Thursday, April 24, 2014

Day 8: Yup, Definitely NOT Flat

April 24th
Spring before Wade Sutton Memorial(139.7)-Fontana 28/Fontana Dam Lodge(164.7) N Carolina
25mi

**Before I start about today, I added a picture to yesterday that I forgot. It was one showing the leaves filling in a bit in lower elevation. It was the first day that spring was really evident. It disappeared in higher elevation, but it's coming!

This morning was the first morning that I set my alarm on this trip. I set it for 5:45am, packed up in the dark, and was hiking by 6:30am as the sun was rising. I knew today had a lot of ups and downs and I wanted get started early to make it 25mi so I could end the day at the Fontana Dam Lodge. Skittles was still in his tent and Tumbles was packing up when I left. His goal was to make it to the lodge to split the room with me if he could. Nothing can express the steepness of some of the climbs today, but I want to try. Here is a snapshot of what I hiked today from the app I use called Guthook's AT Hiker App. I mentioned it in more detail in my preparation posts, but he has apps for the PCT, CDT, and AT and it's great to have.

As I mentioned, I started off just as the sun was coming up over the trail behind me. It was a great morning and within an hour I was hiking with just a tee shirt and shorts...it wasn't until halfway through the morning that I noticed I had my shirt on inside out since I got ready in the dark, ha!

One of the first things I saw today way a memorial for a fallen firefighter that had died fighting a fire in this very area. Many rocks were laid around it and coins covered the plaque.

The morning climb was a steep one that went up for the first five miles this morning, whew! Along the way, I passed a couple hikers. Most seem to have stayed at a shelter a bit before the top and were all gathered at the top of Cheoah Bald when I got there. It was an expansive view and was a nice reward for the morning climb.
It was windy and colder on top and another hiker was using his GoLite umbrella to crouch down and stay warm. Yet another great use of the umbrella! His name was Stitch and he even found a way to use the umbrella to help him with hitchhiking.

I walked alone most of the day, but saw at least 20 hikers today. Definitely getting closer to the herd. All my encounters were a brief hello as most of the day was steeply up or down and I was going through it fairly quickly. It's difficult to photograph the steepness, but I tried. They were leg burners today, but I am still finding myself to be going up them swiftly. For some reason, I'm not getting out of breath going up them, but I feel the burn in my calves. All other days I felt like there was a gentle downhill or level to balance out a steep up, but that didn't happen today.

There were also rocky stretches that required focus to make sure I stepped in the right place. I was glad it was a dry day.
So I have to say that I was quite bored today. These days happen from time to time and I know it's temporary. I think it was the change from all the views yesterday and the fact that tomorrow I'll be entering the Smokies! The morning went by quick, but by the time I finished lunch, I was over it. I don't know if it was my visions of the lodge or just that I'm tired of seeing the same thing all day...dried leaves and bare trees. I tried to distract myself in many ways. I finished the audiobook, "The Fault in Our Stars." It was sad, but I was still glad I listened to it. I'd rotate radio, mp3 player, and listening to the sounds of the trail until I walked up on someone and I'd talk to them briefly. After lunch, I decided I needed something more to distract me, so I focused on all the flowers popping up through the dead leaves. I took pictures of each and that was fun. Feel free to identify them for me!
In the afternoon, I walked up on a couple that I got to hike with for an hour before they stopped at a shelter for the day. It was fun to get to know them and it helped to pass the time. Their names are Learnin' and Roots and they are from Oregon. They have updates on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theoverlandersat. When we got to the shelter they were going to camp near, I saw out of the corner of my eye something fall from the rafters of the shelter and hikers messing with something. It was a MASSIVE black snake about 4ft long. Learnin' said it was a harmless black rat snake and moved it to a safer spot, but it was sadly injured by a hiker that had hit it. It was a bummer, but also totally freaked me out! I really don't like the shelters!
I was excited that I made it to Fontana Dam by 5:30pm and a shuttle to the lodge showed up almost immediately. I tried to be as efficient as possible to do my resupply, shower, laundry, and dinner. It all went by so fast that I forgot to get pictures of the area. I'll try to do that tomorrow. It was a tiring day and more tiring knowing I need to get all these chores done. I'm hoping to relax til noonish tomorrow before leaving. Tumbles(pictured yesterday) showed up around 8pm tonight and is the perfect roommate for me, so it's nice to split the room with him. He'll be taking a zero tomorrow, so I won't hike out with him.

Tomorrow I enter the Great Smokey Mountains National Park! I'm pretty excited about this, but also apprehensive. There are mandatory shelters to stay in, but I've heard they are nice stone ones. The word is that thru hikers are the only ones allowed to tent, but that is only if the shelter is full. I've yet to walk by a shelter that isn't full on this trail after 5pm, so I'm hoping I get to tent! Phone reception might be limited out there for the four days I got through, so I'll load the posts up as soon as I can get service. Don't worry if they are delayed a day or two. Smokies here I come!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 7: A Day of Views

April 23rd
Wayah Crest Picnic Area(115.6)-Spring before Wade Sutton Memorial(139.7) N Carolina
24.1mi

It was a crisp cold morning in the upper 30s. It took me a bit to get motivated to get out of the warm sleeping bag, but I was hiking by 7:15am. I did some calculations last night and noticed that I will land at my next resupply spot either tomorrow night or the next morning. Again, this is much sooner than I anticipated as I didn't expect to be able to do this higher mileage so early on. I'll be getting to Fontana Dam Lodge, and looking ahead my next stop is a rustic hostel I may quickly go in and out. I want to spend the night in the lodge tomorrow night rather than get there the next morning and spend the day loitering like "hiker trash" getting my errands done. I'd just like to spend the night and get out around noon the next day. In order for this to happen, I need to do 49mi over the next two days. I did what I could to keep a good pace today, but there were many good distractions.

The weather was fairly perfect with a crisp morning and then warm afternoon. Spring has definitely arrived and the birds are active in the mornings. I want to try to capture some of the sounds, so I recorded what I heard this morning and you can listen to it by clicking here. This is my first time trying this, so I hope it works. It was also the first day with much grass along the trail.


The skies were clear, but it was hazy. I was glad it was clear because today was packed with views as the trail stayed fairly high on a ridge and hit many viewpoints. Even while the trail wound in the woods, the views could be seen through the bare trees.


The first view was on Wayah Bald where there was a stone tower.





I listened to more of The Fault In Our Stars as the trail dipped down for awhile and then back up to Wesser Bald where there was an observation tower and I happily ate my lunch. Here is the view from the tower.


Then the trail went down steeply almost 2,900' in less than 7mi to a touristy place called the Natahala Outdoor Center. As the trail got lower, there were more leaves on the trees and it's cool to see the transition. The green tunnel is not far away!
It felt like I was entering a pretty amusement park and was little jarring. I feel like I just got back on trail and I know I'm already hitting a lodge tomorrow night, so this was a bit much for me. It was very nice though. There was a convenient store, outdoor store, restaurant, cabins to rent, and opportunities to zipline, kayak, and river raft. The trail goes over a bridge that connects all of this. I got ice cream and ate it as I walked through.


I have heard that I'm on the fringe of the herd which is about a week away apparently. That is the term for the most crowed part of the trail where most the hikers are bunched up. I plan to hike through it, but hoped it was further away. Today I saw a few hikers and at the NOC, they were everywhere, but not the type I love to be around. They were the younger ones who were embracing the freedom of trail life and physically overcompensating. Most were guys who were filthy, somehow bearded as if they'd been on trail for months, smoking one thing or another, and holding or transporting quantities of beer. Let's just say it's not my scene and I hope it's just at the NOC...

I hiked up the steep hill to camp and headed for a spring where I'd get final water for the day and hike a bit further to camp. When I got there, two other thru hikers were camped there and said I could join them. I told them I was going to go a bit further to keep a schedule for the next day. They said that if I was aiming for 25mi to Fonatana Dam tomorrow, I could hike with them because they were too. These are the first hikers (since Harly on Day 1) I met planning to do over 20mi. I was still tempted to hike on to get more of the steep climb out of the way, but I told myself I'd do what I could to embrace the people side of this trail. They are very nice and sold me when they said they aren't loud and wanted to go to bed early to get an early start tomorrow. Their names are Skittles and Tumbles and they have been out one day longer than me, so they've also been keeping a good pace. Another couple joined us shortly after that I had talked to my first night. They are doing pieces of the trail and hitched up to do this part. Here is everyone and our site which isn't the flattest, but quite picturesque.


This is the first night I've camped where I get enough service to watch a show, so I'm excited to now watch the rest of The Mindy Project before bed!

Day 6: I'll Take It

April 22nd
Beech Gap(90.7)-Wayah Crest Picnic Area(115.6) N Carolina
24.9mi

I woke up to nature's alarm clock this morning around 6am. There was some kind of animal making very odd loud noises in the dark all around the camping area in the trees. The best guess was from Beer Hunter, who said that it was an owl, that sounded like a monkey at times, that was having a territorial dispute. Either way, it got me up and I was hiking by 7am. I wanted to get a good early start because there was a 60-70% chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon and I wanted to do miles early just in case. Beer Hunter and Timber(pictured yesterday) were the other early risers at camp and I caught up to them about an hour into the morning. I had hiked with them a bit two mornings ago and they are one of the few who go close to my pace so it's fun to overlap with them for awhile. They are friends that met in 2011 when Beer Hunter(from Indiana) did the whole AT and Timber(from England) did the northern half. They are now doing the southern half together and they can hike! We overlapped for at least an hour this morning and they are really fun with a great sense of humor. Beer Hunter knows his plants and helped me identify the little ones I've been seeing a lot as bluettes.


The clouds gathered on the way up and we got to a nice viewpoint.


I went on ahead of them when the steeper uphill climb started up to Albert Mtn fire tower. The final .3mi seemed to take forever as it was fairly straight up. There was a combination of steps and rocks that I had to practically scramble up at times. Just as I started that part, it started to rain lightly and continued much of the day.


The top was locked, but this is the view from the top of the steps. It was difficult to get a good picture of the clouds and incoming weather.


Much of the rest of today was a gentle downhill cruise. There were some climbs, but they didn't last long and returned to the gentle downhill. It sprinkled or lightly rained most of the day, so I took less photos. I stopped for a late lunch at shelter so I could eat protected from the rain. One of the local outfitters gave some hikers a big box of Krispy Kreme donuts to give to all the hikers at the trail. It was a nice surprise, but also very odd to see something so commercial like a big box of Krispy Kremes in the woods. This shelter is the first time I've felt really claustrophobic. Lots were there and stopped for the day already and many were coming in for a break as the rain got a bit harder.


I hadn't met any if them other than Beer Hunter and Timber who arrived as I was finishing my lunch. We ended up hiking the next hour together to a road where BH & T were going into town to resupply. There many choices of town stops along the AT so people are always going on and off. I continued my final climb of the day of 1,200ft over Siler Bald. Thankfully the rain stopped as I climbed and I was able to hike in my tshirt and shorts. As I got higher though, I hiked into the fog that had been hovering overhead. This is how it looked up top and as I hiked down.





I finished by 6:10pm and I'm camped at a picnic area and am surprised to be the only one here. I think many went to town to avoid the possible storms today. Plus, I'm also using Guthook's AT app. It has been great and gives lots of small campsites that aren't listed in the AT Guide. It isn't necessary to have it for the AT, but has definitely made it more enjoyable for me.

Fortunately, it was a day of rain and drizzle instead of storms. I'll take that any day over thunderstorms! Chances return on and off for the rest of the week. I'm camped in the rhododendrons as shelter if it decides to storm overnight.


The only other person here is a one armed section hiker missing his left arm and his name is Lefty. I'm not kidding. He's here with his dog, but sleeping in his car and I'm jealous. He'll hike a section and then get a hitch back to his car. It's nice to be at camp on my own and get to sleep before 10pm! My neck is getting better as I can now turn it most directions without having to turn my whole body.

One more thing I want to mention. I want to give a shout out to Moises who is a student at a high school where I substitute. I heard he's been following the blog regularly and I thought I'd surprise him with a shout out. HI MOISES! Make sure you're doing that science work for Sue...yeah, that's right, I know about that!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Day 5: North Carolina Baby!

April 21st
Dick's Creek Gap, US 76(69.6)-Beech Gap(90.7) N Carolina
21.1mi

I don't think my stay in Hiawassee could have been more perfect! I got caught up on everything and didn't feel anxious or stressed. The key seems to be that I get a solo room and stay focused doing the most essential tasks first so they are out of the way. There was a 9am shuttle taking hikers back to the trail so I didn't set an alarm. I still woke up early enough to indulge in watching the season finale to Parenthood and half of the most current episode of The Mindy Project. Subway was right next door and I found out that they do breakfast, so I did that and also grabbed a 6" to take on the trail for lunch. Superfan Kevin kindly gave me a giftcard, but the machine at the store was having trouble with cards. As I was offering to return later to pay, a man in line asked if I was doing the AT and then offered to cover my meal. Seriously, people have been SO NICE! Thank you whoever you are! That sandwich at lunch today was great!

I was dropped off at 9:20am with two other hikers who have been hiking together named Hob and Double T(Thinker Tom). As soon as the shuttle left, Hob realized he had left his hiking poles in the van. He told Double T to hike on with me and he'd meet Double T later. I spent most of the day with Double T and it was really nice to overlap for the day. Double T doesn't usually hike the pace I do, but he's been in the Army and liked the challenge for the day...well most of the day.


Early on, we saw Coyote, who I overlapped with the other day, and Floss who I've overlapped with the most out here, but very briefly each time. We seem to do about the same mileage on different schedules so we tend to hike past each other while the other one is stopped or camped. He seems to enjoy solo hiking, but I wanted to give a picture since we have been overlapping so much.


By noon, we hit the North Carolina/Georgia border and that was fun to already be in a new state. I like this aspect of the AT. Tennessee may be tomorrow and then the trail bounces back and forth from TN to NC for awhile.


Then right after the border was this tree that we had all heard about that stands out uniquely among all others along the trail and hikers take photos with. It is right in the middle of the trail!


Today was the first day I felt like spring was in the air. There were birds chirping the first few hours and less as the day went on and elevation went higher. Temps were near 70 and it was the first day I've really sweat. It was also the first day I've felt like flowers have been in abundance. I'm trying to remember what I was told, but I think these are Spring Beauty and Bloodroot.


I heard North Carolina was steep and rocky and that was surely evident today.


There were two specific climbs that were the steepest yet and we enjoyed attacking them as best we could. I feel the burn in my legs on them, but I'm surprised that I'm not short of breath and can even maintain a conversation. This is not common and I'm so thankful that my body seems to have some muscle memory or something. Surprisingly though, much of the day was more of a level or gentle up or down. The best part was at the top of the steep climbs, it would level out and we'd be shaded by a tunnel of Rhododendrons.


Towards the end of the day, Double T knew he was stopping at a shelter to wait for Hob and we separated. I put on my headphones and cruised to the highest point yet, the top of Standing Indian Mtn at 5,498'. It was a bit hazy, but a nice view.


I got to a campsite at 6:20pm and as I had guessed, Sparky was there. We camped together two nights ago and kept in touch figuring we'd have one more chance to overlap after I went into town. Again, I'm a fan of Sparky and I suggest his blog SparkyHikes if you're looking to follow another hiker. This is his first thru hike and he is planning more common mileage than me, so his journal is a good representation of many of the hikers out here. Many others were also there and I got to see Timber and Beer Hunter who I first overlapped with yesterday morning. I really like them and Beer Hunter helped me with the flower identification which I may have messed up above. Also there was a couple I haven't met, Hannah and Mad Science. I have a hard time remembering all these names! It was an enjoyable night with all them.


After tomorrow morning, I may not see most of them again, but it's been nice to see familiar faces. Oh yeah, I slept funny on my neck apparently because I had a pretty painful strain on one side of my neck all day that I hope goes away sooner than later. Thunderstorms are expected tomorrow!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day 4: A Nero To Haiwassee, GA

April 20th
Tray Mtn Shelter(58.6)-Dicks Creek Gap, US 76(69.6)  Georgia
11mi

I stayed up late last night, so I didn't set an alarm even though it was my first town day. It had been a cold and gusty night and for some reason I kept waking up. I ended up sleeping later than usual, but got hiking by 7:30am. Here is this morning's sunrise.

It was my first time camping near a shelter. What I didn't think about was how many people I'd be around as I got going this morning a bit late. Just walking past all the tents this morning I stopped to say hi to some as I passed by. I like to hike alone in the morning and I need to be more aware of that next time I decided to tent near a shelter. Everyone is really nice though and it was a nice morning. I started out with about 30mins to myself and was excited to cruise to town with some music. As I was hiking down a muddy rocky section, I was untangling my headphones when I slipped. I saved the fall by waving my arms like an idiot and then was relieved that I didn't fall completely. Then I wondered how I slipped in the first place and remembered I had my headphones in my hand. I looked everywhere for them and after five minutes I finally found them...hanging in a tree! I'm such a moron...close call, but no lost headphones, whew! Look how hard they were to spot! Once again, I know you all are laughing...Well, there's more to come...
There were two good steep climbs today and the rest was really nice downhill to Dick's Gap(road crossing). I saw section and weekend hikers I'd been overlapping with this leg about half the time and it was nice to come in and out of conversation and then hike on my own for a bit. Temperatures got into the 70s today and the sun was really beating down for the first time this hike. Temps are going to stay warm this week, but thunderstorms are due early in the week. So far my pattern seems to be that I hike on the rainy days and go into town on the nice days...that needs to change!
I know it seems quick that I'm hitting town on my fourth day, but I actually did this leg a day and a half quicker than I had planned as I gave myself low mileage for the first week and didn't anticipate feeling this great. My body feels like it never left the trail. I didn't expect to feel like this at all. I feel like hikers do when they come out of high elevation, but I wasn't even in high elevation. So far, the steep hills have not worn me out much at all, but I can see how it can stop people in their tracks. I think I'll be more exhausted when the heat comes, but for now, I'm loving that my body has taken so well to the steep ups and downs.

I still wanted to take the overnight in town just to rest my body and most importantly catch up on emails, blog stuff, and watch shows! When I got to the road, there were many people from trail to talk to and it's so funny how this already feels like a community in just four days. I noticed a car that was dropping people off and asked if they were headed to town and they were kind enough to take me. The hotel I'm at has a shuttle, but I didn't know that until it was too late. I'm not used to trails where motels actually come to the trail to get the hikers! As soon as they dropped me off, I noticed how hot and sunny it was. I reached up to grab my sunglasses off my hat and they were gone! I must have set them in the car that gave me the ride, ugh! I even did a quick check and told them I have a habit of leaving things. I know I was wearing them when I got in the car, so I must have just set them on the seat. Again, I'm such a moron! This is going to happen a lot on this trail because I get worse when more is going on around me and there is so much going on around here. I just lose focus.

I mentioned my superfan yesterday that had waited to surprise me on the trial and I missed him by just a few minutes. His name is Kevin and he got in contact with me and offered to take me out to dinner with his wife. It was great! They took me to Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris and it was beautiful! I had steak! What a way to kick off the trail! Kevin and Mary were great to spend time with and the time just flew by. Kevin even got us to take a picture with the Wired pose. It was great!

This is the view we had of the golf course as we ate on the balcony. I mean seriously, is this my life!? Thanks so much Kevin and Mary!!!

Lastly, I haven't been able to thank all those who have sent care packages already. So much has been going on, that I haven't been able to do the shout outs I like to do. I will soon be doing more pictures of what you all have sent, but for these first two legs, I want to thank Malto, Dennis, Kristi, Wally, Glenn & Carol, John & Carol, and Michael & Jenny. You all rock and your goodies have started this hike off on the right foot! I do want to give a special mention to my step mom Robin who is coordinating all this, my sister who is taking lots of time to help me post the blogs in a timely manner, and my dad who sent me the most unique thing yet...Mac & Cheese band aids! How perfect for me are these!?




Bonus: One Million Views!

Hi Everyone! I'm in my first trail town just in time to celebrate my on millionth view on the blog yesterday! If you looked at the blog on April 19th, you may have been number 1,000,000. Seriously, ONE MILLION! Just looking at the number right now is pretty crazy. This number doesn't include all of you that subscribe via email or another feed because you usually don't view that actual website, so the number is actually much higher. Well, you know me, I couldn't let this pass without listing some of the stats so here they are real quick.

First post was Feb 21, 2011
372 Posts
Most viewed post is my Complete PCT Gear Review with 15, 824 views.
Most viewed tab is my CDT 2013 tab with 34, 359 views.
Subscribers right now: 883

Here is my favorite visual stat, pageviews by countries. It doesn't include all countries, but here are the top ones...I've had lots of unique ones and I'm bummed I can't get it to list ALL the countries. Really cool though.

And here are the stats to show what type of browser the blog tends to be viewed on. 
All of this is very surreal and I wanted to celebrate it with all of you because that's why I do this. Knowing that this is reaching and inspiring people all over the world is what makes it worth all the effort to blog from the trail. Plus, it's a huge motivator, so THANKS for keeping me so WIRED!



Day 3: Stop & Go

April 19th
Tesnatee Gap, GA 348(37.7)-Tray Mountain Shelter(58.6)
20.9mi

Lots happened today so I'll try to summarize it best I can. It was gusty and raining the whole night. At 4:15am, I heard my hammocked buddies, Jerome and Chris moving around and talking. I asked if they were actually packing up so early (and in the rain) and they said no, but that one of them was completely soaked. They wanted me to tell all my blog followers that the lesson is to not use one tarp for two hammocks! I waited for the rain to show some slowing and packed up reluctantly to hike in the rain. Temps were still in the low 40s. Given the combination of wind gusts, horizontal rain, and my poor tent setup, I faired quite well. My barricade of sorts kept the water out and I was surprised that most things were dry. Jerome and Chris decided to cut their trip short and called for a ride that was coming. It was tempting to go into town, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it so that when a true situation came up in which I couldn't stick a thumb out, I'd know I could do it. I packed everything while in my tent and attached the umbrella to my pack, so I was able to somewhat enjoyably take the tent down in the rain and then shove it in a side pocket. I was hiking an hour later than usual just before 8am and waved goodbye to J&C who were good sports and welcomed company in a crappy situation. Thanks guys!


I immediately hiked uphill into dense fog and could feel that I needed more fuel. I had eaten some almonds as I packed up in the tent, but I knew it hadn't been enough. Those who have followed me before know that I have a tough time eating when I'm stressed physically or emotionally and sometimes have trouble keeping breakfast down. I was definitely not comfortable this morning and didn't want to eat. I tried to force down more almonds on a downhill and activated my morning sensitive gag reflex. The saliva rushed to my mouth and I mentally told myself to hold it in as I didn't want to lose the little I had managed to eat this morning. The effort was fruitless and I immediately lost all my water and almonds from this morning, ugh! Then just a few yards later half of dinner, crap! This is not uncommon for me on train and I was so frustrated. I waited 20mins and was able to get an Odwalla bar down. I need to figure out this morning eating issue. The almonds seem to be too dry so I'm thinking of doing the bars first, especially if I'm stressed. So annoying. Anyway, the rain stopped within 30mins or so of hiking and the fog was thick.





It lifted within an hour and rolled in and out. There were nice views through the trees looking into the valley with fog still sticking in random pockets. I saw few in the morning except for some day hikers. I went a few miles to a shelter where I stopped to take off my rain gear, get water, and use the privy(toilet). There were still a handful of thrus packing up to leave and we chatted a bit recounting the cold and rainy night. The services at shelters are nice and convenient, but I've yet to decide if it's worth hiking an extra distance off trail and back on. I think I was off trail a good 30mins doing my housekeeping there when I could've done it on trail. I stopped a lot today with the rain coming and going. I kept changing in and out of my rain gear and it was time consuming and hot to wear up the hills. In the morning I listened to more of "The Fault In Our Stars" and the trail actually meandered a bit and was gradual and that was really enjoyable!


I ran into more thrus in the afternoon. Everyone is really nice but few keep up the pace I'm going. I know this will improve as the time passes and everyone gets their trail legs. I'm slaying the uphills and very thankful that my legs have responded so well to the hills. I hiked with Coyote(after a Joni Mitchell song) the most today. We overlapped for a couple of hours and had lunch together and that was nice. I might see him again as we both are going off trail tomorrow for town stuff. As we were going up our steepest climb yet, a day hiker going the opposite direction told me I had a really nice fan waiting to surprise me about four miles away and some other great trail magic was just two miles away. It was already late afternoon, so I booked it and told Coyote I'd see him in a bit, as I figured my fan had possibly been there for hours at this point. As I was going downhill right before the trail magic, I walked by a hiker that was stopped and eating. He seemed to be going the opposite direction and I was on a mission, so I said hi and kept going down swiftly. Around the corner was my first trail magic of the hike! They had everything laid out a hiker could possibly want and hot dogs on the grill. It was drizzling and I was just impressed that they'd stand out in the rain for hikers. I took a picture with our wonderful trail angels who went by their last names, Hayes, Johnson, Chastain. Thank you for such great trail magic! Yes, I'm a dork with the umbrella, but I'm a dry dork!


I knew I had someone waiting for me, so I had a hot dog and explained my need to leave. Before I left, the other hiker I had barely said anything to up the hill introduced himself. It was Sparky! He is a first time thru hiker from London who I had emailed with a bit before trail about battery choices and I really wanted to meet him in person on trail. We knew he was starting about a week ahead of me so I wasn't even expecting to see him so soon. I was glad he recognized me as I would have been bummed not to talk to him. We got a picture together. Wired and Sparky! Cracks me up!


Then Coyote showed up and we took pictures of each other before we separated.


I hustled to make it to the person waiting for me and arrived to find a different person there instead and felt bad that I had just barely missed whoever made the effort to come out and see me. I think his name was Jason so if you're reading this, you totally motivated me at the end of the day today and I really tried to get there as soon as I could. I was just two miles from my final destination and Sparky hiked up so we hiked up Tray Mtn together and are now camped together about 100yds from lots of people at the shelter. We found that we have tons of the same gear and random characteristics. It was seriously insane the compatibility of the most random things. He actually admitted to watching every episode of friends, ha! Sparky's had an injury and is just now getting a regular pattern down. He just resupplied today, so the goal is to overlap a bit again in a few days after I go into town tomorrow and catch up again. He keeps a blog called sparkyhikes. Look at his "about me" section as I like the way he tells his story behind doing the trail and you'll see why I'm rooting for him.

I forgot to get a campsite view, but here is the view on top of the mountain. Sunrise should be a good one tomorrow.


It stupidly drizzled as we set up our tents and I'm still getting the hang of mine, but improving. I'm doing something wrong with the setup and will try to watch the setup video when I get in town. It's doing great though and I like it a lot more than the ZPacks Hexamid. It is much roomier and I can make it fully enclosed which I really like! I was very happy that I took it down in the rain this morning and there wasn't sun to dry it out, but it wasn't soaked when I pitched it tonight in drizzle. I wiped the floor dry with a bandana and was all set! Okay, good night:)