’m feeling so strong, but with my body not feeling great how long can that positivity last? This has been in the back of my mind for several days now, but this is the first day I’ve tried to put this feeling into words. It’s scary, but needs to be said and recognized.

After I hit the 300 mile mark I took a snack break, turned some music on and continued down the trail. Not long after around 4:45 I arrived at Jerry’s Cabin Shelter for the night.

It turns out it’s Pretty in Pink’s birthday (I’ve been camping with her for a little over a week now a s her and her husband are so nice!) today. So Iris made a birthday candle out of tree sap and birch bark and we stuck it in a peanut butter cup. We all sang happy birthday and it out a big smile on Pretty in Pink’s face. I’m glad we were able to make her day special.

I set up my tent directly across from Hoagie’s and we sat inside them stretching and massaging our feet.

From my tent I watch an hiker, who had to be in this 60s try and hang his bear bag. He nearly hit himself in the face trying to hang it. When I asked if he needed help he said no, and told me he was just really high and would get it eventually. Luckily he did so without hurting himself.

While today wasn’t really a bad day I could still use a little pick me up so I’m going to climb in my sleeping bag and watch an episode of Falcon and Winter Soldiers I have downloaded on my phone.

It’s suppose to be rainy and cold tomorrow and it might even snow. Things should get interesting.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021
The Great Smoky Mountains to Damascus, VA Day: 31
Location: Hogback Ridge Shelter
Start/End Time: 7:45/4
Weather Conditions: Cold, windy, and a snowy wintery mix of precipitation

I knew it would be cold when I woke up, but I still didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag. Thankfully, it wasn’t raining or snowing…yet.

I started off hiking with Hoagie and Iris as I usually do, but for some reason it really got to me when they took off and then everyone else from camp passed me today. My hip was bothering me and between that and the cold I just wasn’t having it today.

For about 20 minutes I walked and I cried. The pain in my hip wasn’t terrible, but the cold sent me over the edge. I just couldn’t handle it today. To help out myself in a better mood I put my headphones in and listened to the audio of the live Broadway performance of Newsies I have downloaded on my phone from Disney+, it helped a bit.

At one point early on Brad passed me and sad, “Get on over that big butt.” In my head I thought, well I guess our friendship is there. A few minutes later I saw a sign that said Big Butt Bypass and realized I was hiking over a rock formation called Big Butt. That made more sense.

As I was going over Big Butt it started to snow. It was 71 degrees yesterday, how did the temperature drop low enough to snow? I was so frustrated with everything. Then I realized why my hip was hurting; I didn’t actually take the ibuprofen I took out of my bag and put in the pocket of my puffy jacket this morning while packing up. Stupid.

I stopped at the first shelter to each lunch, at 10:45 because I knew it was the only place all day I’d get refuge from the snow and wind. Everyone was there, all decked out in rain gear, suffering just like I was with the weather. It was nice to not feel alone in this.

As the afternoon progressed I had a ton of uphill that my hip didn’t like, but I had to do it anyway. The area was so lush and green with gorgeous wildflowers dotting the landscape. Then, out of nowhere I came around a bend and everything was frozen. The tops of the trees where covered in frost, a barbed wire fence I passed was too, and the wing was whipping. I just wanted to be done hiking for the day. I walked through the cold and wind for about 2 hours. It just wouldn’t stop. 

When I finally arrived at the shelter there was a nice warm fire going and everyone was gathered around it eating and laughing. I resisted the urge to set up my tent and crawl inside, and I’m glad I did. After a warm drink and some jokes around the fire I was feeling better. Hugs from Hoagie and Iris helped too.

I was able to text with my support team at home which helped lift my spirits as well. While I’m still concerned about my hip having a nurse on my team giving me advice and telling me I’m doing the right things when it comes to self care makes me feel better.

How many more days until I get to Damascus? I’m missing Sweet William today and could really use the massage I’m going to treat myself to when I arrive.

Thursday, April 22, 2021
The Great Smoky Mountains to Damascus, VA Day: 32
Location: Spivey Gap, US 18W
Start/End Time: 7:45/4:45
Weather Conditions: Chilly with some wind and ice at higher elevations 

I’m super excited that I get to meet up with my friend Cheryl today! While I slept terribly last night because it was cold and I set my tent up in a slight incline that made me roll all night, I was still up early because of excitement. It was absolutely freezing and I didn’t wanna get out of my tent but I knew that Cheryl was waiting for me 2.3 miles of the trail at Sam’s Gap.

Iris hiked out with me, and her tarp she was actually freezing last night and will be heading into town to get more warm clothing and supplies for future cold nights.

I was supposed to meet Cheryl at 8:30 but because I was dragging and didn’t leave till 7:45 we were a little bit late. However I did do 2.3 miles in an hour so I’m pretty happy with myself.

Cheryl was waiting with her puppy at the edge of the trail with a big sign that said, “Retha, you’re doing awesome!” After the terrible day I had yesterday, there isn’t a more welcome site it could’ve been waiting for me. It was so sweet and giving Cheryl a great big hug made my morning.

In addition to the sign Cheryl made homemade pancakes, had bacon, and hot water for some tasty Earl Grey tea. She even brought me some hot hands which I have been using at night in my sleep back to help keep warm. Iris and I sat in her car chatting and eating breakfast. Hoagie, Green, and Hybrid also got to share in the tasty treats as Cheryl made so much food.

Cheryl ended up giving Iris a ride to town and the rest of us continued on our way. I couldn’t be more thankful to of met Cheryl on my trip to Antarctica. My heart is so full right now. I really needed to see a smiling face today.

Unfortunately I was stupid and try to keep up with the others while going uphill. Which aggravated my hip and force me to slow way down. I really need to stop doing that.

Today was another weird day with weather. My body temperature kept ranging from hot to cold as mother nature change from hot to cold. I hate most of the day by myself listening to my audiobook The Book of Life. In certain sections the wind was extremely high and I had to add layers to keep warm.

The most beautiful part of the day was going up and over Bald Stamp, Which provided 360° views, high winds, and ice covered trees. Because of the highwinds at the summit I almost took the bad weather bypass but was very glad I didn’t because of how gorgeous it was at the summit.

We decided to meet up not in a shelter tonight but at Spivey Gap. The next shelter was an additional 5 miles which would’ve made us do a 20 mile day. While Hoagie is definitely ready for this I don’t feel like I can do it in a timely manner and enjoy my day…yet.\

When I arrived everyone was gathered on the campfire so having stories and eating dinner. It was a bit of a sad night as Hybrid is getting off trail because he’s moving to Alaska for his residency to become a doctor. Well I haven’t mentioned him too many times in this journal I’ve been leapfrogging and seeing him at shelters for about a week and a half now. He’s always up for a good time and will be missed by myself and others on the trail in at camp in the evenings.

We all stayed up late, on the AT 10 PM is late, swapping stories talking about or movies and enjoying the campfire together.

Friday, April 23, 2021
The Great Smoky Mountains to Damascus, VA Day: 33
Location: Mountain Inn & Suites Erwin, TN
Start/End Time: 8:30/2
Weather Conditions: Partly sunny

Today was an interesting day to say the least. We started off thinking we were going to go into Erwin, Tennessee, resupply, and head back out on trail. Boy were we wrong.

The original plan was to have Iris meet us at River Rod near Uncle Johnny’s Hostel and then go into town for lunch and resupply.

Well we didn’t know the weather was going to be so terrible on Saturday, until we met up with the hiker. We were told that it wasn’t just going to be rain like we thought there was going to be 50 mile an hour gusts of wind and the temps were going to drop in the evening. With as cold as it has been getting we changed our plans for safety reasons.

We did end up hiking to uncle Johnny’s Hostel and meeting up with Iris. Green was with us to as she was “Hitching her cart to our wagon.” Which is fine by us because she’s awesome.

We got a ride into town from a shuttle driver named Bobby who is super cool and went to Bojangles for lunch. I’ve never been there before and the chicken was very tasty, and Hybrid (who had left camp early with some Geary goodbyes) joined us. He’s trying to figure out how to get home. Luckily he met up with Miss Janet who is a trail legend and she’s going to give him a ride to Johnson City so he can catch a bus.

From there we went to the Super 8 Motel to try and get a room. I went in to See if they had space and we were told they didn’t. We went out to the parking lot, ran into some other hikers, they call some friend who were at a different hotel and were able to find out that they had room there. However, while Green was on the phone, the hotel manager of the Super 8 came out and said they had space. Which was strange as we were just told there was none. Because we didn’t want to get a ride halfway across town we went back in and I went through the check in process.

When we got into the room it smells like cigarettes and because Iris goes into anaphylactic shock if a bedbug bites her we check for bedbugs…and we found one. The pick up all of our stuff and went right back to the lobby and got a refund. It seems like they try to just pawn off a room they knew had bedbugs on some hikers. The manager when I confronted him about it was not shocked when we told him they were bedbugs in the room. I had heard before coming into Erwin that it wasn’t a particularly Hiker friendly town, but that was a really crappy move on the part of the manager.

Green got back on the phone with the Mountain Inn & Suites and booked us a room there.

Since our hotel was in the other side of town we went to the grocery store to resupply first. But because of all of our stops today at the Super 8 and Uncle Johnny’s Hostel that had amazing hiker boxes (a hiker box is where hikers put supplies they’re not going to use in hopes others might need it) we were able to pick up a bunch of food others weren’t eating for free. Don’t worry it was all sealed and we’re being safe.

At the grocery store we ran to so many time people that welcomed us a town that offered us advice about places to eat and where to stay. Despite our issue at the Super 8 and what I’d been told it was nice to know that other people wanted us around.

From the grocery store we walked over to Erwin Outdoor Supply because both Green and I had forgotten to put our Sawyer water filters in our sleeping bags the other night when it was cold. The cold weather can destroy the inside of the filter rendering it useless, but because it’s the interior of the filter we have no way of knowing.

On the way to the outdoor store we pass by this really old amazing auditorium. Think 1940s movie theater with big bulbs and bright colors. There were two guys outside putting up stickers and signs and we asked what was going on. They told us they just bought the theater and they were getting ready to meet their business partner. They were definitely your typical proud to be southern guys and it was really nice talking to them.

We walked around the corner to the outdoor store got some water filters and then try to figure out how to get to our other hotel. The 2 guys we met that owned the theater walked by and went into the cool bar next to the outdoor store. One of them who’s wearing extremely tight jeans and cowboy boots a very large buckle with an American flag on it and a white shirt that wasn’t button all the way up (His name is Bobby) said “I heard someone is giving away free beer at this bar.”

Now I’m not good when it comes to men and flirting. I’m the girl who, for most of her life needs up in the friend zone. So when I was really confused about why someone was giving away free beer all the other girls explained that he was flirting with us. I figured, if he was going to flirt, I was going to ask him for a ride.

I went into the bar a minute or 2 after him, which had a super cool vibe and a food truck parked out front, and started chatting with the bar tender 2 seats away from Bobby and his business partner. I asked her, loud enough for him to hear, if she knew anyone that would be able to give me and my 3 friends a ride to Mountain Inn & Suites, she didn’t. Bobby had just cracked open a PBR, took a sip, then slapped his hand on the bar and said, “I’ll do it!” SCORE!

He exited at bar, me hot on his tale as I gesture to my friends, and went to go get his truck. I’m no expert, but I worked that situation like a boss. While I’m in a committed relationship, this girls still got it.

Bobby came back a few minutes later with a huge pick up truck and mounted the curb. We piled in the back and the cab with all our hiking gear and food from the grocery store. 10 minutes later we were at our hotel. Bobby gave us all hugs and we took this amazing picture while he stood on top of his truck. 

This hotel is bed bug free! We took showers and got organized. Before doing our laundry I made what’s called “Hiker Soup” in the bathroom sink. You see, our socks get so dirty that you can’t just wash them in the washer. You need to soak them and wring them out several times before putting them in the washer for them to actually get clean. I rinsed them out 6 times before the water was even remotely not black. It’s disgusting.

For dinner I ate a entire Caesar Salad in a bag kit and Hoagie and I had a relaxing evening in our warm bed watching Mark Wahlberg in Planet of the Apes (it’s a pretty terrible movie). Iris and Green went gallivanting about the hotel visiting all the other hikers.

Saturday, April 24, 2021
The Great Smoky Mountains to Damascus, VA Day: 34
Location: Mountain Inn & Suites Erwin, TN
Start/End Time:
Weather Conditions: Rainy, windy, and cold 

Today was the zero I needed. While I didn’t sleep in because my internal clock has me waking up around 7-ish each day the day started off nice and slow.

I had pop-tarts for breakfast, as we got a bunch of free ones from the hiker boxes yesterday, and a banana. Hoagie, Iris, and Green decided to go into town to eat at a diner. I hade the room all to myself!

It’s strange, as an extrovert I have had so little interaction with people in 2020 and then be thrust back into meeting new people every day in this adventure. It’s something I’m still not used to.

I poured myself a bath and used the body wash we picked up in a hiker box to make it a bubble bath. Yesterday I was unable to connect to the internet while in our room, which just doesn’t make sense. However when I’m in the bathroom I can, so I ended up taking about a 2 hour bath and watching 2 more episodes of A Discovery of Witches. I only have 1 more episode to watch. I wonder what I’ll do in zero days once I finish.

After my bath I talked to Sweet William about his plans to meet me in Damascus next weekend! I’m pretty sure we can make it there by Saturday, if not he’s going to come pick me up wherever I am.

For lunch I walked next door to Panchos and Amigos and ordered a burrito. It was more of an enchilada than a burritos, but it was super tasty and the waitress was nice enough to offer me a coke to go.

Once I was back in the room I took another bath. Mid-way through the bath Iris came back and I put in some underwear so she could soak her feet while I still enjoyed the bath. Then we switched. We had a great conversation about the state of the US, our personal beliefs, and how we’re trying to make the world a little bit better in our own small ways.

Afterwards, we hitchhiked into town and go Chinese food a China Garden. Iris’ silly hitch hiking technique is what ended up getting us a ride. The Lo Mein was exactly what I needed and super cheap!

While Iris insisted the taproom Hoagie and  Green were at was close it wasn’t and we ended up having a long walk. On the way we gave everyone on Seal Team 3, including our newest addition proper titles. They are:

  • Green: Logistics Coordinator
  • Hoagie: Manager of Public Relations 
  • Iris: Site Curator and Vibe Maintenance 
  • Pikachu (That’s me): Emergency Services and Crisis Management 

Once we got to the bar Iris kind of crashed and ended up going home early. I had a couple of drinks and mingled with all the other hikers that were there. The bartender, Bre, got off work around 7 and offered to give us a ride back to the hotel.

Once we got back Iris rubbed my shoulder blades, my right one has a huge knot in it. We all sat in the same bed, ate popcorn and drank wine while we watched The Hangover 2 and Point Break. We ended up going to bed late which is really going to suck because we need to get up and out early tomorrow.

Sunday, April 25, 2021
The Great Smoky Mountains to Damascus, VA Day: 35
Location: Tentsite near the summit Unaka Mountain
Start/End Time: 8:30/4
Weather Conditions: Sunny with a little wind

It’s always hard to leave a nice warm hotel room when it’s chilly outside, but we were in the move by 8:30.

We walked the mile over to Uncle Johnny’s Hostel which is right next to the trail. There we weighed our packs for fun. My pack weighs 28 pounds with 4 days worth of food and 2 liters of water. Not bad!

We walked over the train tracks just before a really big train went by. The first few miles were easygoing, but since the entire day was uphill I slowed down fast.

I put in my headphones early to distract myself and listened to my audiobook, The Book of Life. My feet were feeling great, but my hip kept giving me a bit of trouble. Then, as I was coming down a hill there was trail magic at a parking lot that made my day. They were grilling up hot dogs! I introduced myself and one of the 3 women said, “Oh, Pikachu, we’ve heard about you. Your friends said you’d be excited about this,” and they handed me a entire box of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies! I’ve been a Girl Scout since I was 5 and I’m a lifetime member. Girl Scout cookies are my jam!

After walking uphill a little bit more I ran into another guy doing trail magic! His name was Onesimus the Ice Cream Dude and he gave me an ice cream sandwich. He had several other tasty treats, but I was so full and kept on walking.

There was still more uphill, but I eventually reached the Beauty Spot. A nearly bald ridge line with spectacular views! This was the only view we got today, so I spent a little time taking it in.

I eventually reached a water source and cameled up because we planned on camping where there was no water. While the rest of the uphill really sucked, I had plenty of water for dinner and enough for tomorrow morning.

With too many switchbacks to count under my belt I came up some rocks and there was Iris and Hoagie making a fire! Total Eclipse of the Heart was playing on my Spotify list so I obviously had to sing it out loud to them.

I set up my tent and found a tree for our bear line. We’ve been together for so long now that the 3 of us have a routine now. I’m really loving it, and most of the time I can get the bear line up on the first try!

We hung out by the fire with a bunch of other hikers for a while and were in our tents by 7:45. I wish it was a little warmer, but that weather is heading our way soon enough.

Monday, April 26, 2021
The Great Smoky Mountains to Damascus, VA Day: 36
Location: Tentsite near Hugh Gap
Start/End time: 8:30/5
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm

Today is my 35th birthday. I woke up at 3:30am freezing with clogged ears. Super fun. Luckily I was able to fall back asleep for a few more hours.

When I woke up and unzipped my tent there was a little pecan pie waiting for me and Happy Birthday written in sticks. That Hoagie knows how to make a friend feel special.

We, Hoagie, Iris, and I, started our morning walking together and did a good 3 mile stretch. It was mostly downhill and the scenery was pretty. Once the uphill started I let them go in front of me, and broke off on my own.

While I’m managing the pain with ibuprofen and lots of breaks to stretch my hip still concerns me. I’m hoping to be able to get a massage in Damascus over the weekend. With any luck it will help or at least give me some insight as to how I can do some self massage on trail beyond what I’m already doing.

As a result of my hip my morale was really low today. I stopped a lot. Sometimes I took off my pack. Other times I just stood in the trail looking in front of and behind me for no reason at all.

I was also bored. For the most part there were no views and I kept seeing the same people over and over. I need to find a way to keep my head in the hiking game because it just wasn’t in it today.

At a road crossing there was trail magic from a woman I’m just going to call Mom. Her son, trail name Flamingo, is in trail and she’s following along and doing trail magic. She gave me a bag of Cheetos, a Gatorade, and some twizlers. Before I left she gave me what she calls a “Mom Hug.” Before she gave it to me she told me it was going to be a long hug. She out her arms around me and gently rocked from side to side sighing. She told me that she was so proud of me and that I was on an amazing journey and to treasure each step. If that isn’t the universe trying to get me back in track I don’t know what is.

After I said goodbye to Mom I put my headphones in and put Newsies on. I spent the next 3 hours singing along and enjoying my hike a little more. Not fully, but it was better than earlier.

Eventually, I made it to camp. Hoagie and I teamed up on dinner and made a Thanksgiving feast. It included: stuffing, mashed potatoes, dried cranberries, and dehydrated chicken. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday meal. To top it off we had so much leftover we made ourselves Thanksgiving burritos for lunch tomorrow!

For kicks and giggles I tried to make brownies over the fire. But I’m not patient enough to let them cook so we ended up eating brownie batter instead.

Definitely one of the more interesting birthdays I’ve had in my lifetime.

Trail Day: 37

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

  • Location: Stealth campsite at the base of Hump Mountain
  • Start/End Time: 8/6
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny and hot

Event though I had an amazing nights sleep last night and it wasn’t cold I didn’t want to get up this morning. My entire body was aching and if it wasn’t for Iris and Hoagie I would have taken a zero right where I was.

We all hiked together to the gap about a mile north of the shelter and once it started going uphill I had them jump in front of me so I could take my time.

Not even half a mile in I was struggling. I kept on walking, but I was in pain, I was tired, and I wanted to stop hiking. Then, out of nowhere Hoagie came up behind me. She asked me if I was ok and I broke down. I sobbed on her shoulder as she hugged me. All I could say was, “I’m just so tired.”

We stopped, took our packs off and she told me that she was tired too. We talked about our pains and feelings. Everything came tumbling out. Iris came up behind us and joined the conversation. I still have no idea how they ended up behind me, but as the saying goes, the trail provides. The next thing I knew we were all hiking together. They walked with me for 17 miles. We where up in ridge lines, and we summitted big mountains.

Atop Roan Mountain, after hiking up 43 switchbacks, we had lunch next to the former site of the Cloudland Hotel. Hoagie and I enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner leftovers in wrap form. We will definitely be doing that dinner again!

When we arrived at Carver Gap there was a local couple doing trail magic! Then we hiked up and over the bald in the super hot sun. I must have applied sunscreen 5 times today. I’m considering getting an umbrella for when I need to be in the sun for extended amounts of time. I’m much too pale and don’t want to turn into a lobster.

After going up and around and doing unnecessary loop-de-loops we where finally at the base of Hump Mountain. We cameled up at the last water source and started the climb.

Right as we were reaching the top of Hump Mountain, “You will be Found,” from the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack came on my playlist. I took out my headphones and had Iris and Hoagie listen to the song. While I don’t feel like I’m lost, I do feel like I reached out my hand today and they were there to grab it and make my day better.

I can’t fully express my gratitude for these two women. Today would have been a terrible day without them. Because of there love and kindness I spent the day laughing and hiking instead of sitting in my tent, probably crying. I hope I can repay their kindness someday.

When we reached the top of Hump Mountain where we planned to camp it was way too windy, so we walked down the other side and are cowboy camping in the shadow of the mountain. This will be my first time cowboy camping on this trip. Finger crossed I don’t freeze my ass off tonight.

Trail Day: 38

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

  • Location: Mountaineer Falls Shelter
  • Start/End Time: 7:30/5
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny and hot

I slept amazing last night! While the moon was full and bright we still got to see some stars before the clouds and go rolled in in the middle of the night. At one point I woke up and the Big Dipper was right above my head.

It was earlier packing up when I didn’t have to take a tent down and I just shoved everything in my backpack.

The hike down into Roan Mountain was 4.6 miles and it was all downhill. Iris, Hoagie and I all walked together and chatted about life, the universe, and everything.

Once we reached the road we tried hitch hiking in and it literally took 2 minutes to get a ride. The same hiker support van that picked Iris and I up in Erwin picked us up! The driver, Unicorn, dropped us off in the “village” at Bob’s Dairy Bar where we got breakfast. I ordered pancakes, a sausage, orange juice, and a cappuccino crunch milkshake. It was all delicious.

While Iris and I where inside eating Hoagie took a phone call outside and received some bad news from home. I’m not doing to discuss it here as it’s not my business to tell her story. She will still be hiking, but it affected her and always will. I held hear while she cried, sitting at a picnic table outside of the Dairy Bar. Between my day yesterday and hers today it has definitely brought us closer. Like teenagers, we pinky-promised we’d have each other’s backs all the way to Maine.

All 3 of us resupplied at the local tiny grocery store and attempted to hitchhike back to the trail. Here is what I’ve learned about hitchhiking in the past few weeks:

  1. The more people you have the harder it is to get a ride.
  2. Always hide the boys.
  3. Being silly and dancing will help.

My goofy dancing worked and a guy with a pick up truck lodes us all in the back of his truck and took us to the trailhead.

By the time we got there it was hot and our bellies where full so we started off really slow.

After a few miles we hit the 400 mile mark! In just a little over a week we did 100 miles and we’ve been together, Hoagie, Iris, and I, for the past 200. 

Just past the 400 mile mark was Jones Waterfall. It was absolutely gorgeous and we had it all to ourselves. There is a little pool just by the side of the trail (Don’t worry, we didn’t climb up or down anything.), and we all took a little bath. The water was really cold, but we all left super refreshed and clean!

As silly as it might sound it’s moments like this that we’ll all remember about the trail. Getting to the 400 mile mark and bathing in a waterfall. Laughing at each other as we wash our more delicate parts and gasp because the water is so cold. While I know I’m journey isn’t even close to being over I’m missing these moments already.

After we left the waterfall we had 3.3 more miles to hike to get to our shelter for the night. It was hot and a lot of it was uphill. Hoagie set us in a light pace at first and sped up. I secretly think she’s trying to up my cardio. Since we hadn’t seen anyone in several hours I put some music on as to walked through the heat. 

Upon arriving at the shelter we discovered that there we no one actually sleeping in the shelter and as of right now we have it all to ourselves.

We dinner Hoagie and I teamed up on dinner again to do tacos in a bag. It’s an old Girl Scout meal I’ve done before and love. We packed out a bag or lettuce, a bag of Fritos, cheese, and taco seasoning. I added chicken and she added avocado. This is definitely another keeper meal!

Tomorrow we’re planning on doing 18ish miles so we’re all going to bed early. I told them they had to wake me up so I didn’t sleep in. Not excited to get up early, but it’s one day closer to Damascus, Virginia and I get to see Sweet William and take another zero day!

Trail Day: 39

Thursday, April 29, 2021

  • Location: Campsite along the Laurel Fork river
  • Start/End Time: 6:30/5
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny and hot

I was dragging this morning. When the girls got up I was still huddled up in my sleeping bag. Over the last few years I have lost my ability to be a morning person unless I’m getting on a plane. I was proud of myself for stifling my crankiness and getting out of my sleeping bag and packing in a pretty timely manner.

I hiked with Iris and Hoagie for about an hour and then broke off on my own because of my slower pace. However, throughout the entire day Hoagie and I played leapfrog.

About mid-morning a SOBO (southbound) hiker told be that there was a 24-48 hour bug going around the hostels where I was headed. Hikers were vomiting and had terrible diarrhea. Sometimes trail gossip isn’t true, but when I hear things like this a take it seriously because I don’t want to get sick.

For the rest of the morning and into the early afternoon I listened to my audiobook, The Book of Life along with some music.

A little after lunchtime I ran into Hoagie and she told me that her sister who is getting married soon was coming down for her bachelorette party a day earlier than expected. So instead of coming on Saturday so was coming on Friday, the next day.

Since we’ve all decided to stick together Iris and I will h e to decide where to get off trail so it won’t be too difficult for Hoagie to catch up when she gets back. Plus Sweet William is coming to visit too and Iris’s partner Chelsea is also coming. We’ll all be getting off around the same time.

For the rest of the day Hoagie and I hiked together. While it was warm it was lovely that the sun was shining!

Once we got to the Laurel Falls parking area the whole landscape changed. We were walking through areas that looks like mines and down stairs that looked like Frodo and Sam were walking to Mordor. However, the stairs ended at Laurel Falls and they are spectacular! 

Linger arrived at the falls right before we did and the 3 of us decided to take a dip! However, my sensitive little feet wouldn’t let me walk over the slippery rocks, and I thought I was going to fall and break a hip, so I ended up just sitting on a rock waist deep instead. I’m need to look for a pair of lightweight sandals so I can do more of this kind of thing when it starts getting warm out on a more consistent basis.

Afterwards we walked along the river and ended up at the campsite Iris picked out. It was just around the bend in the river and was surrounded by rhododendrons. Unfortunately, soon after we arrived the wind started picking up and we all retreated to our tents to keep warm and not get covered with all the dirt the wind was kicking up.

Trail Day: 40

Friday, April 30, 2021

  • Location: Campsite at Wilbur Dam Road
  • Start/End Time: 7:30/2
  • Weather Conditions: Partly cloudy and windy

Today turned out differently than we had originally planned. Iris and I were going to do an 18 mile day and then another 8 miles to meet up with Sweet William Saturday morning. That didn’t happen.

We all started hiking together as usual after we packed up all of our gear that got wet in a random rainstorm that came through last night. Hoagie is trying to learn how to do the Pee Wee Herman laugh (Look up Pee Wee Park on YouTube, we’re kind of obsessed.) so there was lots of laughter. However, the first 2 miles were uphill with lots of switchbacks so I lagged behind.

Eventually, I caught up and Iris’s knee was giving her a hard time and I was having some pain in my right shin. As a result we decided to do 10.5 miles with Hoagie and have us all get off at the same spot to make it easier next week.

As we’re coming down the side of the mountain close to Boots Off Hostel we spontaneously started singing “Hurts so Good” which has become our theme song and a pair of hikers complimented us on our harmonies. I can tell you with complete honesty there were no harmonies and it didn’t sound great because we were just messing around.

We arrived at Watauga Lake soon after and later out our tents and other wet gear and had lots of snacks. I made friends with a female mallard duck who was convinced I was going to feed her. I didn’t. The view was beautiful, but the sun kept going behind the clouds and the wind was picking up, so it was chilly.

When we couldn’t take the cold anymore we picked up and started the 4-ish miles we needed to complete to get to where Hoagie’s sisters were picking her up and now where Sweet William was going to come and get Iris and I.

Before we even got to Watauga Dam my shin was throbbing. Just when my hip pin started to go away something else starts hurting. I’m planning on getting insoles for my shoes when we get to Damascus. I slowed way down, took some ibuprofen, and prayed it wasn’t shin splints.

The Dam was really cool and we took a break there to cool off and rest our bodies. This hike is definitely taking its toll on us all.

When we arrived at Wilbur Dam road we found a campsite right next to the road making it a perfect spot for our rides to find us. Boy where we wrong. After Hoagie got picked up there were tons of cars cruising the road and parking in the small parking lot next to the road. It was a little sketchy, but I climbed into my sleeping bag and hoped for the best.

Trail Day: 41

Saturday, May 1, 2021

  • Location: Country Inn & Suites Abington, VA
  • Start/End Time:
  • Weather Conditions: Partly cloudy

Last night Will showed up around 11:30 and scared the shit out of Iris who couldn’t sleep because of all the sketchy cars that kept driving by in the middle of the night blasting music. This area is definitely a late night cruising spot.

I can’t believe Will drove 16 hours straight from Vermont to see me!  I love him so much.

We loaded the whole team into the car and since we were all hungry I navigated us to Bogangles. Will didn’t want anything, Iris got a coffee, and I ordered a number 1 (chicken biscuit and bo-rings) and a bo-berry muffin or something like that. It was delicious.

From there we took the 1 hour drive up to Damascus. It was strange being in a place we hadn’t hiked to, full of hikers we didn’t know.

Iris and Will had breakfast and I had second breakfast at the Damascus Diner. On the menu they had a side called cheesy hash brown casserole. The way the waitress described it reminded me of a dish my Mom makes that is one of my favorite foods so I gave it a try. It was exactly what my Mom makes and it was delicious. Morning made!

From there we headed down to one of the local outfitters so I could pick up a package my Sister from another Mister, Jess, sent me. I also needed to buy a pair of insoles with arch support in hopes that it will help my shins feel better. Really keeping my fingers crossed that this will be the solution and get my right leg back in shape.

From there Will got in his bike and took a spin on the Virginia Creeper Trail, the bike path that runs through Damascus. Iris and I stayed downtown and waited for her partner, Chelsea, to meet us for lunch. Once she arrived we went to Wicked Chicken Winghouse. I obviously had wings, but also got a nice big salad. Gotta eat as many veggies as I can get while I’m in town.

While we where there was a guitarist playing some live music. I had a big bite of salad in my mouth when I realized he started to play, “Hurts so Good” by John Mellencamp. It’s become Seal Team 3’s theme song over the past few days. Iris heard it soon after I did and we kind of freaked out. I obviously filmed it and we sent the video to Hoagie. Will joined us after his ride and we had ice cream.

Then Will and I headed over to the Dragonfly Inn where Randy and Diane were to say goodbye. They’re getting off trail as they were only doing a LASH (long ass section hike. I’ll miss them a bunch and promised Randy to send him photos of me eating ice cream all the way to Maine.

From there Will and I headed out of town and over to Abingdon to our hotel. I did laundry and took a nice long, hot shower. We had pasta for dinner and I slept in a nice warm bed!

Trail Day: 42

Sunday, May 2, 2021

  • Location: Country Inn & Suites Abington, VA
  • Start/End Time:
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny

I loving sleeping in a real bed, have I mentioned that before? And getting to cuddle up next to Will made it even better!

Even though I didn’t need to hike I was up and out of bed around 7:30. The continental breakfast here is amazing! I had a chocolate chip muffin, a breakfast sandwich, cereal, and cranberry juice.

Then I sorted my winter clothes and put them in the bag for Will to take home along with my down booties and mittens. I seriously hope winter is over or I’m going to be really mad at myself.

Hatter, who I feel like I haven’t seen in forever texted me to tell me he had reached Damascus, so we took the car (it’s really weird having a car) over to the Damascus Diner to meet up with him. Will dropped me off so he could enjoy the sunshine to go biking.

While I couldn’t get into the diner because it was so busy, Hatter needed to get a new tent so we went to one of the local outfitters. I’m in the lookout for a new lighter sleeping bag. While header was able to get a tent I didn’t have any luck finding what I was looking for. They had one I was interested in but it had clearly been used and returned and they were trying to sell it as a sale item. This is the third or fourth time I’ve seen outfit is on the trail trying to sell use gear at the sale price. It’s a really big bummer that we’re trying to be taken advantage of.

Will finished his bike ride and came back into town. He joined Hatter and I and an old family friend of hatters from lunch. We went to the 7 Trails Diner. I ordered the Triple Threat Burger. It has a half pound patty, pulled pork, and bacon on top and is served with a side of fries. I ate the entire thing.

After lunch I went back to the hotel. I layer all my clothes out on a side lawn and sprayed them with Sawyer Products’ Permethrin to help keep ticks and mosquitoes away. Then I went up to the room and took a nice long bath where I finally finished watching season 2 of A Discovery of Witches. It is in no way as good as the book, but it was ok.

I spent the rest of the afternoon uploading photos and organizing this journal to go live once I hike through Damascus. There was also a Harry Potter marathon on the SyFy channel, so that was great too!

Trail Day: 43

Monday, May 3, 2021

  • Location: Stealth campsite near TN 91
  • Start/End Time: 9/4
  • Weather Conditions: Partly sunny with scattered rain 

Will and I got up early to pack up and leave the hotel. The plan is to meet Iris and Wilbur Dam Road at 8:30 to slack pack a 16 mile section of the trail. Hoagie is getting back in the trail today too, just a little but later and she’s going to catch up.

Right out the gate I was going really fast. I think it was all the pent-up energy from the weekend. The first bit of the trail was all uphill and I really crushed it!

Before I knew it we had reached the first shelter which we were not staying at for a snack. Out of nowhere, Goat showed up with his new crew. It was really nice to see him.

The rain kept coming and going throughout the day, but because it was warm Iris and I didn’t put our rain jackets on. We didn’t get too wet as it was just sprinkling.

Iris and I walked and talked the entire morning and told each other lots of stories, it was like time flew by!

When we stopped just before the second shelter to get water, Sweet William, who parked the car and walked in to us crossed our path. The next few miles where full of jokes and laugher.

We had a beautiful overlook at one point and came across an old grave of a man that, “Lived alone, suffered alone, and died alone.” Which was sad and creepy at the same time.

When we reached the downhill my shin started to hurt again. By the time we reached the parking lot and it was raining even more I was in a serious amount of pain. This is really starting to worry me.

We found a camp spot close to the road and a few hours later we where reunited with Hoagie. Being all together again felt really amazing after a few days apart. The jokes where there, the banter was there, and the trail world was right again.

Trail Day: 44

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

  • Location: Stealth campsite off the AT along the Virginia Creeper Trail
  • Start/End Time: 7:30am/10am
  • Weather Conditions: Humid with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms

I was awoken this morning by the snapping of a tree followed by a voice calling, “Ahhh Pikachu, we need your help.”

Hoagie was trying to take down the bear line with all our food on it and the branch snapped. I’m the past when this has happened Iris got on Hoagie’s shoulders and was able to guide the bags down the line. Because we did 16 miles after having 2 days off that wasn’t a thing Hoagie’s legs could handle today. We all stepped as far away as we could and holding the end of the rope I slowly pulled the branch down. Luckily it didn’t snap and come rocketing towards us.

By 7:30 all our gear was in the car and we where off for our first 6 miles stretch to the next road where Will was going to meet up with us for supplies. We averaged 2.5 miles an hour and where cruising. Unfortunately, 4 miles in when we started going downhill my shin began to hurt again. Hurt is a light word, my shin began to throb. By the time we reached Will I was in serious pain. Not even the 600mg of ibuprofen I was taking helped.

I felt defeated. There was no way I was going to make the next 15 miles today. It was going to rain and thunderstorms too which made things even worse. There were plenty of tears and the final decision that I would go with Will and meet the girls in Damascus.

This crushed me. This meant I wouldn’t officially cross the border from Tennessee to Virginia and I wouldn’t walk into Damascus. Was my hike over? Do I just need more rest? Is something really wrong with me or am I just tired. I cried more. A lot more. I’m so thankful that Will is here to help me get through this.

We drove back to Damascus and stopped at Backbone Rock and soaked our feet in the water. Cold water helps promote circulation that can assist in my shins healing. We talked about what might happen with my trip. Do I go home? Do I stay for a few days or weeks in Damascus to heal? Am I just having pain from getting new inserts and is this normal? I still don’t have the answers, but it was good to talk through a few scenarios.

We headed back into town and went to the grocery store to get wine to share for later, lunch from the deli, and groceries for Will for the next few days.

Then we headed over to the Park to eat our lunch and it started to pour. It was raining so hard that the pavilion didn’t even keep us dry. We ended up eating in the car and Will took a nap. While he was sleeping I googled shin pain. Why did I do this? Never Google something when you’re in pain or sick, it just leads to you thinking the worst. 

From there I woke up Will so we could drive to Urgent Care so I could see a doctor. I just want answers, good or bad. Well, the internet says there is urgent care in Damascus, there isn’t. It’s in Abingdon. Because I girls where getting in in about an hour and a half we didn’t have time to go to urgent care because we had all their stuff. If they had gotten drenched in the rain it could be really dangerous if we had all their stuff so we went over to the library where they would be coming into town.

Will and I hiked up into the woods and looked for a good camping spot, but didn’t find anything. When Will did the Virginia Creeper Trail the other day on his bike we saw a bunch of camp sites at the other end of town so we went to go check them out. Once of the first ones we saw was next to this amazing old train bridge and right on the river. Done!

We headed back to the library and within half an hour they arrived. I’m so proud of them for doing their first 20+ mile day. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there personally, but they crushed it. I handed them each a Gatorade and we went into town.

Hoagie needed to get a new bee line, a mini cup so she can have her morning coffee, and gaiters. She got 2 out of the 3. Plus, we saw Grandma Gatewood’s, the 71-year-old mother of 11 who is the first person to hike the AT twice and then did it a third time, sneakers.

Sadly, the restaurants where closed so no town food, so we headed out to the campsite. As I knew they would, the girls loved it! We got a fire going to cook dinner over and we all soaked our feet in the river.

Hoagie and I told Will the story of how we became a trail family and we all went to bed early.

My plans for tomorrow are up in the air. The first stop, after dropping Iris and Hoagie off at the trailhead is Urgent Care. I’m keeping my fingers crossed it’s nothing too terrible.

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