Day 78 Mile 703.4 | Four Pines Hostel
I woke up tired and grumpy. I sat up in my top bunk and looked out over the room. Josh caught my eye from the couch and made a big grumpy face and laughed. I, apparently, was scowling (typical). I got up brushed my teeth outside by the spigot. Miles and I had already agreed that we would be zeroing here on this day because we needed to get some resupply and laundry done. The hostel leaves a large bag of pancake mix, some farm fresh eggs from their chickens (I've had more farm fresh hostel eggs on this trip than I did when I had chickens at my own house!), and coffee. All for free use for the hikers. I fired up the griddle and made some pancakes for us both. I was hungry and didn't feel like waiting, even though Miles had said he would make me some. I was grumpy. It annoyed me that he didn't make me breakfast because I made all of the breakfast last time (more on this later...). Someone asked me to leave the pancake stuff out because they were also going to make some, so I left it.
Tang found Captain Ahab's Muscle roller and asked me to roll him out if he rolled me out. I had been feeling so tight and stiff when I woke up. I'd been pushing myself too hard and not sleeping enough to recover. Recovering is not my strong suit. I'd been wanting someone to roll me out. I got rid of my muscle roller when I was at Boots Off hostel because it was just too heavy and I'd heard mixed things from experts about whether or not I should be using it every day. If I couldn't use it every day, it wasn't worth carrying. It was a pound and a half, the equivalent of nearly 1 day's food, and my pack was already too heavy. Tang rolled me out on a bottom bunk, paying special attention to my IT band. When I stood up, I felt SO MUCH BETTER. I could actually move my legs. I rolled him out, paying special attention to his calves, his usual problem spot. Man, I missed that guy!
I went outside after this and played with Sparty for a little bit. I talked to Josh. It'd been a while since we last caught up. He told me he was happy I found Miles and that it seemed like I had grown a lot since he last saw me. He noticed I'd become more calm, less negative, and more confident. I appreciated his honesty and I'm glad he could see progress. I'd been working really hard on growing as a person. And, he's right, Miles had helped me get there. Miles was always reminding me not to complain and to accept things as they came instead of worrying.
I took a shower. Honestly, worst shower of the whole trail for me. It was so nice that it was essentially 'free' because it was donation based and the water was warm, but there were no towels of any kind and it was terribly dirty. I showered as quickly as I could, missing some dirt in the dim light of the bathroom. I used my town dress to dry off and realized that it was terribly nonabsorbent.... Eventually I was dry enough to put my clothes on and the entire 20 minutes I was in the bathroom showering, four people knocked on the door because it also happened to be the only sink and toilet at the hostel so dishes from the kitchen also needed to be washed in their and people needed to do their business. Not the best set up, in my opinion. But, I've stayed in worse places.
I combined Miles and my laundry and put them in the washer behind the bunk house. Right after this, Midnight was running a shuttle to the store. I was in the shower when he made the announcement that we needed to order the pizza from the store ahead of time if we wanted one. When I got in the car I asked him if he would be coming back around to pick us up. I usually need a lot of time in stores because they are really overwhelming for me. This also was a gas station convenience store that carried a couple of hiker things (overpriced ramen and rice sides) not a full resupply so I was going to have to get creative. He said no, he was just going to wait outside for ten minutes and that was it. I was annoyed. I'd been annoyed all day but this annoyed me more. I apologized and told him that I needed to get lunch and resupply and that I didn't think ten minutes would be enough for me. He rolled his eyes and told me firmly that he told everyone to order ahead, that he was just dropping some people off at the restaurant and that he would come back but that would only take ten minutes. He said we'd see how long it takes and maybe he could come back for me or wait.
I went into the store with Miles. Originally, I'd asked if he wanted to share a pizza and he had said he probably would. But when we got to the store he decided he didn't want to do that anymore. I didn't want to eat a whole pizza by myself (wow my baby 700 mile self had no idea what hunger was, I could definitely eat a whole pizza by myself now) so I tried to look at their other options. I started to panic. My plan for the store wasn't going the way I'd hoped, I didn't know what to get for lunch and their was no food at the hostel and my food bag was nearly empty. My eyes welled with tears. I felt a panic attack coming on. I got mad at myself. A panic attack?! Right now?! Really?! You're better than that, com on. We've made progress!! I thought to myself. I went around and got some resupply items as quickly as I could and made my way back to the register. I asked Miles, angrily, "Well what are you going to have for dinner if you don't have pizza?" He looked at me like I was crazy and said, "I don't know but I'll figure it out, calm down." I got mad.
He checked out and went outside. Midnight was back and waiting in the car. Most of the other hikers were done. I still hadn't ordered anything. I was hungry. I needed food. When I got to the register I found out the pizzas were $10, one size, any toppings. I said fuck it and ordered one for myself. They didn't have any of the toppings I wanted except for mushrooms and some meats so I just ordered those. I paid for my resupply. I definitely got too much stuff, but I had panicked. A panic attack still bubbled just below the surface but I was trying to keep it together.
I brought my resupply outside and sat with Miles at a picnic bench in front of the gas station convenience store. "I don't get it." He said to me, "You don't need to be freaking out. Everything is fine. Everything will work out. Worst comes to worse to walk to the hostel, no biggie." He truly didn't get why I was freaking out. Tears started streaming down my face. I was freaking out. I knew he was right and that I didn't need to freak out so badly but I also was mad. He should be able to see my side. That this was difficult for me. That this wasn't according to my usual plan and that this wasn't how I usually did things. I knew I needed to let go of that and be more comfortable with things like this, plans changing and such, but it was hard for me. I didn't want to have to walk back to the hostel. I didn't want to have to buy over priced gas station food. But, he was partly right, everything was fine, everything would work out, it would all be okay.
Midnight pulled back up to the store in the hostel's SUV. I was still crying. I tried to pull it together. I was still mad that Miles didn't understand and wasn't even trying to. I went back inside to check on my pizza. Five more minutes they said. We waited and talked to Midnight. He said this happens all the time, the pizzas take forever, that's why he likes to spread the word to order ahead of time. When the pizza was finally done, Midnight took Miles and I back to the hostel. Miles was right, Midnight wasn't just going to leave us there and make us walk back. This resupply would work. I was still frustrated, though. I know sometimes my panic attacks aren't totally necessary but I have them, and I have very little control over them, and they happen for a reason, usually. They'd actually been happening a lot lately. Too much. It was frustrating me. I'd improved so much out here mentally but somehow I was still having a lot of panic attacks.
Back at the hostel I left our pizza on the table while I went and got our laundry out. I hung it up on the line while it was still sunny, it had rained last night and more rain was in the forecast. They had a dryer but by the time we got back to the store it wasn't available for the rest of the day. I stood under the clothes line away from everyone and called my mom. I told her about the panic attacks and Miles and how annoyed I was. It wasn't just that he didn't understand, it was also that I felt like he wasn't pulling his weight in town. Town was overwhelming for him, too, he told me, but he often just decided that he didn't care enough to put up with town and he would leave unprepared. He survived, of course, but I'd rather be over prepared. I also liked to get chores done as early as possible in town so that I can spend the rest of the day relaxing and not worrying about it. He's the opposite. He'll relax and get them done as late as possible. If we're sharing laundry and breakfasts his strategy and my strategy didn't work together and it bothered me that he didn't put an effort to do either the laundry or the breakfast.
My mom pointed out that I needed to look at it from his perspective, he was right it would get done eventually no matter what. She also said we're separate people, separate hikers, we don't have to do all of our town stuff together. She was right. In the past, like with Josh and Tang, we did quite a few of our chores separately. Lastly, I realized, in the woods he does a lot of things for me. He always sets up his tent by himself (even when we share it), he often offers to blow up my sleeping pad for me and my pillow, he sometimes even boils water for me for my dinners, and he usually hangs a bear line for both of us. He does a lot for me and I should be thankful. And me doing all of the town chores (which I really don't mind doing and I am far more efficient at than him) balances out the partnership. I realized I had not reason to really be angry aside from the fact that he didn't understand my panic attacks. But, honestly, I didn't understand them either. I just wished he supported me more through them, but that's a lot to ask of anyone.
After my chat with my mom I caught up with Dragon. She seemed to be doing well and even made a lot of new friends. She was still behind me a ways but it was so good to hear from her. She understood my panic attacks more than anyone, because she often got them, too. Sometimes you just need someone to sympathize.
I went back down to the bunkhouse and ate my half of the pizza. I sat on a couch and journaled and blogged. Miles played chess on the hostel chess board. It started raining so I went out and took down our laundry. Most of mine was still damp (thanks a lot Nike...never drying clothing) but Miles' was mostly dry. I figured it was only damp it should be fine and I just packed it up. BIG MISTAKE you'll see....
I decided to sleep on a couch that night instead of in a bunk. The mattresses were pretty hard and I didn't sleep well that night before. I went to bed around 10pm with most everyone else.
Day 79: Mile 719.8 | Lambert's Meadow Shelter
This day was FREAKING AMAZING:
The night before this, Miles had talked to a guy who gets up at 5am every day and does ~26 miles every day. Literally A MARATHON every single day OVER MOUNTAINS. You know us, we've had our fair share of big mile days, but we don't do marathons EVERY DAY. This guy was an inspiration to Miles. We had been talking all week about how we wanted to get up earlier. It's satisfying, energizing, and less hot. Plus you get more daylight, more time to chill out during the day, and you have the time to go further without it getting dark on you. We decided to try getting up at 5am this day to kick start our new (hopefully) 'schedule'. Not that there are schedules out here, but your body gets in a routine. You'll notice that you'll pretty much wake up at exactly the same time every day, no matter what time you went to bed or when you actually get out of bed in the morning, and that time is determined in your first week mostly based on when you forced yourself to get up.
I drank a cranberry Redbull (awful for you but I had learned I liked them on one of my long drives to Boston last summer, they're great for emergency 'I'm totally dead' kind of days) that I had bought at the gas station the night before. I had made extra pancakes and hard boiled eggs yesterday when I had made breakfast to pack out with us for this morning. We saved the food for later and headed out. We packed up outside because our trash bag pack liners are pretty loud and we didn't want to wake the whole bunk room.
We walked out as the sun rose. It was a beautiful feeling. To be awake before most anyone else and see the sun come up. We walked two miles in to the first water source and sat by the stream to eat our breakfast. As we were eating I saw a big black blob coming down the hill over Miles' shoulder. It got closer and I realized that it was a little bear cub! "Miles," I said, "Hey there whoa bear!" We jokingly said this a lot because Miles' friend, Skywalker, likes to tell the story of when he was harassed by a bear in the Smokies and his dad yelled at it, "Hey there whoa bear!" It just stuck. Miles turned around quickly and saw as the bear turned its butt to us and ran up the hill. We nervously laughed and then really laughed. Holy shit it was our first bear of the trail! Little did we know, we'd see many more.
After breakfast we walked a few more miles through fields and stopped on a nice rock for a short break. We were really taking our time. Captain Ahab and Tiger Lily passed us and we realized it was 7:30am.
We got up and started moving we hiked to the McAffee Knob trailhead parking and saw Half Moon and Savage there with Sparty. We walked with them up to McAffee. Halfway up we realized, this trail seems really easy... is this the fire road that runs alongside the AT and not the actual AT? We consulted Guthook. It seemed like we were on the trail but it was hard to tell. After another mile we realized we had accidentally been walking on the fire road and not the real AT... It was hot, it was still two miles, we let it slide for now... We're both talking about going back and doing that two miles again and going up to McAffee Knob.
We made it up there around 11am and saw Rick James there. Miles and I took our typical, iconic, McAffee photos and got one taken of both of us by some tourists. We relaxed on the knob and ate a snack. Soon, Savage, Half Moon, Captain Ahab, Tiger Lily, Grandma Shorty, and Plod Along caught up to us. We all took a group photo on the knob. It wasn't quite a tramily, more of a community or a bubble. It was a great community. It was so nice to be able to hike anywhere and see someone you know.
Miles and I packed up after lunch and started off toward Tinker Cliffs. We wanted to cowboy camp up there because the guidebook said there was no regular camping and we had heard the sunset was incredible but an impending storm had started making its way across the valley. When we got up to the cliffs the gray clouds were moving quickly in.
We made a quick dinner up there and planned on eating it, hoping for the sunset. But the storm came in faster we saw the rain coming down in the valley. We started to feel the spray of the rain as it moved toward the cliffs. We didn't want to ruin the new vegetation on the cliffs and we couldn't cowboy camp in the rain without a tarp so we quickly packed up and headed down the hill toward the next shelter. Miles carried our meal in the Mountain House bag all the way down to the shelter. On the way down we saw Which Way and Next Step!
We arrived at the shelter just as the rain picked up. We prepared our dinners and Miles set up the tent and got water. We sat and chatted with Snow Angel and Which Way and Next Step during dinner. I was highly caffeinated and they thought it was hilarious. We went to bed pretty early. We awoke in the middle of the night to some weekend campers setting up in the rain. They quieted down after a while, apparently they went up to the cliffs. A couple hours later they were back and whooping and hollering, terribly annoying. They calmed down around 2am. I finally fell asleep.
Day 80: Mile 729.2 | Howard Johnson @ Daleville
We got up around 7am, we missed our 5am goal but it was better than noon like our first day together! I actually slept a few hours that night and I started feeling a little bit better. It had rained hard the night before, I was glad it stopped by the morning. It was humid and foggy. We headed out of camp as Tiger Lily and Captain Ahab arrived to get water. They said they had all camped up on the cliffs... in their tents. I was a bit peeved by this. It bothered me so much that people didn't respect the habitats they are walking through and the volunteers that work so hard to maintain the trail that we are so privileged to walk on. I don't mean to be the one that harps on the rules but I also recognize our privilege and the hard work it takes to maintain the trail. If it says 'No Camping' it usually says it for a legitimate reason. I explained that to them and Rick James who came down just after them and had also camped there. Captain Ahab and Tiger Lily seemed to get it. Rick James didn't really care. He said, "I have a hammock I'm not ruining anything." A common misconception.
I shook off my annoyance and left camp. We ran into Half Moon and Savage again as we left. We chatted for a few minutes it seemed like everyone except Ahab and Lily were stopping in Daleville. Even though we'd just stayed at Four Pines, I wanted to stay a night in Daleville. We had packages arriving there and my clothes smelled terrible because I hadn't let them dry completely. My entire bag smelled like mold and rot. We settled on getting a room at the Howard Johnson that was apparently right off the trail.
We walked quickly to town and when we arrived we dropped off our stuff in our room (a king sized bed for only $50 a night!!) and showered. We headed across the street to the Tex-Mex restaurant, our favorite, and as we ate the rain started coming down hard. We had a few margaritas while we waited for the rain to stop.
We went over to the strip mall afterward and picked up our packages at the outfitter. One of my packages still hadn't arrived yet. I got a new, lighter, and (hopefully) quicker drying hiking shirt, a titanium pot (less than half the weight of my old one), and new dirty girl gaiters (space print to match Miles, I had lent out my old ones and never got them back). Miles got new shoes (thanks his mom!). We went to the Kroger after and I got my most affordable resupply yet and we used my pack to carry the food back to the motel. $40 for 5 days, I was making progress! I'd realized I'd been spending too much money and I decided I needed to start cutting back.
We went back to the motel and napped. Miles took care of the laundry this time. We woke up at 10pm and couldn't fall back to sleep so we got up and packed and organized our food bags. We went back to bed around 1am.
Day 81: Mile 740.4 | Wilson Creek Shelter
We got up at 8:30am and got breakfast in the lobby. After, we finished packing and we laid in bed until checkout. We went back over to the outfitter. My package hadn't arrived yet and the guy who worked there told me to check back after noon. We sat in the coffee shop next door and had espresso shakes. After noon I went back over, it was there! We got our stuff together and hiked out. We hiked mostly separately and I listened to some podcasts. You could hear the noise from the roads for the first ten miles out of town. I got water at one of the sources within those ten miles and it tasted funny. You just couldn't get away from town.
We got up to the first shelter and there we met some cool folks: Big Bunny, Autumn, Sherpa, and Hannah. Big Bunny gave Miles a pair of short running shorts he had decided didn't fit him (trail magic!). As he was leaving the shelter Big Bunny turned back to me and said, "Hey, don't I follow you on Instagram? Trail Name Here?" I told him yeah! We realized we'd been following each other since the beginning and this was the first time we'd met in person. The internet never fails to create a small world. We'd be camping at the same shelter that night.
(This shelter uses rainwater as its main water source instead of a spring or a stream!)
A few days earlier, I had texted my counselor to set up an appointment. I like to have them once in a while to hash things out mentally. I had set one up for 6:30pm this evening. I prayed the shelter we were going to would have good service. I walked quickly to make it there by 6:30. Along the way I passed Stickers and Lady Bug who had actually started around the same time as me and had also gotten off trail for a week! I chatted with them at a water source and then headed up to the shelter. I had serviec and got to talk to my counselor on FaceTime for an hour! The session was helpful and she said she was impressed with my growth.
I sat around the picnic table with Big Bunny, Hannah, Sherpa, Autumn, Stickers, and Lady Bug and ate dinner. As the sun started to set we heard clomping in the woods. We looked around. Two deer were circling camp and getting closer. They got really close and Big Bunny and I tried to scare them away, deer shouldn't be so close to camp and we didn't want them to steal our food or damage anything. They should be afraid of us! They just stood there and stared as we tried to scare them away. Big Bunny threw some rocks at some trees near them, trying not to hit them but to startle them. It seemed to sort of work but it was weird, they just kept circling camp. Eventually they left. It was bizarre how close they got to us, though. We figured some hikers in the past must have fed them before or something.
Miles and I went to sleep in his tent just behind the shelter. It was one of the flattest spots we'd had yet!