Day 23 and 24

Day 23: Monday, May 23rd 2016

I wake up in bed and it’s a beautiful day. Dave, again has agreed to drive me back to the visitor’s center where I left off yesterday. Today’s goal is just to walk, enjoy the day and get miles in. I make it to the Folk Art Center 2.5 miles away on a pretty easy stretch of trail in an hour and ten minutes and go in for a look around. I chat with some people, purchase a $7 bracelet (not that I need anymore but because I want it) and check out all kinds of crafts and decorative items. There’s everything from pottery, glassware, knitted and crocheted items, jewelry, woodworking items, and books about the history all of the art. I refill my water bottle from the water fountain and put my pack down to watch a man spin clay pottery and a woman weave elaborate, beautiful baskets. After a quick walk around and some outside snacking I’m on my way again.

 

As I walk along the trail I pass by a lady with three dogs and we chat for a few minutes. She says she’s envious and she walks the same section of trail almost every day. While we chat she asks me why I don’t carry a weapon or have a dog. I tell her the truth; a weapon isn’t allowed most places and can be heavy and that if I had a dog (in my everyday life) it still wouldn’t have made the trip because as much as my pack weighs I’d also have to carry enough dog food with me for it. I show her my bear spray and try to assure her that’s enough. She wishes me well and I’m off. Not too long after that I find a bench to rest at, mainly to journal, and meet a man with his dog who knows Danny Bernstein, a hiker and published outdoor writer, who I met at the FMST Annual meetings. He maintains a section of the trail up near Craggy Gardens and we chat about the trail. I also run into a girl day hiking alone, two girl’s day hiking (one who was roommates with Heather Housekeeper, whom I have also met at the FMST Annual Meetings who has written books about edible and medicinal plants for several different hiking trails including the MST), two ladies who made sure I had a whistle and one who said “If it feels weird or strange in your heart, trust that feeling!” a trail runner, and a man named Bob. Bob was clearing off a section of trail that was overgrown. Before finding out his name I yelled up to him “Hello, I’m coming up.” He yells back “Please do!” I stop and chat with him as he puts down this machete and takes off his gloves. He knows me, kind of. He asks me if I was the same girl thru-hiking the MST that passed the volunteers from Carolina Mountain Club a few days ago and I say “Yes, that’s me. I’m Kimberly.” He says he’s Bob and that he was hoping he’d catch up with me again. This makes me smile so big. Someone who I passed by for maybe a few minutes’ days ago made an effort to go up ahead and work on the trail in hopes of running into me again. Sweetest ever. He asks me about my knee, my pack weight, my food resupply, my SPOT tracker, my rain gear, and my eagerness to complete the trail. Bob even has some goodies for me. A bottle of water and three snacks and I get to choose two of them. I end up picking an apple and a chocolate peanut butter protein bar. As we are talking a man day hiking comes by and Bob makes a point to tell him that I’m thru-hiking and that I’m going to make it to the coast, he can tell because of my athletic body (I could almost kiss him when he said that), because I have all the right stuff and my zest for life. He asks the day hiker guy if there’s a tree fallen down on the trail a mile up and the guy says “Yes.” Bob is making his way over to get that taken care of next. Bob is amazing! He asks me to write down his name and number and even his wife’s name in case he doesn’t answer should I need anything, anything at all. I thank him many times for everything and he wishes me well on the rest of my journey. And I’m off again. Soon after meeting Bob I’m making my way over and through that fallen down tree and I have to take my pack off to make it back to the trail. I think about Bob a lot for the rest of the day. He was an excellent motivator for me to keep on keepin’ on.

By 1:45 I find a log to rest on after getting some miles in and I stop to turn my phone on for a break from trail life and I got a message from Michael, the guy yo-yoing, which is pretty neat and now I feel like a true hiker. I eat my protein bar from Bob and journal a little. These ups today are kicking my butt, hopefully into amazing shape, but killing me nonetheless. Bob said I needed to lose about 6 pounds off my pack (I’m estimating it weighs about 36 pounds) and he said I needed about 30 total given my weight and build. I’ll have to work on that.

I walk 7 miles and know the road is coming in .2 miles where I cross over the BRP at Craven Gap. I hear it coming from the woods towards me on my left and I stop. I unbuckle my bear spray and stay very still. Two deer jump onto the trail feet in front of me and make their way across. After they’ve gone away and I can no longer see them I yell out to them “You were delightfully scary!” Less than ten minutes after that I’m walking on the trail when I hear something running. I look to my right and it’s a black bears ass, thankfully running away from me. This time I have no time to get my bear spray unbuckled, everything happens so fast. I just stand frozen on the trail, watching this black bear disappear into the woods in front of me. “Holy Shit!” I say out loud in a whisper after I no longer see him and can’t hear his footsteps running anymore. I’m so glad that I scared him before he scared me! However, then I say out loud “He’s running away right to where the trail leads that I need to get to.” Then I start talking to the bear as I take steps again. “I’m not here to hurt you as long as you’re not here to hurt me. Ok? Please go far away. Ok!” I walk. Everything is a bear now. Fallen log, bear. Dark shadows, bear. Big rocks, bear. Holy crap, my first bear sighting and I survived! I get up to the parkway and drop my pack in the shade and turn my phone on and call Madre. I need a distraction. I’m chatting with her as she’s in line at Wal-Mart and as we’re talking I see a guy who looks like my friend, Woody. I think to myself, Woody wouldn’t be walking the parkway but sure enough he is today! I get off the phone with Madre and tell her I’ll call her back soon and get up to hug Woody’s neck. I don’t know why he’s here at this moment in time and I don’t care, it’s perfect. Sometimes life is crazy in a good way. We chat for a few minutes and I tell him about the bear encounter I just had and he’s just out for a long walk on a beautiful day. He says he’s never been out for a walk this far but that it was just such a nice day and it seemed like a good idea. Great idea. Even better that we bumped into each other. We get a picture and then he’s off back towards home and I call Dad to tell him about the bear. I call Madre back and then I journal, I don’t want to forget any of this.

I cross the road and make my way back into the woods onto the trail. What a day! And I’ve still got a few miles to go. I don’t make it far on the trail and I hear something else… “No!” Please not another bear already, please not a bear. It’s making the leaves crunch. “Don’t be a bear, I’m not sure I could do that again today!” I say softly as I take baby steps. I duck behind a tree and search out the noise. It’s a small bird jumping in and out of leaves like a kid in the fall with a massive leaf pile. I’m so thrilled it’s not a bear. It didn’t sound large enough but at this point my nervous are shot and I’m not assuming it’s anything too small, even if it’s small like a bird.

This side of the trail is super rocky and hard to get over. Several mountain rocks are also on a pretty good tilt on their side so my feet have to go slow now as to not get stuck in between or slip. I pass by a few more people and ask about bears. Two ladies laugh thinking I’m joking so I opt not to tell them that I saw one. Instead I simply say “Be on the lookout!” no to scare them. I pass by a little rock and flower tower and I pick a small yellow flower to put on top. I walk over a few small streams and put my tent up right before Elk Mountain scenic hwy. I get my tent up and eat dinner by 7:15pm. Today was full of people, animals (1 turtle, 2 deer, 1 bear and numerous birds). I’m beat and ready for sleep.

Total Miles: 168.7

Day 24: Tuesday, May 24th 2016

Last night I had bears on the brain so when I snuggled into my sleeping bag my inner Disney freak tried to think of only the good ones: Pooh Bear, Baloo from The Jungle Book, Little John from Robin Hood, Brother Bear with Joaquin Phoenix and the Momma and three cubs from Brave. That’s what I have to do today… be brave and keep going. My dreams throughout the night were crazy and I woke up several times and just laid there thinking. Around 3am an owl let out a “hoot” that made my eyes open quickly and stay open. I was not a fan. Thankfully he only chatted for a few minutes and I was back asleep. I’m awake at 6:05am but I roll back over until 7.

There’s a little sunlight peeking through my tent enough to help me to get going this morning. After getting moving again, which is sometimes a chore in itself, I come across a day hiker and say Hello. I cross the road over Elk Mountain Scenic Hwy then start my way up the trail. By 9:45am I’m at the Rattlesnake Lodge and stop for a second breakfast and water break on the top of the remaining rock wall. I look down at two very small walls and two fire pits with the mountains in the distance. It’s a great spot for a summer lodge, or would’ve been in 1903/1904 when it was built. The same hiker from this morning comes back down so I chat with him a minute. Then I’m off again. As I put my pack back on the once sweat has now cooled and turned my skin to chills. It feels amazing. After the lodge there are a few streams and for the next 3 miles I know the trail is going to start sucking again because I have to summit another mountain and pass Lake Pinnacle.

As I make my way up this freaking mountain I pass by a man but not before scaring the crap out of him. I say “Hello” before he sees me and a large, black butterfly also attacks his face at the same time. Inside I’m smiling and happy to know that this stuff doesn’t just happen to me. After a good chuckle about that he chats with me about a turkey that also attacked him a few days ago. Apparently there were baby turkey’s around and the momma turkey wasn’t having it. He’s interested in my story and the MST and I tell him about my bear encounter yesterday and then we wish each other happy trails. I make my way up, very slowly with several small breaks. The trail is lots of rocks I have to hoist myself over along with lots of flies buzzing around at my head, arms, and neck, and tall, dry grass that limits what I can see underneath it. Do It and To It get stuck in the tall grass often so I pull them up under my arms like skiing poles for a bit but I need them to help me so that doesn’t last long. I pass by a few pink and purple flowers and soon make it up to a view point because I think “I walked all the way up here for this?!” But just when I think I’ve reached the top and start walking again, more ups. I’m ready for some downs until I really do get to the summit. It’s breathtaking! I sit and eat my apple from Bob and have some water and just look at mountains. Huge birds start flying overhead and it’s really an ah ha moment. I hike more and I’m really over it for the time being. I’m just so tired of going up and it’s dreadfully hot out today. That is until I get to the best picture spot ever. I take several. Some with me in them and lots without. Now I’m ready for down.

At least I thought I was. Down sucks today too. Sucks less than up but still sucky. There are larger rocks and a few wooden ladders that scare me a bit. Once I even have to take my pack off and throw it towards the trail because I’m afraid I’ll fall off the side of a mountain down a rock wall. Down I go. I make my way to the BRP and walk 100 yards to the next MST post and wouldn’t you know… more freaking ups. I begin to call this section the “Mother F’s ups” and at least it makes me smile before I have to stop to catch my breath again. I make it to the Craggy Gardens Picnic area and pee and go to the water fountain for more water. Doesn’t work. Great! Then I get my pack back on and my goal is to get to the CCC shelter just before the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. I make it after more damn ups on a gravel drive. There are people still here visiting, it’s only 6:18pm. I journal, get my tent up, make dinner, and plan my day tomorrow as best I can depending on elevation changes. I’m hoping to get at least 8. Just as the sun begins to set, a young guy and two ladies come up the gravel road and he asks which way the gardens are. I tell him they are up to the right up a small trail walk and then he asks why I have a tent and what I’m up to. He asks lots of questions after my initial MST speal that I normally give and tells the other ladies as they make their way up to the gardens. They are Greek, I think. When they come back down one lady, dressed in bright pink pants, wants a picture with me as I am her new hero. This delights me and of course I agree to a picture. She wishes me well and the guy translates everything and a few hugs later they are headed back down to the parking area. I climb into my tent and soon close my eyes and I’m out.

Total Miles: 177.5

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3 thoughts on “Day 23 and 24

  1. Hey this is Keith that you met in Oak Ridge at your mile 500 beer stop (or nearby really). I’ve only begun reading and you are a very entertaining writer. So wished we had chatted in person longer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too. I’m glad you’re enjoying the writing. I’m really behind but if you’re on FB you can find me there and check out my updates until I catch up on my blog. Hope you have a nice weekend!

      Like

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