The Great 8: Days 6 – 12

Day 6 – 0 miles

Had a great sleep at AT’s. Spent the morning sipping coffee, and chit chatting. Eventually AT took to me Lowes where I picked up a contractor bag. The Nyloflume bag I had been using apparently had micro tears because my sleeping bag was wet when she picked me up. A contractor bag may be a little overkill, but at least my sleeping bag will be dry.

AT drove me to Skeenah Creek Campground where I also had sent my first resupply box. I thanked AT for her much appreciated hospitality and waved goodbye. I was alone again.

The campground put me in a trailer room (looked like the kind they use for construction offices), but there was no working A/C so they moved me to a cute little Shasta. Where I am now. Eating left over pizza.

Today I am grateful for coffee with a friend.

Day 7 – 10ish miles

I did not sleep very well in the Shasta. The bed was too short because, well, the whole trailer is short. Also the bedding was dirty and even though I shook out the leafy stuff it feels weird to sleep on dirty things that aren’t your own. The only snippet of the dreams that I remember had bugs in it.

I decided to take an alternate route of my own making because the forecast called for rain and lots of it. Basically I just road walked back to another part of the trail. And of course it rained. As soon as I stopped to put on the rest of my rain gear it calmed down.

I took a break at a Baptist church that had a covered picnic area next to a cemetary. I think I might have triggered the mountain gossip mill with my road walk, because three good ole boys came rolling by in a white pick up giving me the stink eye. But since I was already moving there wasn’t much they could do. I don’t think they get many hikers in these parts.

In fact, except for the two (or maybe one?) Army dudes I haven’t seen anyone on trail. Not even day hikers. I suspect the rain is keeping a lot of people inside. I’ve thought about trying to sit out the worst of the storms too, but then I’d never get anywhere. The thing about the Appalachians is that is rains all the time. If you waited for ideal weather then you are going to be disappointed all the time.

Once I was back in the woods I felt safer, even though the rain and wind were kicking up, knocking the trees about. By the time I made it up Deadennen Mountain the rain stopped and the sun came out! I hooted and jumped about in an awkward jig, I was so happy. It meant that when I got to camp I could dry out my socks!

I went along the ridge line with a little pep in my step, despite the sore spot on my heel. The wind was still brisk, but now there was sun!

Camp was at the top of Tipton Mountain. I had to haul 4 liters of water up a steep slope, but that’s okay because now I’m up in the Sassafras and warm and dry.

Today I am grateful for the sun coming out.

Day 8 – 11.6 miles

The gusting wind in the canopy contrasted nicely with the warm cocoon I had going in my tent overnight. I slept quite nicely despite the slant that my tent was on. It made me keep sliding to the side. I woke pretty early but I have a hard time getting moving. I always do. Even at home. The siren call of a comfy bed is too alluring.

The trail on the other side of the mountain was overgrown with asters, goldenrod, and brambles. The spiderwebs that were crafted with precision the night before smacked me in the face. I feel like I’m some kind of Godzilla figure in the spider community. Here I come stomping down the trail destroying their mountainside condos. But even deer use this trail so its not the best place to be setting up shop.

I sat on Brawley Mountain underneath a fire tower you couldn’t climb. I noticed a little spider mama protecting her brood while I ate a Cliff bar.

The wind and sun ushered me down the mountain. My step got quicker as the BMT dumped me out onto a road at the Toccoa River. Just down the street was Shallowford Bridge and then the Iron Bridge cafe! Hot food!

But I’m sad to report it was just a Meh burger. I did however meet a cat and that made my day. If there is a cat within sight distance of me I’m going to try to make friends. It made me miss my kitties though. Weasel and Squid were my only real “in person” comfort during the pandemic as I live alone. Their job description now says therapy animal. And I just left them. I know they are safe and well cared for at my parents house, but its the idea that they think I abandoned them. I can’t tell them otherwise, they are cats. Yeah so, that’s weird right? Are yall slowly backing out of this blog?

Mmmhhph. Yeah so, after the food I started up on what was one of the most terrifying road walks I’ve ever been on. Little to no shoulder, blind turns, huge trucks barreling by, and Trump signs/flags all over the place. The pavement hits your feet different and seems to hurt more. After 3 miles they throbbed in pain. Finally the trail veered back into the woods up to Fall Branch Falls, a bit redundant.

At the bottom of the falls I took a little break and found my knife that I thought I had lost earlier today. Usually it is clipped in my left pocket with my chapstick. I noticed it was gone about 10 mins out from Iron Bridge Cafe. I thought I might have dropped in the bathroom so I went back and looked around. It was nowhere to be found, so I wrote it off as a loss. Then after my break I saw it on the ground, neatly sitting in front of my pack. Here’s the thing, I would have heard it fall if it was stuck in my clothing somewhere. Also I hadn’t removed it from my pocket for any reason today. So I’m pretty sure my knife quantum leaped to this new location because it didn’t want to do that road walk. Thats my theory and I’m sticking to it.

There were so many day hikers, and they all smelled so good, like fresh laundry. I did not. One young child went EeeeeEEEeeeewwwwww! after he passed me. His mother hurried him along with an apology, but also judgment in her eyes. I cackled so hard I had to sit down on a conveniently placed bench.

Back up on the BMT proper, it was back to up down up down. Mostly up. If there was an easier way or a switch back offered, the trail designers said “nah, let’s go straight up that side”. But that is the Appalachians for you.

Today I am grateful for cats. All of them, but especially my own.

Day 9 – 9.3 miles

I had a dream about my cat. I was trying to find a carrier and wandering around in a panic. I woke up all sweaty despite the chill in the air. I heard something canine (wolves?) howling. It also sounded like some young ones were trying to join in but not quite making the harmony.

The day started out with some delightful ridge walking. I had some lunch on Scroggins Knob where I was able to air out all the damp things! The trail took a steep dive in elevation down through a pretty meadow and onto private land. This meant more road walking.

The first part wasn’t so bad. All gravel and back country roads. I enjoyed looking at all the cute cabins. However I had to cross US 76 which was very busy and very loud. I made it across but had to sit down for a minute just inside the tree line. The anxiety hit my nervous system like a bullet. My heart was beating fast and I was hyperventilating. It was quite a shock. Eventually my nerves settled down and I was able to move away from the wretched highway.

More road walking, this time paved and with cars flying around corners. However there was a bit of shoulder to walk on. I quickly made my way up the mountain roads to join the BMT back in the woods. There is a shelter on this private land that they let hikers use. It is nestled right underneath a house and next to a road. So no privacy. Ill be doing my business in the dark.

Today I am grateful that I did not get run over by a truck crossing that highway.

Day 10 – 18.1 miles

Finally I meet a fellow NOBO thru hiker. A guy named Rover showed up to the shelter last evening. He seemed nice enough but it also put into context the difference between this trip and 2018’s AT. In one word: socialization. First of all, this trail has none compared to the AT. It is very sparse and hardly anyone does it. Secondly, the easy camaraderie and familiarity of thru hiking is gone for me. All I’m thinking is does this guy not believe science? Is he an anti-vaxxer? Does he still support Trump? Is this guy a QAnon looney?

With all the Trump flags and signs in this part of the country, still hanging, I’m not taking any chances that anyone I meet on trail is “safe”. Not that I freely trusted everyone before, but somehow now it’s different.

I made polite talk (ugh..) with the dude and knew I wouldn’t be seeing him again anyway. He was doing 20+ mile days. Not my scene.

The elevation was killer today. All uphill at >45 degree angle. This trail will definitely get your butt in shape. Everytime I stopped to catch my breath (which was frequently) I noticed spider webs everywhere. Most were perpendicular to the ground but some were parallel like a trampoline. Perfectly round and tightly woven they looked like the underside of a CD floating in the bushes.

I think what is so frustrating about the interminable climbing is that there are definitely no views up top. Just more green tunnel. But sometimes is flattens out for awhile and it feels like you are cruising along high up above everything. Your worries are down there and you can’t help but think about both the literal and metaphorical weight you are carrying.

I got to my original stopping point of Double Hogpen Gap early and just decided to keep going. This put me up over another mountain and down into a valley. There weren’t any viable campsites until South Fork where I threw down my pack and called it an evening. I looked up how far I went and was surprised to see I managed 18 miles! It may not seem like a lot, but for the Appalachians and considering the fact I went couch to trail, it is.

Today I am grateful that my feet didn’t fall off after 18 miles.

Day 11 – 14.2 miles

I get a late start. My feet throbbed all night. I even elevated them on my pack to no avail. Also I was just plain tired. I keep having to gently remind myself that I haven’t hiked like this since 2018, so I can’t expect to make miles easy right away.

I might have picked one the toughest trails in the southeast to jump off the couch onto. Today’s selection of trail included a lot of stream hopping at first and then mostly fighting my way through overgrown weeds and brambles. My legs are looking pretty rough.

Double Springs Gap is the Georgia/Tennessee border and the home of two very disappointing springs. Originally I planned to stay here for the night, but I arrived early and the place seemed kind of creepy. Probably all the twisty Rhododendrons. Stinky too. I must have some past karma with Rhododendrons I need to work out.

Like a real dum dum I decided to make one last climb for the day. It was a slog fest up Big Frog mountain and Tennessee’s big Hi YALL! to NOBO BMT’ers. There was one mile of over 1000 foot elevation change through overgrown brambles and over loose rock. It was brutal. But I did it and actually made it to camp an hour before sunset (a real win for today).

Today I am grateful that tomorrow is town day (re: shower)!

Day 12 – 9.1 miles

I woke with a vigor because today is Town Day! I am most definitely ready for a shower. It has been said that you get used to your own stink, and to a certain extent you do, but I still think being clean is better.

The other side of Big Frog was gentle in its descent. Almost an apology for the other side. The rising sun spiked through yellowing leaves giving the trail a sparkly mood.

I spent most of the walk down from the mountain thinking about the things I’ve carried. Literally, I definitely carry too much food, especially for how not-hungry I am. I also probably carry too many comfort items – do I really need that many baby wipes? Those are things I’m willing to physically carry, because it behooves me to be clean.

Metaphorically, I’m wondering what i can take off my back. What no longer serves me to carry about? What is so heavy it prevents forward movement? What bundles can I finally lay to rest?

The great thing about walking in the woods for so long is that you have all the time to think. So I’ve got a few ideas. Im still ruminating on them.

Today I am grateful for modern plumbing and hot water heaters.

2 thoughts on “The Great 8: Days 6 – 12

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