I ate two bowls of Cheerios, and a microwave sausage and egg croissant. I know that sounds like a lot, and I could actually stand to lose a few pounds, but I’m terrified of losing too much weight and not being able to finish the trail again, so I’m trying to stay on top of it. I had also bought a breakfast burrito, but decided to wrap it up and save it for lunch on the trail.
I bundled up really well, boarded the shuttle van, and was transported back to the trail nice and early. It was cold and extremely windy, but at least it was dry!
I was grateful I had fresh legs coming off my zero because this was to be a very hard hiking day! The mountains are not labeled very well in AWOL’s guide, so I often don’t know which mountains I am climbing. Often, I’d rather not know if I have a tough day coming up! I had at least three sharp inclines that were tough climbs on this day!
I kept my rain jacket on all day, which acts as a wind breaker. Normally, hikers don’t like to wear rain gear because you sweat and condensate so much. Today, it was so cold that I kept my rain gear on all day.
I was leap-frogging with Woody most of the day. Woody is a retired minister, and a really nice guy. I had met him at Top of Georgia. When I came upon him, he was taking a selfie at the Georgia/North Carolina border. I asked him if he would take my picture by the state line. (Pardon my French, but even though I hate this picture and think I look ugly, at the very least, I must admit that I think I look pretty darn ‘badass’ with my puffy face, knee brace and tough-girl stance; trail-roughened soul that I am.) 😂
BTW, State borders are a big deal on the trail because they are markers that press home how many miles you have gone. (At this point, I have walked over 100 trail miles!) That is amazing to me. This is not even counting the off-trail miles walking to and from places in town and hostels.
As I said, it was so windy! I took a short video so you could hear the wind. It’s my first video, so please be gentle. Next time I will know to turn the phone sideways so you can get a panorama.
The scenery was awe-inspiring. In spite of the wind and cold, and hard climbs, it’s always worth the toil and pain once you get to the top of the mountain. I never get tired of the beauty out here. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the specter of it all, tears come to my eyes, and I just have to lift up a prayer and say, “Thank you, Lord, for all of the beautiful things You put on this earth!” Sometimes, it’s just a bird that sings or comes out of nowhere that inspires a heart of gratitude for all of the amazing things God made. If you think my pictures are beautiful, they are nothing compared to experiencing it in real time!
Toward the end of the day, I saw two men hiking toward me. I always step aside and let people pass, regardless of what the ‘hiker rules for passing’ are. Sometimes we just exchange pleasantries, other times we have a full blown conversation. I made some comment about the cold weather and one of the guys stopped and asked me if I was a thru hiker. When I told him I was, he got a serious look on his face, grew a few inches taller, and said he was going to give me ‘the pep talk’.
A big smile spread on my face. “This is going to be GOOD,” I thought to myself.
He then proceeded to introduce his son, who looked to be in his 20’s. That meant that he, himself, was at least in his 40’s. He then told me that he was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) when he was 20 years old and was given 5 years to live. He looked me straight in the eye and said emphatically: “Any day I am out on this trail is a GOOD day. Don’t take any day on the trail for granted.”
Wow. I wish I knew more of his story and how he overcame it, because obviously, he has lived well past those 5 years….but wow…’the pep talk’ sure gave me a different perspective, shook me a little bit and caused me to look at that day differently. I hope I can remember his story and this lesson on my very worst days on the trail!
When I arrived at Muskrat shelter, the weather had started to turn nasty and bitterly cold. Some section hikers had somehow managed to start a fire with damp wood. That was a welcomed sight on this cold day! The wind was swirling, and the smoke was constantly changing direction, but I ate my supper on a log by the fire. I didn’t stay long. The cold and wind were painful. I did stay long enough to meet Stretch and Rambo Juice, a couple who were from the Austin area. They went to my old Alma Mater, SWTSU. They sold every thing they had and hiked the Pacific Crest trail, now the AT, and will eventually hike the Continental Divide Trail. This is a ‘thing’ amongst hikers to hike all three trails and it’s called, ‘The Triple Crown”. Once hiking gets in your blood…we’ll…um…did you catch that Bud? It’s called the TRIPLE CROWN.☺️
That night, in my tent, I could hear the rain pelting my tent. It was so cold, I wondered if it could be frozen rain. The Mylar blanket really helped keep me warm…but I woke up twice feeling the cold, hard ground. Each time, I blew up my sleeping pad again, hoping beyond hope that it was just deflating due to the extreme cold like car tires sometimes do.
(…to be continued…)