Day 21: Saturday, May 21st 2016
Today is a special day for me on the MST! My friend’s Brittney, Anna and TR are all going to join me for a few miles on the trail. I’m so excited to have company!
I wake up at Brittneys and have a quick shower and finish loading my pack. Dave is driving to pick up Anna and TR at Sleepy Gap, our end destination, and then we’re headed to where I left off at the Mills River Valley Overlook.
We arrive at the meeting place around 8:30am and everyone gets introduced and are all back in the car for a quick drive. We’ve decided on hiking 8.4 miles and I’m thrilled. I’m so excited to see Anna and TR because it’s been a while since I’ve seen them and I can’t wait to catch up! They are driving an hour to hike with me and I couldn’t be more grateful for such a sweet guest use. Truly blessed today, and it’s still early.
Today’s elevation drops and is mostly all down hill or level trail walking so that’s nice and the weather is almost perfect. It looks like it could rain but is just overcast. Everyone gets to know each other on the ride a little and I ask how Anna and TR’s boys are doing. They also have some of the sweetest families alive so it’s nice to catch up and hear how things are. We chat about the trail, my blog, our lives, jobs, and upcoming trips. Anna has even graciously decided to carry my pack for me to see how heavy it is. She’s got it, no problem! Beast mode.
We walk. We make our way past several overlooks breaking for short times to check out the scenery and chat more. Everyone takes turns leading the group and conversations shift between the four of us. Anna and TR are also giving Britt and I lessons in learning about birds, trees, plants, and flowers and I’m loving it. They know so much fun things about the outdoors and it’s nice to get some info on what I’ve been seeing for weeks now. The only thing I got right was knowing what a fern was. Haha. But now I know about Pink Lady’s Slippers and a bird that only has a few notes and says “Hello” and “How are you?” We walk into Bent Creek Experimental Forest and the trail is surrounded with large trees and wide open space to our left. The green is so pretty and the trail today is possibly the easiest I’ve had so far. They picked a good day to join me. Maybe it’s because I’m not wearing my pack or maybe it’s just because of the great company and not walking alone. Either way, I’m really enjoying it!
About five miles in we stop at some rocks near a small stream and eat some lunch. TR puts my pack on for a bit to try it out (Brittney doesn’t even attempt to… Which makes me giggle) and we’re back on the trail. We talk about how Britt knows Anna’s sister, Kate and how Anna lived in the same town homes as Brittney does now for a little bit. I ask often what everyone is thinking about because now instead of just thinking things in my head I have people to ask what they’re thinking about. When everyone says what they’re thinking of it really goes to show how the mind can wonder. At one point we walk through a section of trail that reminds me of the spooky forest from Snow White. TR says “with eight dwarfs” and I mention there’s only seven. Then Britt says “There’s sleezy…” And I die laughing! Sleezy! I say his name is Sleepy and laugh some more. Anna mentions a “shortcut” in the trail which she read from my blog and that makes me smile. I’m truly in love with this day! We often have to move out of the way for trail runners who speed past us and I mention how I think those people are insane. I could never be a trail runner, too many weak joints… I’d break something. One guy runs past us and even TR notices that he has zero body fat. I then joke about how I could never date a trail runner… Me: “Hey, what should we do tonight? Go to dinner. Great, I’ll have a burger and a beer.” Him: “That’s so bad for you!” Me: “We’re over.” Or Me: “Lets stay in tonight and watch a movie and drink wine.” Him: “Can’t, I’ve got to go trail running and stay in amazing shape.” It’s good to laugh with people you love while you finish 8.4 miles.
We’re done by 1:35pm and we sit down near Anna and TR’s car and stretch and then take pictures. Dave comes and Brittney, Anna and TR and I all give hugs goodbye and thank them all for the best day. Then they’re off.
I’m on a high today because of the amazing company and already 8.4 miles before 2pm. I call Madre and get to chat with Aunt Reta a bit. She tells me to watch out for snakes. I call Dad and have a quick chat with him and by 2:30 I’m back on the trail. I pass by several more day hikers and a few families.
I’m making my way up a hill when I hear the sound of gun shots and it makes me nervous even though i know it’s not too close to me. I hear some rustling in the woods to my left and then see three deer at the top of the the hill move onto the trail and then to the right of the woods. I have to go over a fallen log and then I’m making my way downhill. I see a man coming up that I remember reading about on the FMST Facebook page a few days. So before I even get up very close to him I ask him “Are you the guy who’s yo-yoing?” And he smiles and says “Yes.” His name is Michael and he started at Jockeys Ridge and is on his way to Clingmans Dome and then he’s turning around and going back to the coast. Amazing! We chat for a few minutes and then we wish each other Happy Trails.
I just walk my heart out today! I enjoy dinner using my new cooking system and pitch my tent not far from the French Broad River right there on the trail. I’m ready for sleep by 8:10pm. Today I walk 14.4 miles and that gets me to a total of 150 miles! Only 1,000 more to go ha!
Day 22: Sunday, May 22nd 2016
Woke up to a trail runner running by my tent mainly because I camped right in the middle of the trail. Up and hiking by 8:15am. Today there are numerous trail runners whizzing by and a few stops to chat. One lady with her friend stops to ask me if I’m prepared for bears because several have been spotted in the area. She almost doesn’t want me to leave alone which is too sweet of her.
I get startled by some deer who jump over the trail in front of me. I’m just glad it’s not a bear! I pass over I-26 on a big bridge with cars speeding by underneath me. I cross over many smaller footbridges today as well. Today is a people day. Lots of day hikers, trail runners, families, and older couples out for a walk. The trail is mostly level and down again which is nice but that usually means tomorrow and for several days after that the trail will ascend and go up again. I cross over Hendersonville Rd over a bridge and several miles late over US 74A. I see a frog jump on the trail and the sun is out, it’s quite a beautiful day out here along the BlueRidge Parkway.
As I walk and listen to the sound my feet make I begin to think about the best thing I’ve ever done and the worst thing I’ve ever done. It doesn’t take long for the tears to come and it’s the first time on the trail that I have sad tears. They don’t last long but I knew they’d come. Thankfully all my thinking goes back to happy when I see a sign for the Visitors Center. It takes me a minute to read and I become almost frantic for a few seconds. I know it’s only a mile because that’s what my trail guide says but when I see the sign it looks like 10 and not 1. The white dot in between the 1 and 0 is very faint. I have to get up close to make sure it’s there. Good, it is. 1 not 10, just what I thought! I call a friend, Gail, who I thought I’d meet/ see tomorrow who has offered to help. The trail was so nice and downhill mostly that I finished earlier than anticipated and I’ve reached my goal for tomorrow today. I make sure it’s ok with her that she meets me today and not tomorrow. Thankfully it’s not a problem.
One mile later I’m at the visitors center and checking the place out. It’s strange being in a crowded place and being a thru-hiker. People almost flock to me to check me out and ask questions. I’m a people person anyway so I have no problem saying hi to anyone. But I get ticked at the people who come close and listen to me talk with others who I can tell want to say something but never do. Usually when I see them looking at me (possibly getting close to see how bad I really smell) I say hi to them and smile and then they start with their questions. Sometimes people ask if I’m scared being alone or why I don’t have a gun. Other times they just want to know why I decided to go in the first place. I’ve been called crazy, brave, strong, insane, an idiot, a roll model, and even a strangers hero but it never gets old hearing what others think and seeing their eyes get big or mouths drop.
After walking around and checking out the history and seeing a few exhibits I then go back outside to wait for Gail. I get out my phone charger and sit in a shady spot underneath the American flag flying above me. The Visitors Center closes at 5 and as I sit outside there are still people stopping by. I let them know they’ve closed and some still try so then I giggle on the inside. “Don’t trust her” I feel like I can hear them saying it even if not out loud. “She’s dirty and smells, what does she know.” Oh to see me how others do.
Gail arrives and I greet her with hugs. Bobby is in the car and it’s so nice to meet him. They so sweetly take me to dinner at Cookout, yum, and we just sit and chat like old friends. It’s my first time ever meeting them and I’m overwhelmed by the love and kindness they show me. Gail has me some goodies and some spending money and words cannot express how much that touches my heart! After our lovely visit she even takes me to Brittney’s house for one last visit there. I get pictures with Gail and Bobby and give lots of hugs and thank them both for being such a big help and for my goodies. They say they’ll continue to pray for me and I know they will! Sweetest ever! Thank you again so much Gail and Bobby!!
I walk into Brittney’s place and chat with her few a bit and then shower, rest up a bit, wash a few things and then we go out for one last time together.. until the next time. I truly love this lady! She gets me in every way and is truly one of my most favorite people on this planet! I’m very thankful for her. I get to see all the great folks at Wicked Weed again and then around 10:15pm I’m ready for bed.
Total Miles: 160