Day 9: Monday, May 9th 2016
Up early but it’s so hard to get out of this bed. It’s easy to wake up outside, the birds are always there for an early morning serenade and the light shines through on my tent giving me that little needed push. In a hotel room it’s all nice and cozy and dark. I do my usually roll off the bed and practice walking again. I’m shaky but I make it to the bathroom. I wash up, get my things together, and I’m out by 8am. Breakfast at the hotel is basic but I eat a lot anyway and drink several tiny cups of orange juice. I call up the Fire Department and ask about that ride. It’s out of their jurisdiction and they can’t help. Neither can the Police Department. My last option is to call a taxi which now I hate doing. Those $12 rides are going to add up along with hotels every now and then but eventually I do make it back to the spot I left off in. Today’s goal is to make it to Waterrock Knob Overlook/ Summit. I’m rested and ready.
The weather was supposed to be 77 and sunny but it’s mostly overcast and looks like possible rain. I did however put on my shorts today for the first time. If anything I know the new hairs on my legs will appreciate blowing in the mountain breeze. I walk. I know for a while I’ll be going down at least for the first few miles but after that it’s all uphill towards the mountain. So I enjoy my morning “stroll” several miles to a small backcountry dirt road where there are a few houses but it’s pretty remote. This takes me to 19 and I know I’m going the right way. I car comes rolling up, a burgundy Cadillac, and the window goes down and two sweet older ladies say “Hello Dear!” I say Hello back and ask where they are headed. I’m sure they’re lost there’s no where to go from where I just came. They are headed to the casino! They automatically remind me of my Madre and her best friend, Lynn. Especially in that Caddy! I let them know they need to stay on 19 and they turned a road too early. They ask if I mind getting in just to help them out and I obliged because this road walking is hurting my feet. Plus I know it’s only about .5 miles to 19. We chat about my hike and about Harrah’s. They are from Asheville and just needed a fun day trip… They picked a good one. I let them drop me off at 19 and I let them know that they need to go right towards Cherokee and I go left towards Asheville.
I make my way to the trail where it goes up to Waterrock Knob Overlook and summit. I genuinely get excited when I see the tree with the white circle blaze! It’s a small marker to the end of my journey and it’s like a little reward every time I see one. I sometimes even say “Hello” to them and “I see you” as I would if I was back at work playing hide and seek with my kiddos. This also helps to pass the time and give me something to get excited about.
Not too long as I start making my way up I run into a hiker coming down. I ask how the trail is and he says it’s tough but good and super steep at the top. Awesome! He asks me where I’m hiking and I tell him I’m thru-hiking the MST. He’s so proud and he doesn’t even know me. This makes me get good vibe chills. He also tells me not to quit. We say goodbye and he wishes me luck. As I think about what he said to me, not to quit, I roll that around in my head. I honestly haven’t even thought about quitting. Sure sometimes it’s hard and I’m tired and smell just plain awful and have bruises and feet hate me now but I’m not quitting. It might take me 3 months or 5 but that’s not the point either. Then I use his words as a confidence booster up that damn mountain. It’s a lot of logs and rocks as stairs which are often large and more like two normal steps at once. I then think of something else, anything else other than going up.
Those little ladies get me thinking about Madre and Lynn. It’s the funny things from the past and the hilarious stories they tell and sometimes just the way they do things when they’re together. Then I start thinking about my Best Friend and how much I would like to give her a big hug around her neck right now. I bet those ladies are going to have so much fun today. The more I think about those ladies the more I think about Madre and Lynn and BF and me and how even after years and years of friendship, good days, bad days, heartbreaks, loss of loved ones, birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, and random special days… you’re friends are always there to go gamble and drink with you! 😉🍻
I walk up large rocks, crunchy leaves, logs as steps, even bigger rocks, and a few small streams and then I keep walking. At one point I hit my right foot on a rock and wonder how my toe is doing. I start to think that the worst thing that could happen is my shoe starts filling up with blood and I die laughing! I laugh so hard thinking about Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. I laugh at how funny I still that think movie is. I laugh at how much BF loves that movie and then I think of her when she laughs at that part and I laugh some more. I have to stop walking because my laugher is now messing up my breathing. It’s a very funny 6 minutes of my day but I do enjoy the distraction.
After my giggles subside I start taking lots of pictures. The trail changes so much and has those pretty white blazes. I stop at Howard’s Bridge for some leftover chicken quesadilla from the night before and call Scot “Taba” Ward. His trail name stands for There And Back Again, he’s hiked the MST 4 plus times. One time he went halfway back after he finished. I get some good tips on where to stay for the next few nights given there are almost no campgrounds. He’s happy to help and then I get a text from my dear friend, Heather. This makes me so happy and puts a big smile on my face! She’s been a big supporter of my trip and I’m thankful for the brief moments we get to share before my phone signal goes away. Then I’m off again.
It takes me 4 hours with stops here and there for water breaks and short rests but I then make it to an opening near the top that takes my breath away. It’s really the first time I’ve seen a view like this on my trip! I become overwhelmed that I can hike up this mountain and see this kind of beauty… Then the sun shines a little, it’s unbelievable. I find a rock nearby and just sit for a bit. Then I take lots of pictures.
Familiar sounds are coming from my left, it’s people. Assuming they’re on the path to the summit I don’t rush to the top. It’s a 1.58 mile round trip to the summit (or as I now call them, straight up to the tops) so I sit a bit longer and enjoy all my hard work. Ok now to straight up to the top. More freakin’ big rocks to haul myself over. They act like stairs which is great but some of the large rocks are half way up my knee so it’s quite the step up. I carefully place Do It and To It on the steps/rocks above me and push myself up. Rock after rock. It seems to take forever. About 3/4th of the way up I hear kids, lots of kids. It must be a school on an outing. One after one kids begin to trickle down. They’re coming down like little freakin’ rabbits. They’re hopping, jumping, skipping and some almost running as if the rocks are soft, fluffy cloud and it’s fun to jump on them. Freakin’ kids with all that energy! One boy says he’ll give me $20 for my poles and I just laugh. In my head in saying “No fucking way I’m giving you Do It and To It! They’re my best good friends these days!” I move over to the side so the other bunnies can make they’re way down. I say hello to groups as they pass by and some say hi and some just smile. I make it to the top, 6,292ft! It’s gorgeous, of course, but not like the other place. I sit on a bench to have a rest and some water. Then I choke on that water. I got an air bubble in my camelback and end up hitting my chest pretty hard to breath again. I can make it all the way up a freaking mountain but I’m going to choke to death on some water. Just my luck! (Am I right Brittney?!) Thankfully, as you’re reading this, I do survive my small choking incident and decide to take a few picture and head on down. It’s getting cold up here and it’s now 5:40pm and the sooner I get gown the sooner I can rest and be done for the day.
Every step down is the most careful step I’ve taken this whole trip. I do baby steps. My right foot then the left. It takes a while but that’s ok. I can soon hear the kids in the parking lot below me running around and laughing. As I make my way to the overlook I pass the next MST trail and smile at it. “I’ll see you in the morning” I say. I find a spot in the grass that no one is occupying and lay my pack down and rest on it. One of the teachers comes over for a chat about my hike and she lives near the trail and has hiked about 30 miles of it. She tells me that the kids are from a local middle school and are out on an outdoor club adventure day. She wishes me luck and they all get on the big white bus to leave. Many of them roll down their windows to wave as they go by. I wave back and tell them to enjoy their evenings.
I’m ready for sleep. Just as I think everyone is gone a truck pulls into a nearby parking spot. I go over to a picnic area and start journaling. There’s no where to camp around so I planned on staying at the overlook near the bathroom. There are concrete walls and plenty of space to put my tent right in the middle. But now there’s a creepy guy here. He’s not getting out of his car and it’s getting dark. What’s he looking at? You can barely see the mountains now. I have 13% on my phone and call Dad. He starts saying this and that and I try my best to shush him quietly so the guy doesn’t hear me. I let Dad know I just needed to call and tell him where I was in case this night doesn’t go as planned. As I’m talking to Dad another car shows up and he lets me know that two is better than one and I start to feel better. Maybe people are just on the overlook to see the mountains in the dark and throw away trash and pee. Turns out creepy guy is nice and gets out to ask me if I need any help and make sure I’m ok. All is well. I think I’m just tired and thinking too many things. Dad tells me to call soon and let him know I’m ok but my phone dies so I use my SPOT to tell him. Everyone leaves and I put my tent up quickly. I write and eat and then lay down. Before I even get settled two more cars come and a big Diesel truck comes but doesn’t turn it off. He just lets it’s run. I chat with a guy who goes to the restroom from in my tent and then he’s gone. I’m so tired I forget about being scared and fall asleep hard.
Total Miles: 70.3 – Segment 1 Complete