Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rushed in Hot Springs

Boo boo boo! Not much time left! Short post.

I'm in Hot Springs, taking a zero day. Took a while to get here. Some days I've had no energy, just dragging out 7 or 9 miles. I think it's a calorie issue. Must fix. Getting tired not of cold food, but limited options cold food provides. Thinking about making a beer can stove. Peas and rice courtesy Jeramiah were great yesterday morning.

Many people are very casual about making it to Maine this season, and sometimes I find myself among them. I do just want to have a good time. J. and I ran into a southbounder who started last July (and took the winter off), who showed us his pictures from Maine to Max Patch (Tennessee). It was pretty inspiring for about ten minutes, and then I was going uphill again with no energy...

The Smokies were nice. I did a few days without J. as he had to go to doctor, but he caught up promptly. Max patch was rainy and viewless, but it's been nowhere near as wet as when we first entered NC. Yesterday was fantastic. The 18 miles (longest day) into Hot Springs were a ridiculously lush landscape, grasses and flowers leaning into the trail, white moths fluttering here and there, a light drizzle, the sun shimmering off of all the damp leaves.

But ah, I have an Ashley to meet! Post soon, I hope! See last year's post on this section and Hot Springs and the Sunnybank Inn.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Alive and Well!

I am home for graduation until tomorrow morning, so no time to tell ALL the stories. See for yourself by browsing my pictures.


I feel great. The AT never gives you what you expect. These three weeks have been far different from the three weeks of 2008 for me, and I love them all the same. I have been moving slowly, and many people have been passing me, but I am healthy and grateful for it. I also settled in with a group for two weeks, making friends I hope to keep in touch with for a long time. People and places have been beautiful.

From SCA and AT 2009

On April 20, my dad drove me to the Forest Service road dropoff a mile from the top of Springer Mountain in Georgia. At about 6:30 in the evening I tapped the first white blaze of the trail and looked out over the horizon. I spent the night alone in the nearby shelter, where the magnified sounds of mice frightened me until I realized what they were. I finally met other hikers the next day, including a couple with a dog, an overloaded anthropology/art student named Tex, and an easygoing dude called You. I also met a fellow from Raleigh I wouldn't mind having coffee with later, who knows? This group hiked on, and I ended up camping one night with a pair of guys filming for their YouTube adventure show. They gave me beer and regaled me with tales of undercover work for the FBI. They filmed me in some of their segments, but why would I want to show you those?

Maddie and Vinnie, from SCA and AT 2009

I spent my fourth official night at Woods Hole shelter and acted the crankbasket. Having decided to get up very early to hike to the sunrise on Blood Mountain, I was greatly annoyed by a combination of hikers who decided to talk loudly around a campfire well after dark. I lay in my sleeping bag stewing, contemplating exactly how I would describe in the blog. When I heard them say they would be spending the next night at the hostel at Neel's Gap, I promptly decided that I was going to avoid them and take a nero (near-zero-mileage day) at the top of Blood Mountain. None of the group seemed so bad in the morning, but I had made my mind up. Yet the mustiness of the Blood Mountain shelter was more than even Ashley could have tolerated (built by the CCC, very interesting at least), so I gave in and hiked to the hostel for the night, making it in right before the place closed. I stayed there for two nights with Thomas and Jeremiah from Cincinnati, and Maddie and Vinnie from Louisville, and took back all the bad thoughts I thought. I seemed the odd one out, but I think we discovered much in common, and I was to hike with most of them for the next two weeks.

Jeremiah, from SCA and AT 2009

Jeremiah became my special hiking partner, as we hiked similar speeds throughout the day. The first night out of Neel's Gap we had the shelter to ourselves for quite a while, and we talked for a long time. About education, and anarchy, and veganism and feminism, consumerism and dumpster diving, religion and ghosts, and more. I confessed how I had judged him and disliked him at first, and he confessed how he had judged me. Quite the learning moment. He has some atypical life experience under his belt as a homeless traveler for the past two years. He has no money whatsoever, but a good mother. He hiked 1500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail last year. He had to postpone the start of his hike for a few weeks because he had an unexpected stay at Orleans Parish Prison for a minor infraction. He is smart and talented, and I expect great things from him, college or no. I may hike with him through the Smokies next week.

There has been a lot of rain, nearly every day for over a week, from our stop in Hiawasee, GA to our arrival at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) in Wesser, NC. Amazingly, my feet stayed healthy. A few blisters, but nothing to write home about. My tarp has kept me sufficiently dry when I camp, and my cook-less food strategy has satisfied me, honest! I AM a bit fed up with the menu, to be truthful, but I'm not sure switching to cooking would make a big difference. I have had a lot of peanut butter, ramen, oatmeal, raisins, trail mix, textured vegetable protein, chili mix, and energy bars. In camp we sit around dreaming up fantasy foods, or saying what we're going to eat when we get to town (chips and salsa for me!).

Cool Breeze, from SCA and AT 2009
From SCA and AT 2009

There have been several good instances of Trail Magic. The basic kind is the box full of food and cooler full of drinks left at a road crossing, and we met one of those. At Neel's Gap, a fellow named Cool Breeze took me to the grocery store for vegetables and grilled them at his cabin for me, then he and his roommates showed me a nice waterfall. Rickety van + darkening woods + ax in the floor were all kind of creepy and reminded me to be careful, but Cool Breeze remained a cool guy. After we left Neel's Gap he hiked from the north to cross us, bringing a fresh tomato for me, and whiskey and more as well. Even food and a tent for some of the others. Genuine generosity. A pair of hikers gave Jeremiah beer, which he shared. And at the NOC, by pure lucky timing and getting lost on the NOC campus, we ran into an NOC employee who invited us to a potluck the following night, just one ridge away from the AT. We filled up with food and beer and wine and music and campfire, and enjoyed the most amazing privy.
From SCA and AT 2009

Monty and Natalie, from SCA and AT 2009

The next day the property owner, Monty, walked over the ridge to our campsite to invite us back for more fire and alcohol. He shared his corn liquor with us, and then gave me a bag full of organic greens form his garden: cabbage, lettuces, horseradish, cilantro, basil, mint, radish, and possibly oregano. AND he arranged for a friend to take Maddie and Vinnie and Thomas to the Trail Days festival in Damascus, VA this week. Jeremiah and I hiked on to Fontana Dam, where my brother picked me up for graduation. Libations all around.

Mini stories:

From SCA and AT 2009

-A hiker named John took my leftover vegan burger, dopped it on the ground, then picked it back up and ate it. He said he thought it was chicken, and wouldn't have picked it up if he'd known it was vegan. Ha.

-A hiker named Dan creeped me out at first, especially when he said he felt like he lost his soul (as Vinnie and I were picking animal shapes out of cloud shadows). No disrespect if you are reading, Dan. I was glad to see him chill out later. Another instance of misjudging.

-At Blue Mountain shelter, a mama mouse was moving babies from place to place in the rafters and dropped one. Poor baby mousie was so tiny, and cried and squeaked. We left the shelter alone for several hours hoping mama would come, but maybe she couldn't crawl up the vertical wall with him in her mouth. Jeremiah took baby mousie in one hand, and with the other scaled a wall the rest of us couldn't climb with two, and put baby mousie in the rafters. Mouse family came out and squeaked. Then mama came and picked up baby and took him back to the nest. (I know you're thinking they ate him, but they could have done that where he fell. Maybe they ate him, maybe they snuggled him. But in any case, he was no longer squeaking and lonely. Problem solved. Jeremiah the Hero.)

-In Franklin, the laundry owners told Jeremiah and me to put our backpacks outside because they were smelling up the place. We did as they wanted, but we knew the smell was really coming from our selves. Smelly packs are later in the game.

-On top of Tray Mountain, we could see town lights below in the night. We could also see bright points in the hills from the many campfires out there.

-I started throwing a knife for fun. I hit the blue blaze target on the tree and chipped the blue paint off. Cool Breeze started calling me "Barfight Brittany" out of irony, but the rest of the group picked it up when glimmers of badassery such as this started showing up.

-More than one hiking group considers itself to be a Fellowship. When they split up, they take on individual identities. Aragorn seems to be popular. I consider myself a Sam or Pippin, honestly.

-I don't know what my trail name is yet. It would be Barfight if the others have anything to say about it, but I don't want to be mistaken as pretentious. I tried to take on Tiger Lily after an exchange in a hostel ("Tell us a bedtime story." "[rolls eyes] I don't know any stories.") started me thinking of Peter Pan, but it seems not to have stuck.

-One time I woke up feeling something tugging on my hair, and then I heard the skittering of tiny feet. I think the mousies wanted my hair for the nest. Who wouldn't? Honest mistake.

So the plan is to go to graduation today, leave for Trail Days with Daniel tomorrow, pick up Jeremiah there, and be dropped off at Fontana early next week. Will the Smokies kick my butt? We'll see. And the camera is charged this time around. See you on the trail, hopefully with more frequent updates.

From SCA and AT 2009