Back at it

Leaving Trail Days, my family, friends and dog…again…proved to be difficult. Although, not quite as difficult as a making the climb up Lovers Leap and back into the wilderness hung over after a weekend of binge drinking and eating. I nearly vomited on multiple occasions. That being said, I trudged through and made a modest 11 miles to the first shelter. 

When I stumbled upon the shelter, Yeager was there eating dinner and told me he was dealing with the same issue, after having a weekend in Asheville with friends. While we were telling weekend stories, Kirk came walking into camp. It was good to see him again, although he was sans Jack. Kirk had to spend two weeks off the trail dealing with tendinitis. Although I’ll never wish injuries on anyone, it was nice to see I wasn’t the only one who had dealt with time off trail due to injury. 

If you remember, Kirk and I spent the first week hiking together…in the rain. It seems our hiking combination entitles rain, because it has rained every day since we met back up. Fan fucking tastic. Either way, Kirk, Yaeger and myself continue to push on. We don’t typically hike together, simply because we walk at different speeds…but we typically break and camp together. We’ve also caught back up with a little group of hikers we were with before injury, trail days and Asheville delays. Making miles, but enjoying them. 

Kirk has long past had his first twenty mile day, but Yaeger and I had our first this past Tuesday. 21.3 miles. Check. It was a long day, but an enjoyable one. Kirk stopped short that day, but caught up the Wednesday before we hiked in to Erwin today. Follow?

In other news, Yaeger and Kirk have both picked up trail names. Both, it seems to me, are tentative. Yaeger is now “WB”, short for Wilfred Broccoli. Wilfred referencing his autoimmune type 1 Diabetes, and broccoli referencing his family’s northern Maine farm. Kirk is now “Two Sole”, stemming from some nasty blisters caused by the negligence, and hilarity, of placing new super feet insoles on top of the existing insoles in his shoes. Classic. 

As for me, nothing new to report really. Both knees are feeling strong and the toe cut is still healing, but doing well. I’ve walked 342.9 miles in 28 hiking days…not counting my 12 zero days…10 injury and 2 for fun. 

I’m enjoying my time alone while I hike…mostly, I absorb the expressions of nature while I contemplate a variety of different ideas in my noggin, or I clear out and just walk. When I get tired of my own thoughts, which is often, I enjoy my time in camp. We talk about how the hike was different for each of us, our ideas of societal issues and/or norms…or we just bullshit and make fun of each other. Either way, it’s a pretty fine way to live. Simple. 

No pictures to share. All the good ones reside on my real camera, and I’ve got no way to upload them at this moment…thanks El Perro 😉

All for now…happy trails folks,

The Law

Making Miles

After a long 9 days off the trail, my cut toe had finally closed enough to put pressure on, and the knee pain had mostly subsided. I took a short day out of the N.O.C, only making 6.7 miles, but gaining nearly 3000 vertical feet, to Sassafras Gap Shelter.

Regardless of the painful climb, it felt great to be back on my journey. It felt brand new again, and I was now introducing myself to a completely new group of hikers. One of the hikers I met that first night out was a guy named Yaeger. A soft spoken guy in his mid 30’s, originally from rural Northern Maine, but current resident of Snowmass Village, Colorado. We seemed to be very like minded and walked a similar pace; he reminds me a lot of my friends back home. Although I’m generally moving a bit faster than he, we have been hiking together ever since.

Sassafras Gap Shelter - Myself, Wood, Lifesaver and Scout

Sassafras Gap Shelter – Myself, Wood, Lifesaver and Scout

When we got to Fontana Village, we were forced to take a short day because of aggressive bear activity at our first desired campsite. Apparently a mother bear had thrashed a few backpacks the previous two days. So, being in the mindset of self preservation, we walked an easy 7 miles from Cable Gap to the Fontana Hilton. We’d begin our foray into the Great Smoky Mountains the following day.

Sunset at the Fontana Hilton Shelter

Sunset at the Fontana Hilton Shelter

Over the next few days in the Smokies, we would lay down some solid miles. The first night at Spence Field Shelter, we met a section hiker named Joe. Joe is a Charlotte native, and married to a previous thru-hiker named Hardcore. Hardcore did not come by her name lightly. She is widely known on the trail for using round stones to clean her bottom, after having relieved herself via the number two fashion. Hardcore indeed. After having come across a giant female turkey on the descent from Rocky Top, Joe quickly earned a trail name. Joe proceeded to chase said turkey, trying to catch it for dinner perhaps? After getting to know him and his affinity for whiskey…and chasing turkeys…he earned the name, Wild Turkey.

We had some pretty amazing trail magic at Newfound Gap from a former Thru Hiker named God Speed. God Speed fed us, drove us to the outfitter in Gatlinburg and to the grocery store. Most importantly, he shared his amazing story with us. He and his son started a thru hike in 2007. God Speed unfortunately got Giardia and was unable to recover, forcing them both off the trail. A week later, his son went for a routine eye exam and a stage 4 malignant brain tumor was found on his frontal lobe; inoperable. After two years of every medicine possible, his son was cancer free. A year later, they finished the trail together. Simply amazing, warming to my soul, and motivating. Never give up. 

 

God Speed, myslef and Todd

 
Wild Turkey decided to use some saved up hotel points to put us up at the Hampton Inn; which might was well have been Caesar’s Palace compared to some of the shit places I have stayed thus far.   

Wild Turkey, Lucy, myslef and Yaeger at the Hampton Inn


From Gatlinburg, we decided to push to the end of the smokies; making 18.5 miles in 7 hours. Our destination for the night, Standing Bear Hostel. This hostel was probably unlike any other hostel on the trail. Think, nudist-farming commune…without the nudity or farming. It was delightfully dirty and rustic. There were about 18 of us staying at Standing Bear. One thru-hiker named LeLe was playing the ukulele and singing all night, while the rest of us tended fire, drank and sang along. Although we enjoyed ourselves, the emotional tension at the farm was palpable. Unfortunately, the proprietor passed away a week prior and a dog that was being kenneled got loose and was hit and killed on I40. The dog owner did not know until he finished his hike in the smokies. Tragic. 

“Someone needs to check on this place” – BK Flynn

 

Our last morning in the smokies


The last few days before we made it to Hot Springs were brilliant. Nicely graded trail and fairly cool temperatures made for some of the best hiking we have had. Max Patch bald was stunning. We sat at the top for a couple hours, laying in the grass, eating lunch and cat napping. 

 

Yaeger and Wild Turkey enjoying the view and soft grass atop Max Patch


The walk in to Hot Springs was an easy one. The sounds of lawn mowers and cars filled the mountain. The mountain laurel in early bloom helped mask the stench of our 10 day, sweat drenched bodies. Real food, beer, showers and soft beds helped quicken our pace into one of the coolest little towns on the east coast. 

Mountain Laurel

Now, I await the arrival of Warpzilla and El Perro to take me to see my best friend Hazel Mae, and my parents. Destination “Trail Days” in Damascus. A couple days off, good friends, family and a massive hiker party all sound like a deserved treat. 

Cheers for now, 

The Law

Cosmic Interference

Just when I thought I was going to have to go home to Raleigh to heal my sliced toe and knee, I got a phone call. On the other end of the line was my mothers cousin, Charlie. Charlie had been reading my blog, and just finished the latest one; which outlined my poor luck. After a short conversation, he offered for me to hole up with him in Waynesville, just a short 45 miles from the NOC. I graciously accepted and was on my way to his mountain retreat.

What made the offer even more significant and special, was the fact he had recently lost his wife, Emily, to a short battle with Pancreatic Cancer. Charlie and his children were planning a celebration of Emily’s life at weeks end, and he was loving enough to have this smelly hiker invade his space. When I was younger, I had only met Charlie a few times, so I was excited to be able to spend time with, and get to know a man whom my family had always adored. 

For an entire week, Charlie and I spent every day together. He took me to the small town of, what used to be, Hazelwood; where his princess Emily was raised. He took me to all of his favorite dinner spots in Waynesville, of which none of them dissapointed. (Especially Frogs Leap Public House – a must stop if you’re ever in Waynesville). He always had some sort of dessert ready to tide us over ’til morning. He chauffeured me when neccasery, showed me his old stomping grounds at Western Carolina. He found, contacted and drove me to an orthopedic surgeon whom is possibly the best in the business, and he even let me borrow the car to have some alone time. 

 

Mountain Home

 
We spoke about things we enjoyed and hated…about politics, technology, cuisine, books, our pasts and our futures. He is as well rounded and kind hearted a man as I have ever known.

When reading about, and talking with friends about their experiences on the trail, one thing was always constant; community and magic. Even though Charlie may not know it, this experience was yet another example. This past week was a tough time for both Charlie and I, albeit in vastly different ways. I am grateful to have had him help me through mine, and hope I was able to help him through his. 

If you’re reading this Charlie, thank you again for your time, effort, hospitality, and love this past week. It meant more to me than you know. I wish you, Bonnie, Scott and the rest of the family all the best. I look forward to seeing you again, friend. 

Myself (“Law”) and Charlie (honorary trail name “Steve Jobs”)

Injuries and Timeline Update:

Orthopedic doc said my knee pain comes from something called Plica Syndrome. Although I had no clue there was anything called a Plica in your knee…apparently it is an oyster like membrane that connects your patella to your thigh bone. That oyster is now chronically inflamed and will continue to cause pain until it is either removed or I stop hiking. Neither of which will be happening. I will continue to hike until I reach Big K, at which time I will further pursue pain relieving therapy. 

For my toe sliceration…it is healing. The pain has mostly subsided and has only a small portion of open wound left to heal. I tested it with my shoes and full pressure today, and it feels good enough for me to make the hike out of the NOC tomorrow. Although I am a week behind my itinerary, I still plan on making the miles I have listed. So, if you’re following along, disregard the dates and follow the miles. Next destination, the myrtle beach of the mountains, Gatlinburg, TN. 

Cheers to all and happy hiking, 

Law