Day 25: Wednesday, May 25th 2016
I wake up to a bad dream where people had taken food from my bear canister and replaced it with a book and tortillas. After my morning pee and going to retrieving my bear canister I’m glad to find out it was only a dream. I enjoy some pop tarts and a protein bar for breakfast. I slept in because the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center opens at 9am and I need more water. So I take my time getting ready and then walk the .2 miles to the visitor’s center. There’s a sign on the door that says they open at 10am, of course.
I chat with some people outside the restrooms about my journey and tell them I need water and I say I’ll get it from the bathroom. Two ladies shout “NO! It says it’s not drinkable” I tell them I can filter it and that water is water. The ladies and their husbands wish me well and then I’m back on the trail. I pass by Douglas Falls Trail and meet a man named Keith. He says he’s been interested in hiking sections of the AT and I tell him to go for it. He assures me after our few minutes of chatting that he will. We also talk for a few minutes about water filters, trekking poles, packs and things I took early on that are/ were needed. He thanks me for my time and I wish him the best in his future travels.
I make my way hiking up rocks and steep, shallow tree roots on the side of the trailhead. By 12:20pm I’m at the Graybeard Mountain Overlook at 5,592 feet in elevation. I eat a snack and have water and take pictures for a family. Just as I get out my journal to write a bit a man in a truck pulls up and it has a scuba tag on the front of it. I say hello and he chats with me about Scuba diving, the movie Wild and life stuff. His name is Russ and he calls me Kimberly Diamonds. “I’ve never met a woman hiker who wore diamond earrings and rings on the trail before.” I explain my very feminine nature until this trek to him and he just laughs and thinks it’s the neatest thing. We talk about thirty minutes and then he’s back to seeing more sights in his truck. Just as I’m about to get up and get my pack back on four day hikers, one really handsome one, ask me about Douglas Falls. I say they missed the turn about 100 yards away. They look back up the road and laugh. They hiked for about two hours just nowhere, poor guys. They snack and say they might try again. I wish them the best.
This next part is about to get crazy. I wish myself luck. I pass by two younger guys and then soon two older guys. The older guys applaud me when they hear I’m thru-hiking and they say they’re only doing a day hike. One guy says he’s embarrassed to tell me that they are only doing 3 miles and I say “Some people are doing no miles” and tell him it’s still something to be proud of. They both smile and are on their way. At 3:14pm I make it to Glassmine Falls and decide to go only a little bit longer and camp and do the 1,000 foot ascend in 1.36 miles tomorrow. I make sure there’s a campsite at 8-10 miles for tomorrow and then I can finish on Friday at Black Mountain Campground. My legs are tired from the summit yesterday and I think some downtime in the afternoon could be perfect. I can have a hot meal, not rush getting my tent up and enjoy the evening. Then kick ass tomorrow. I make it to the summit where it says there’s a flat spot and a fire pit. I see none of that. I know I’m at the summit because I walked down a bit to make sure. I decide to walk down further and at the first flattest spot I can find, that’ll be home for the night. After .3 miles I make it to a flat spot and put up my tent, have mac-n-cheese for dinner and my Tasty Cakes Minis from Gail. I take my nightly ibprofen and wish I had a book and some wine. Then that makes me think about Russ, the guy from earlier, and how he said there’s a powdered wine I need to look in to. He said it’s not bad and right now I bet it’d be tasty enough.
I journal and think about how much the trail changed today. There were rocky downs in the morning, road walking and then roots and rocky ups, there were a few open fields and some view points along overlooks and at the top of yet another summit. There was a bunny on a not so grassy section and then sometimes the grass was so tall that it brushed up against my knees as I walked past. I saw an 800-foot waterfall from super far away and I saw millions of tiny yellow flowers in a field that ticked my legs when I went through them. Another day of ups and downs and tomorrow I’m sure the trail will change again. As I look up at the sun still shining in through my tent I hope that tomorrow is a day like today. Sometimes the sun peaks through the clouds but mostly it’s cloudy with a slight Poca Breeze. By 6:24pm I’m ready for bed. I lay in my tent and just watch the wind blow leaves and listen to the cars on the parkway continue to drive by. I only walked 6.5 miles today but don’t mind a bit. I got to chat with lots of people today and that always makes me happy. It was a good day, other than the bugs.
Total Miles: 183.7
Day 26: Thursday, May 26th 2016
It starts to rain around 3am and I know this because I grab my pack and pull it in my tent then check the time. Thankfully it’s just a little sprinkle but I go right back to sleep. Then at 5am I really have to pee. It can’t wait until 6 so I grab my flashlight, get on my camp shoes, and head out into the darkness. It’s a long pee break and I’m constantly checking for animals of all sizes. Back into my tent and fast asleep until the birds wake me up at 6.
I’m still dreading this climb today but the sun is out and it’s not raining. Although I wonder if everything will be slippery today. I make it up the summit with only a few stops, mainly because of spider webs that stick to my face, arms, and neck. By 9:20am I sit down and hydrate. The sun peaks through the clouds right after I take a few pictures and I can’t help but think it was for me. Then that makes me sing “This Little Light of Mine” and then I think about my MemMaw Pennell. A few yards more I come across these huge boulders to my left and it reminds me of my Grandma Poulter and how much she loved collecting rocks and then I think about Donkey from Shrek, “That’s a nice boulder!” in Eddie Murphy’s voice. I only make it another .1 mile and I have to stop hiking because I’m now sobbing thinking about those two ladies whom I still love even though they are no longer with me on this Earth. I think about how much I wish I could give them both the biggest hugs and tell them of my adventures. I think of their smiles, the stories they would tell, the way they smelled when I would get in close to kiss them on their cheeks. Just when I think I’ve got myself together and start hiking again, I start back up again. I’m sure a little of it is flow (who will be here again any day now) but mostly it’s just how much they loved me and I them. I begin to think of them in Heaven and I hope Grandma Poulter is still dancing, floating in a pool, and making the best paper airplanes ever and I hope MemMaw Pennell is still singing (in the choir with angels), making the best mac-n-cheese, and making everyone laugh so hard their insides hurt. I hope Heaven is everything and more than they ever expected because they deserve the very best.
Now I think of something less sad/ makes me cry less. I think about the summit I just hiked up and how good of a morning workout it was. Not my favorite ever but a good workout nonetheless. That makes me smile! I make a list in my head of things I need to do when I’m able to charge my phone again: wedding dress shopping appointments to set up for Sister, lose 6 pounds from my pack (if possible), tell Madre to bring my Chacos, get ahold of Russ and call BF. I stop at 10:35am for snacks and water and need a creek soon. I also need a funny song or something to make my brain stop being sad. I walk.
By 12:20pm I reach a clearing with a huge rock overlooking Asheville’s water-supply reservoir and decide to climb it for lunch time break. I take a few pictures and I only stay about ten minutes and that makes me think of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella and then for the next bit all I can sing is:
Prince: Ten minutes ago, I saw you I looked up when you came through the door my head started reeling you gave me the feeling the room had no ceiling or floor. Ten minutes ago, I met you, and we murmured our how do you dos I wanted to ring out the bells and fling out my arms and sing out the news. I have found her, she’s an angel, with the dust of the stars in her eyes. We are dancing, we are flying, and she’s taking me back to the skies! In the arms of my love, I’m flying, over mountain and meadow and glen. And I like it so well that for all I can tell I may never come down again. I may never come down to earth again.
Cinderella: Ten minutes ago, I saw you. You looked up when I came through the door. My head started reeling you gave me the feeling the room had no ceiling or floor. Ten minutes ago I met you and we murmered our how do you dos. I wanted to ring out the bells and fling out my arms and to sing out the news.
Prince: I have found her.
Cinderella: I have found him, he’s the light of the stars in my eyes.
Prince: We are dancing
Cinderella: We are flying
Prince: And she’s taking me back to the skies
Cinderella: In the arms of my love, I’m flying over mountain and meadow and glen.
Prince: And I like it so well that for all I can tell I may never come down again.
Both: I may never come down to earth again.
As I sing I make my way over rock steps, many rock steps. I get a great view of Mt. Mitchell to my left, man it’s a beast. On my way down I think about lives and how we choose to spend our time. This is the first time I’ve really done something just for me. Sure vacations with friends are amazing and in the past if I wanted a really expensive pair of heels I made sure I got them. Of course, graduating from college is a great accomplishment, but I mainly did that to make my parents happy… it’s what was expected of me. Go to school, get good grades, get a job. Don’t get me wrong, I kicked ass in college, graduated above most of my class with honors and even got the Outstanding Student Award in my field. But this hike is just for me! I don’t yet have a husband who I can be proud of or children that fill my life with more love than a heart can hold (although my Double kiddos come pretty close), I only have the things I hold in high regard which are usually me being happy and having family and friends to love and give love in return. This hike was not something I’ve been dreaming of doing my whole life. It was simply something I felt I needed to make my life exciting again. I’m not always a great human being but I’m certainly not the worst. I begin to think of all the times people have asked me why I was doing it. There’s not one answer to that question, there are many: because I can (or think I can), because it’s the opposite of me in almost every way, because I’m not outdoor girl, because people see me as too feminine, because why the hell not, because I needed to let some things go, because I needed to learn some things, because I’m a human who needs adventure and craves adrenaline, because I don’t have a family of my own yet, because I need to have something to tell (possible) grandbabies one day, because I thought it sounded like a good idea, because therapy is expensive, because if not now then when, because life is too short to have a long list of “Places to Go” and “Adventures to Have”, and because I made it happen. I decided to say it out loud to family and friends and then I went out and got the gear, did the research, picked a start date, and made it happen. I’ve heard countless people say they could never do what I’m doing and I think to myself, if I can ANYONE can. The only difference is the want to. They can do what I’m doing they just don’t have the want to. Maybe their want to is to go to Paris or learn to fly an airplane. Whatever it is, people can do anything. I truly believe that!
After my soul searching, heart seeking thoughts I turn my focus back to the trail and by 1:30pm I make my way across NC 128 and stop at a MST post for water and some rest. By 1:45pm I’m back on the trail. Also, tut tut, it looks like rain. Within minutes its sprinkling. This trail is almost level with small rocks and tiny stream to walk over every so often. The sun peaks back through and I have to dodge horse shit. I cross and Camp Alice sign and make my way over a river and a creek. A few miles later I turn on Commissary Trail. There’s a sign that says 1 mile to Mt. Mitchell summit, YES! Then I keep reading and it says 900-foot elevation climb up strenuous, vertical foot climb in 1.36 miles, SHIT! I already did that today (this morning) at Walker Knob. It’s only 4:08pm and what else have I got to do today. I tell myself “You’ve got this!” Then I proceed to kick this summits ass for about .3 miles. Then I slow down, a lot. That’s three summits today if I can finish this one… 3. I really only sit down three or four times, but I have to stop to break often. I think about The Sweetest Thing “Girl, I’ve been shaking my ass all the way up this hill!” and smile.
I make it to the top of the trail and as soon as I do I break and huff and puff and I see clouds rolling in. I go right to the State Park Environmental Education Center, it’s locked so I sit on a bug filled bench outside. There’s a water fountain and I know it won’t work but I try anyway. None of the outdoor water fountains have worked yet. Just as I’m getting my pack back on I ask a lady and her husband coming down from the observation tower if they can see anything. “Honey, five minutes ago you could see everything! You just missed it!” Says the woman. Of course I “just missed it” by five fucking minutes. It’s a repeat of Clingmans Dome all over again. Just my damn luck. I still get pictures with the sign when I make it to the top so it proves I really did make it. I go up to the observation tower and get pictures with the clouds (what would’ve been amazing view). I chat with a few people wanting to know what I’m up to and then I just laugh hysterically at my bad luck. Then I feel the need to apologize to the five people around me and then a lady says “Better to laugh then to cry about it” and I shake my head up and down, “Yes, so true!” There’s nothing I can do about it and there’s no need to stay any longer so I grab my pack and head down. I still need to hike 1.3 miles to the first campground. I go down from the observation tower to the right onto the Balsam Nature Trail. Then I pass a sign that says Black Mountain Campground 5.5 miles. That’s the end of Segment 3 but I can’t possibly do all that now. 1.3 miles is all I need, I sure hope my body can do it. An hour and fifteen minutes later I’m down the Balsam Nature Trail and I pretty much cuss it the whole way down.
There are huge rocks on a steep slant that you just have to pray you don’t slip on, plus there are large wooden steps that they’ve placed to help, only they aren’t level or on their flat side, so they don’t help. Plus, I’m exhausted by now. I’m ready for my camp shoes and dinner and sleep immediately after that. When I finally do make it to the clearing the freaking sun is shining and there are many places to camp with fire pits. I choose one to the right where the tree line is close for bathroom breaks later. I throw my pack down, sit on a nearby rock, and laugh some more. As I’m finishing setting up my tent, 3 younger people, two guys and a girl come to the spot to my right. I go over for a quick hello and they are camping but just putting their packs down for now. They are going to the summit and coming back down. Great! That means they’re going to be setting up their camp when I’m trying to sleep. I eat, take my meds, get into my camp clothes and by 7:16pm I’m snuggled up in my sleeping bag. I almost didn’t want to get in my feet are so filthy. I wake up at 9:15pm to the people coming down from the summit setting up their tents. I’m not used to having people around chatting and laughing. I pray after that they go right to sleep.
Total Miles: 194.8
Day 27: Friday, May 27th 2016
I sleep ok considering flow and neighbors. I have scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast and journal. The neighbors pack up and leave by 8am and I’m in no hurry because all I need to do today is make it 4.2 miles to the Black Mountain Campground. The sun is out and it’s hot and a beautiful day already. By 9:15am I’m already over it for the day, I’m a soaked, sweaty, gross mess. I pass by a group of five people who don’t stop to chat but all say hi. Then there are two couples, followed by a couple with a baby and I’m assuming their dads, and then a couple with their son, all on day hikes to the summit. The last couple stop to chat and wish me well on my hike. I go down over more steep rocks and tricky tree roots and pass by a few more campsites. At a creek I stop to break at 11:15am. Just a quick snack break and then I’m back on the trail. I don’t hate the down today but it’s making everything hurt. It’s day seven of hiking and I’m ready for another zero. I make it to Black Mountain Campground at 12:20pm. I’m excited because the sign where I camped said it will take four hours and it only took me three. Hell yeah!
There’s ice cream at the office and no spaces available to camp. It’s Friday on Memorial Day weekend, my timing is perfect… again. So I sit outside on a bench in the shade and have a Crunch bar Drumstick and have the office charge my phone. Then I journal and talk to a lady sitting on a bench near me outside the tiny office. I spend an hour there and decide to walk on. There’s no service what so ever on the campground and my dear friend Russ (Lindsey) wants to hike with me tomorrow so I need to get ahold of her to plan that.
I walk about .8 miles after the campground to check my phone for service. A little, it’ll do. I call and ask if she minds picking me up later after work. I need a zero and she doesn’t mind and that means a zero at the Russ House, Yay! So I make my way up a more difficult 5.3 miles to where the trail comes out at the BRP right before MP 346. It’s tough but not the worst and I don’t love it because I’m already tired. I tell myself I’m not tired to keep my spirits up and I walk. The first mile in I hit 200 miles. 200 MILES! I take a picture to celebrate and chug water. The spider webs, bugs, and gnats today are driving me insane. I’m guessing I wipe my face and swat them away from in front of my face 609 times, maybe more. At one point I get so angry and frustrated I yell at teeny tiny bugs and wish them all dead. It doesn’t work. And now they know I hate them and so they bring friends and family to piss me off.
I manage to walk about 3 miles before I try Russ again. Service in the woods along the BRP, not recommended. My battery life is low (29%) and I’ve yet to really make a plan with her. I finally make it to the parkway after swatting bugs and taking occasional water and sit breaks at 6:26pm. It took me four and a half hours to go 5.3 miles, not too shabby considering it was mostly up. I call and text a few people and return messages from days ago. Russ is sending her mom, Madelyn, to pick me up and I’m so excited to see her. I spray more bug spray but I’m pretty sure it’s not filled with repellent that does not repel. I even spray it in a circle around me like salt to scare away witches and that makes me think of Hocus Pocus so that maybe, hopefully the bugs won’t come in my little circle area. I look down to see them crawling up my legs. Guess it didn’t work. While I wait I wave at cars and motorcycles as they drive by. I hear two motorcycles coming, there are two. The first one is orange with a guy driving and he sees me and quickly turns down his radio. I die laughing, he’s listening to Boyz 2 Men. As he drives past me he sees me laughing and nods with a big smile.
Madelyn should be here around 7pm and I send her a quick text to say Thank You and apologize for my smell. Poor sweet Maddy, doing me a favor, and I’m going to smell like a sweaty mess. Thank goodness she loves me! I yell at a bird who’s freaking me out with his squeak. I literally yell “Bird, you’re freaking me out with that squeak!” He stops for two minutes.
I journal before Maddy gets there about my day. I saw 12 reddish-orange lizards, walked over a neat bridge and saw many large snails today. Maddy picks me up a little later 7 and we chat all the way back to her house. It’s so nice to see her! Madelyn has always been a special lady to me ever since I met her back in college at Charlotte. I’m so thankful I moved in with her daughter, Lindsey, and became close with her whole family. They are very much a second family to me and would do anything for me and for that I’ll always be grateful!
We get to the Russ House and soon Tommy arrives and I get big hugs from him and soon after that Lindsey and Madelyn arrive with Chick-fil-a… double YAY! I get hugs from the girls and we all sit down for dinner and say the blessing. It’s so nice chatting with Russ and seeing Madelyn, she’s getting so tall and I love all her silly faces and hearing her stories. She’s gotten so tall and is just as pretty as ever. I shower after dinner and wash my clothes while we all sit and chat more. I play with Madelyn for a bit before her bedtime and end up watching Magic Mike with Russ way past my bedtime. Then I sleep, hard!
Total Miles: 204.7