Day 7: May 7th 2016
I sleep great!! The cascades from the falls do me right. I’m up at 6:45 and I know today’s going to be another tough one. My goal today is 14.4 miles to campsite #42 on Spruce Mountain Trail. Good luck I think to myself. First I have to finish hiking up this mountain I’m currently still on. Then I have to go down and hike up a whole new mountain and go back down. I waste no time and take down my tent, get my gear ready, and eat breakfast. Wetness covers my body within minutes. It’s sticky outside today and looks like rain at any minute. So of course it does. I make it 2.6 miles up to the Hyatt Ridge Trail and cry when I see the sign. It was all uphill and I got stuck in the mud and my shoes are wet and I’m just so happy I made it that freaking mountain! I have a little rest and some water and blow my nose for the 8,325th time. Maybe it’s from looking down a lot maybe it’s from my lingering cold, no way to know. Up and at it again within minutes. Now I walk down. I almost love down except that I still have to be very cautious where I put my feet and go slowly as not to slip and fall. It’s better than up so I’m grateful.
Today I think a lot about friends of the past and old boyfriends. Sometimes the thoughts make me smile and sometimes not so much. I find it strange how sometimes we keep certain people in our lives no matter what and others we simply let go because of time, or because we grew apart, or because they change or we did and we simply don’t fit anymore. Then I begin thinking of all the people that are those passing through on the friendship train and those who are new friends but who I hope are always around. It’s funny all the people you’ll meet in a lifetime and the roles in which they play. Some memories you’ll keep forever. Some you’ll want to forget. I told a friend not too long before I left that I have a few good Quarter (you know 25 cent) friends in my life. Sure, I have a lots of Pennies but I’d much rather have a few really wonderful people, Quarters, who I care about and love and truly care and love me in return than a whole bunch of Pennies. My BF and I talk about that often and it’s so true. Fill your life with Quarters people!
After thoughts about life and friendships I make it to Beech Gap Trail II and go down for 2.8 miles. It’s rough. However, I do enjoy refilling my waterbottle along the way, the cool stream water is tasty after filtered. It’s one of my favorite things about the mountains. I can see the road, almost. A blue car drives by but keeps going over a bridge. I sit st the trail sign at the bottom and eat a snack. So much walking today and I’m not half way done yet. I walk over another neat old, rusty bridge and make my way to the Beech Gap Trail I and it goes up a new mountain. I walk. Before I get a few hundred feet in a dread it. So to get over the dread and just do the damn thing I start singing the To and Fro song from The Sword in the Stone.
Left and right. Like day and night. That’s what makes the world go round. In and out. Thin and stout. That’s what makes the world go round. For every up there is a down. For every square there is a round. For every high there is a low. For every to there is a fro. To and fro. Stop and go. That’s what makes the world go round.
Because I stop to rest often I end up singing this song a lot. At one point, I’m making my way up between two tree and something hits me in the leg. A blue bird just flew into my right leg! It startled me and I laugh at it when it stops a few feet ahead of me and shakes it’s feathers like it just got into an accident. He hops a little and then takes back off flying. By then I realize what’s happened and as it flies off I give that bird The Bird. How does a bird just fly right into a person? I wonder if it was enjoying the breeze and just closed his eyes for a second or maybe it saw me and was aiming for me and he and all the other birds just laughed after it was over. Either way, today I got hit by a bird.
I make my way up this treacherous mountain in almost 4 hours. Then I have a quick rest and know I’ll never make it to my campsite if I don’t hurry. I’m still really not up for walking in the dark just yet. So I do my best to hurry down the mountain and it takes me an hour and a half to go 2.3 miles, which is great! But it’s also 6:15pm and normally I’d be wanting to put my tent up soon and head to bed. I decide to try my best to make it to my campsite that’s still 1.9 miles away. I make it to the gravel road and it says to turn right. So I do. The next trail is .7 miles away so I walk faster now that’s it’s not on the trail. I’m walking and I’m walking and no trail sign. This isn’t good. I walk for almost 40 minutes before I recheck my trail guide. It says to turn right on Balsam Mtn Rd one way going North. I turned right but did I go right on the road? Crap! It also says I’ll be walking against traffic and I suppose if there was any traffic I’d know better. But it’s a closed road. Haha! So now I believe I’ve walked in the wrong direction for a mile or possibly more and I stop and get mad at myself and at the trail guide and I just sit down. I want to scream but don’t. I pick myself up off the dusty, gravel road and head back in the direction I just came from. My new goal is to make it back to the last trail sign before it gets dark and just stay there. There was a little grassy section off to the side that will work for the night. Illegal camping is not great but neither is speeding so I justify that real quick. I make it back to my intended spot and reread my map. I don’t know how I messed this up but I know I’ll have to worry about it tomorrow. My feet are screaming at me to be done for the day. I get my tent up quickly and have some crackers and a Fudge Round I’d been saving for a treat. It was heavenly! I change into my camp clothes and brush my teeth and crawl into my tent. I lay didn’t but can’t sleep. It’s super windy beside the road and I’m still mad at myself. Cranky and tired I decide to force myself to keep my eyes closed and think of something nice. That’s what I always tell Kerrigan after stories when I lay her down for nap time. “Close your eyes and think of something nice” I say to myself. I close my eyes and then realize I hit my first 50 miles today! I smile, with my eyes closed.
Total Miles: 52.2 (plus 2ish)
Day 8: Sunday, May 8th 2016
The wind wakes me up, it’s howling. It’s 6:08am and my poor body is still in shock mode from yesterday. I check over my maps again and make my goal for the day. I journal and have breakfast inside my tent because it’s too windy to face the outside just yet. I start walking in the right direction this time and see the sign for Palmer Creek trail and the Spruce Mtn trail, I stay straight on both. I pass by campsite #42 that I didn’t make it to last night.
I walk a few miles and remember it’s Sunday, Mother’s Day. It’s the first Mother’s Day I’ve not spent with Madre in as long as I can remember. I become very sad that I’m not there to go to church with her, go out to lunch, then get home to get our pajamas and put a movie on to nap to. I have some percentage on my phone left and some service. Carefully I take my pack off and rest against the side to call her. No answer. I check the time and it’s only 12:07pm… she’s still in church. I call Dad and chat with him. As I’m calling Madre back I get a text from Dad saying I told your mom Happy Mother’s Day! I know you will call her 👍🏼🌹 and I’m the happiest person alive. I love love love that my parents are talking and texting and not hating each other. I talk with Madre and wish her a Happy Mothers Day and she opened her card and I reminded her about her present to open. We don’t chat long and then I’m off again down the mountain.
I walk 6 miles on Balsam Mtn Rd that changes into Heintooga Rd. When I stop at the Heintooga Ridge picnic area I’ve already walked over 8 miles and it’s now 2:34pm. There’s no one around and the bathrooms are locked. The campsite I wanted to stay at is closed for winter and open at the END of May. So I have some time and call Kate at the FMST (Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail) to check about other possible options. There’s a campground 10 miles away, nope not today. So I just sit for a bit. The weather is great and I’m ready to kick my feet up. I read in my Thru-Hikers Manual for the Mountains to Sea Trail guide book by Scot Ward to check for possible Trail Angels and/ or lodging options, most are down an 8 mile road and then 7 or more to town. I call mom and dad again and leave messages in case I camp illegally (again) and end up in jail… Worse case scenario type stuff.
Thankfully, I don’t have to wait long as there are voices coming from the picnic area. A couple, day hikers, are out for a lovely Sunday hike. I stand to meet them as I say Hi and chat with them about possible options. They are Steve and Pam and are happy to help me out with answers to my questions. There’s a campground, Mile High Campground, 10 miles away which I knew about but really didn’t want to walk to today. Instead they say I can walk with them on the road to their car and get a ride into town… I’m delighted to join them. We make our way down Heintooga Rd. and chat about trails, family, jobs and they share a brownie with me which is delicious. Real trail magic! They say they ran into three guys who were asking the same questions I was who also started at Clingmans and I get excited that they may be also walking the MST. It’d be nice to see other hikers going my way. I haven’t seen Pick again but always hope I’ll bump into him again.Steve and Pam offer to take me to town, which I gladly accept. They also want to buy me dinner which is so generous and of course I say that that would be amazing and thank them for the sweet gesture. We walk over 4 miles down the road to where their car is and before we leave we go check out the Masonic Monument that has stones from 41 different countries, erected in 1938. It’s a short walk and ends up looking like a crypt but now we can all say we saw it. Steve and Pam are sweethearts! They let me charge my phone in their car and even stop by the Fire Department to see about getting me a ride back up tomorrow and ask about hotel rates. Really they go above and beyond. Next up, dinner time. We go to the local Mexican restaurant and have a nice meal and talk about their son and my family. After dinner I thank them for my meal and we’re off to find a reasonably priced hotel. They go in with me to make sure I can get s room for the night and I hug them bye like I’ve known them for more than just a few hours. I know there are good people out there in this world. But for stangers to give me a ride, buy me a meal, and see that I got somewhere safe is truly a blessing! I’m thankful I ran into them… I was at the right place at the right time. THANK YOU STEVE AND PAM!!! I hope you’re reading this and know how much I appreciate your kindness!!!
I get into my room after having to tell the lady at the front desk my door won’t open (she scanned the wrong room number) and I get out all my dirty laundry. I shower and have to scrub my feet to get all the dirt off. I stepped in mud days ago and it’s caked on… Yuck. Also, my blue toenail is a little darker but I’m assuming it will stay on tonight. Next I go put my laundry in to wash. I know most hotels have wash rooms but I’ve never used one until this trip and now I love them. I ho to print off new trail guides because after tomorrow’s hike I’ll be done with Segment 1… 70.3 miles in 9 days (plus one zero day)! Woohoo!! Back up to change the laundry to the dryer and then rest my poor feet. Everything hurts and my feet ache in a way that says “We may fall off!” Check in with the parents again and read my amazing posts on Facebook. Thank you again so much for all the love and support and prayers. It’s truly amazing how many of you are enjoying my adventure. I’m so glad you love reading because I’m loving living it! When my laundry is done I go straight to bed. I turn out all the lights. There’s one light at the foot of the bed near a mirror that’s still on. I can’t find the switch that turns it off! “No, no, no… Why?!” I say out loud. I find the switch but instead of it turning the light on and off, off is now in the middle, up is on and down his on. Crap!! I get my duct tape out and tape it to stay in the middle… on off. I crawl into bed and pass out almost immediately.
Total Miles: 64.7