4/8: Feasted on an all you can eat breakfast buffet and was fascinated by a machine where you push a button and pancakes magically appear on a plate. Contemplated taking it on trail with me. Took a spontaneous zero day (a ‘zero’ means not hiking any trail miles. You could be staying in a town, or the same campsite and not hiking any AT miles. Zeros are taken to heal the body, relax, and/or enjoy and explore a town or area. They are beautiful but get you missing the trail pretty quickly) once we coincidently meet back up with Sam (now named Trail Sweeper or Sweeps as I like to call her). Re supplied (meaning buy the food you need to get you to the next town you stop) at an Ingles (think a southern version of Festival Foods), which I am now a proud member of! Woo! Earning fuel points with every purchase of food like a boss! I don’t have much use for them hiking the AT, but it sounded fun and practical. I now realized that grocery shopping- once a grueling chore I put off for as long as possible and sustained myself solely on fast food – is now a hub of excitement, desire, distraction, and temptation. I re supplied with 6 days of food including a strawberry cheesecake and 2 baseball sized balls of fresh mozzarella cheese. Also got educated by a local on how to not die if encountered by the ever-popular and ever-elusive Appalachian Trail Wild Boar as well as how to pick ginseng and make a fortune. A very educational day!
4/9: So eager to get back on trail! This morning I was unintentionally given the Trail Name DQ, short for Dairy Queen. Strangely, demanding ranch on everything, eating a basketball sized mozzerella ball for breakfast, talking about your cheese cravings occasionally, and being from Wisco makes DQ a suitable name.
Took a hiker shuttle to Unicoi Gap and began the climb up Rocky Mountain. My mind was so jacked to be back on trail, but my body didn’t quite get the memo. I was slow going up and it took a lot more work to climb a mountain than I remembered. But it was another beautiful sunny day and a great day to be hiking! I put on some music for a bit and a Trampled By Turtles song had a lyric that made everything better:
My home is with the hills and trees around me
My ceiling holds the moon and stars above
So I’ll never be a lonely man a’walking
I’ll never live one day without love.
And this is the view from Rocky Mountain as I heard those words:
By then I was feeling great and my legs were ready to rock and roll. Had a great stroll to Tray Mountain and realized how many unique trees there were along the trail and how important it is to notice these details in nature.
Here was Tray Mountain as I was hiking towards it:
And the view from the top of Tray Mountain:
Looking at the amazing view from a mountain you just climbed is a pretty cool aka BAMF feeling.
Stopped at Tray Mountain shelter for lunch and met some more thru hikers we would later camp with that evening. Made it to Sassafrass Gap after 11 miles and enjoyed friends, a fire, the sunset, and my hammock. (In the picture my hammock is hanging on the left. Sort of hard to see with the light. But the sunset was beautiful behind the mountains.
4/10. Started off the day hiking Kelly Knob. Don’t ask me the difference between a knob and a mountain, because my legs certainly can’t feel
one. I had been hearing about good ole Kelly for a few days and knew she could be a beast. Imagine climbing a steep rocky spiral staircase for about 45 minutes. That was Kelly Knob.
Again it was another GORGEOUS day to hike and you can start to see signs of Spring!
Made the decent into Dicks Creek for a nearo 6 mile hike (a ‘nearo’ is taking a near zero day. Usually between 2-4 miles but I would consider a shorter half day like today to be a nearo). Got picked up by Gary who owns and runs the donation based and infamous Blueberry Patch Hostel. Relaxed in the backyard with some goats surrounded by mountains. The Patch is an amazing place with amazing hospitality. Met some more great hikers and we are all getting served blueberry pancakes and coffee tomorrow morning before getting shuttled back to Dicks Creek. I’ll be in a North Carolina by the end of tomorrow!