Tennessee

Erwin, TN to Damascus, VA [467 miles]

erwintodama

trail5

After 35 days of hiking and 464 miles, I spot a sign along the trail.

Is this what I think it is?…

I try to restrain myself until I can see the letters carved into the wood.
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V-I-R-G-I-N-I-A

I stand there in the rain in complete disbelief.

Then, I lose it.

On Sunday, I hiked a marathon day (26 miles) into the longest state of the whole trail. Virginia owns a whopping 544 miles of trail.

Yep, This might take awhile. And I might need some audiobooks and a new pair of shoes.

The stats so far:
States: 4 (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia)
Miles: 467
Showers: 7
Blisters: 4 (healed)
Bears: 0
Nero: 2 (nearly zero milers)
Zero: 3 (zero milers)
Gear updates: 1 (ditched water bladder for bottles)

I have:

-Slept in a barn

-Had mice chew holes in my gear

-Found morel mushrooms

-Watched a hiker cook a pork tenderloin on his first day out of town

-Carried 12 donuts into the woods for other hikers

-Peed standing up and shot snot rockets

-Developed sandpaper skin

-Tried to bathe under waterfalls

-Eaten a sick amount of junk food

-Gotten sick of the people who plan their miles like a military invasion

-Tried a 680 calorie honey bun

-Been a victim of credit card fraud

-Gotten “lost” (the path changes, but nobody bothers to cover up the old blazes. Didn’t really want to bushwhack, but I blindly follow blazes… even if it looks ridiculous.)

-Hiked too many miles in the rain

-Questioned my sanity

-Loved every moment (mostly)

It’s been a little over a month and I am still loving the trail. Although.. It feels like time is flying past and I am just clinging to these moments.

I have met new hikers and said “goodbye” to others.

Time flies. I need to be thankful for my time here. It’s precious.

Laugh more. Worry less. Take more pictures.

PS: Thanks Tina, for the awesome care package! The dried mangoes really helped my morale on a rainy day.

Here are a bunch of random pictures from the last week:

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The AT is moments of fun separated by very long walks.

Categories: Tennessee, Virginia | 7 Comments

Hot Springs, NC to Erwin, TN [341 miles]

hotspringstoerwina

trail4

I have just purchased a chocolate ice-cream cone. I can see the chocolate sprinkles in vivid detail.

I am about to take my first lick.

I hear a voice.

“Acorn. Wake up. It’s time.”

The bubble bursts.

It’s 3am and my group of fellow crazy hikers has decided to attempt a 31 mile hike to celebrate a hiker’s 31st birthday.

I’m not sure why I agreed to do this.

I zip open my sleeping bag and the cold invades.

The long trek begins. I am soon night-hiking with 2 other hikers and a dog. We turn our headlights off and hike under the light of a full moon. We pick out constellations, watch satellites streak across the sky, and hoot at owls.

A few hours later, we arrive at a mountaintop. The sun is rising and it’s one of the most beautiful moments of my life. We linger to eat snacks and the dog whimpers. He wants to keep hiking.

The 31 miler glides past. We push beyond mountains, streams, and valleys full of white flowers.

I feel strong until the sunset.

I find myself climbing a mountain in the rain, at night, alone. It’s a very difficult 4 miles and I can’t seem to understand why I’m still doing this. My body pushes back and my leg muscles start to ache.

Finally, I find myself at mile 31, around midnight, and I can’t find the other 3 hikers who were supposed to meet here. I start to get confused and finally decide to hang my hammock between 2 trees.

The wind whips my hammock all night and the rain bounces off my tarp. I am lucky to be warm, but I am barely able to sleep that night.

31 mile days.

It’s done.

I wouldn’t recommend it.

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Categories: North Carolina, Tennessee | 12 Comments

Nantahala, NC to Hot Springs, NC [274 miles]

smokiesa

trail3

I rarely look behind me when I hike. I’m hiking down a mountain and something inside me implores me: Turn around.

I spin around and see it:

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The 2000 mile marker for southbound hikers (Maine to Georgia). However, to me, it means I still have 2000 miles left to hike. I try to wrap my mind around this concept.

My brain explodes.

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I spent the last week hiking across the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I learned the best thing for a hiker to hear upon arriving to a shelter in the howling rain is: “There’s always room for 1 more in the rain.”

Bless you for making space! That night, we crammed 17 hikers into a 12 person shelter… and even had an indoor fireplace and riddles. It was like a slumber party for smelly people.

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Thanks to my fellow hikers!! For making space, for offering hot dogs, marshmallows, and for making fires on cold nights. And for offering me a McDonalds cheeseburger after a 15 mile day. I died from joy. You help me push on and will be what I remember 20 years from now. I might not remember the views, but will always remember watching a hiker trying for 20 minutes to saw through a log with a swiss-army knife (it didn’t work).

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My body feels amazing for the torture inflicted on it so far. I even hiked a 21.8 miler on my 2 week trail-anniversivary. I was washing the mud off my legs a few days ago and was shocked at the size of my leg muscles. I am becoming stronger.

There have been rough moments too. At one point, I sat down in the middle of the trail and ate dry ramen noodles for a snack… And then started to eat the flavor packet.

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This is my life now. I screwed something up somewhere.

Sorry for the short entry.. But I gotta run. It’s time to finish my resupply and organizing for the next stretch. And buy a bottle of wine for the hot tub tonight.

This is the house I’m in now. It has a hot tub in the back. I might never leave Hot Springs.

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Hiking is for suckers.

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Categories: North Carolina, Tennessee | 7 Comments

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