Journal Entry: March 8

March 8 7:10

I’m going to run over to Rite Aid in a sec and get the two things I want but keep forgetting about (Mylar emergency blankets and a sleep mask), then I’m going to call Gilenya and see if they’ll send a week of meds to the Top of Georgia hostel. I’m fairly sure I have enough to coast to Franklin, NC, but I’ll be down to one or two at that point. And after that, I’m off to Unicoi Gap again!
8:04

So, Gilenya can’t help me, but I did get most of what I needed at Rite Aid. Anyway, I’m going to pack up the last of my stuff and head out.
4:27pm

Steel Trap Gap
So, I had been planning on stopping at the Cheese Factory site, but decided to push on. I’m currently camped at Steel Trap Gap, mile 59.9. It’s a nice little area just off the trail. I have some good views, and a decent spot to hang my hammock and my food. Anyway, I started a little fire and will make dinner shortly.
5:30pm

I was just joined by two other hikers, Cricket and Grasshopper. They’re a couple from Norfolk, VA.
And I have actually eaten! I had a double pack of Cup O Soup and a Moonpie, and have been finishing off a pack of beef jerky.
7:27pm

 Laying in my hammock, I’ve been planning out the next week. I’m going to Dicks Creek Gap tomorrow, then back into town for another zero day. I want to rest my back and legs a bit more. Then I’ll make Bly Gap, and my first night in North Carolina. From there, Beech Gap , Albert Mountain , and Rock Gap. From Rock Gap, can catch a ride into Franklin, where I can resupply and pick up my meds. And then I will plan some more.

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Journal Entry: March 7

 March 7 7:56 am
The advantage that staying in a hotel has over hiking is easy access to large amounts of hot water. I am so incredibly stiff and sore this morning. A lot of it is spending a week doing nothing, and a lot is pushing myself too hard, too soon after an injury. But I could barely move my legs this morning, which is a pointed reminder that I really do need to stretch every day, ideally at lunch, when I set up camp, and before I set out in the mornings.
So I will start adding stretches to my routine, and in the meantime, I will soak in the tub some more.

11:35
Got a cold pack on my back right now, and I just learned that I’ve lost ten pounds so far. Still overweight, which is bad, and losing that much in that short a time is bad, but hey, I lost ten pounds. And my blood pressure went down, which is also good.
8:17
Laying in bed and planning the next few days. My plan tomorrow is to grab a sandwich from Subway and get a ride back to Unicoi Gap and make a nero to a place called “Cheese Factory Site” on my maps. It was apparently the site of a nineteenth century cheese factory, but nothing’s left of that. It’s only four miles from Unicoi, but on the other side of Rocky Mountain, which isn’t small. The following day, I plan on making Addis Gap, which is 7.5 miles further on. From there, I’ll hit Dicks Creek Gap and a short hike further on to the Top of Georgia hostel, where I will resupply again, and move on to North Carolina!

Journal Entry: March 6

6:41am
Had a mild panic attack last night with all the people in the shelter, and the person who was practically climbing on top of me last night, but it was a “freeze and breathe heavily” type, so I didn’t wake anyone up. I’m going to stay here until I’ve called everyone I need to, then hike onward. And this will be my last night in a shelter for a long while, because I’m in the leading edge of the bubble, and it’s just going to get busier after this. And if I stop at Unicoi, I can hitch a ride into Helen and stay at a hotel tonight and tomorrow, which will make it more likely I can get my meds sooner, but the bulk of the bubble will catch up faster.
Grr. I really don’t want to deal with people out here. I know I said that, but I’m very introverted, and people are draining to be around.
7:30am

People are packing up, and the person who slept next to me has spent all morning with her crap spread right in front of the only exit to the shelter. I really hate people. 
4:00pm

Hiawassee
Ok, maybe people have their good points.
Someone paid for two nights at a motel, and decided to go home instead. He gave me the reservation (already been paid), so I’m going to rest and recover a bit here today and tomorrow (my back is saying I came back too soon).
Anyway, to settle a point of contention: there is, in fact, a Taco Bell in Hiawassee, and I’m going over there for dinner. I haven’t really eaten anything since Saturday breakfast, so I’m going to fill up on food tonight and tomorrow, and I’m going to go through my food bag and try to get that a lot lighter (I don’t need 16 pounds of food for one person over three days).

Journal Entry: March 5

March 5

5:57 am

Well, it’s below freezing (barely) outside, and I’m in a hammock. I’m comfortably warm with my layers and bag liner (although I would have been warmer if I was wearing all three sets of long underwear), and it’s supposed to be fairly warm today (mid-50’s), so I’ll try to make a nine mile day today and get to Blue Mountain shelter today. It will be warmer tonight, too, so that’ll be nice.
2pm

Low Gap shelter 
My feet are killing me, so I’ve stopped at Low Gap for the day. I could probably make the distance, but body says no. Anyway, I’ve dumped my pack up the hill a ways at a small hill, but I’m gonna move it to the shelter for tonight.
5:11

The shelter is a bit crowded, six other people in it, and like twelve tents on the site itself. Kinda wishing I’d moved on after lunch.
Anyway, I’m down to 11 Gilenya pills, and I’m gonna have to call and see if Novartis will ship me a week or two in Hiawassee, and if I can get Accredo to ship it general delivery to Franklin, NC. We’ll see. They’re closed today (Sunday), and I’ll need to talk to them tomorrow at the earliest. They might not, but I’ll complain at them, and the insurance company. No idea if it will work, but I’ll try.
I’m probably going to call them before moving on, next shelter is 7.3 ahead, so I’ll have time, especially since I don’t stop very long. This is remarkably frustrating, to be honest. My dad is in Richmond, so he can’t ship me anything, and mom works during the week, so it’s harder for her to get to the post office.
I’m also getting a little twitchy with all the people in the shelter. I’m probably going to find a campsite near the next shelter, instead of staying there. There is a site 6.3 ahead I could use, and I probably will. I don’t really want to zero again anytime soon, just because I lost my week long buffer against the bubble. And since I hike slow, that’s just getting smaller. Fuck. I don’t want to deal with people.
Oh! I did remember a thing from this morning I had wanted to share. So, is was freezing last night, and when I got dressed, I put on a layer of long underwear under my regular clothes as added warmth (my second-warmest set, as I sleep in my least-warmest, and it wasn’t cold enough for the warmest). I hadn’t even gone half a mile before I had warmed up enough that I was roasting. So I took off the long underwear on the middle of the approach trail to the Whitley Gap shelter (everyone else had already passed me). So that’s the story about how I stripped to my underwear in the woods.
Most exciting thing that happened all day.
I’m debating about going into town at Unicoi Gap and getting a hotel room, but I’ve only been out two days so far, so I’ll go into town at Dicks Creek Gap and zeroing then.

Journal Entry: March 4

March 4
Whitley Gap Shelter, 7:30 pm
So, I’m back. I did 6.7 miles from Neel Gap to Whitley Gap shelter (plus the 1.2 mile trail to the shelter) today, so I’m feeling accomplished, especially since I left Mountain Crossings at around ten and got here a bit after four.
Anyway, it’s really cold, so I picked up some more cold weather clothes before I started out. I now have a wool Buff, wool long underwear, and a fleece sleeping bag liner (fleece bag that adds warmth to your sleeping bag). I’m hanging (higher than I should, given the wind. Lower is warmer) with my bag liner, my lighter long underwear and my wool long underwear and my puffy, and I’m still a bit chilly.
I lost my first trail family due to my week off, but there are people at the shelter (especially since I’m in the leading edge of the bubble), and I’ll find more as I go on.
I’m currently debating on just hiking to the next shelter tomorrow (little over five miles) or just keep going to some campsite somewhere. I don’t know. I’ll hike toward the next one and see how I feel. It’ll be warmer tomorrow night, and it won’t start getting cold again until Wednesday. I don’t like sleeping cold, so I would prefer to be in a hostel by then, but we’ll see.
The only really exciting thing today was getting back out, and summiting four mountains (Levellen, Wolf Laurel Top, Green Cliff Top, and Wildcat Mountain). I also managed to roll my ankle just about once every mile. But it’s holding up, and I’m not too concerned.
So! I’m going to gush about my new gear! I got a new pair of trail runners, like I said. They are wonderful! Much better traction, they fit my feet better, my toenails don’t feel bruised, they’re amazing. I also have a pair of superfeet insoles in them, and my feet hurt so much less, it’s great. I’m also loving my sleeping bag liner. It’s just like a fleece sleeping bag, and I stuffed it into my top quilt, and I am so warm right now. You don’t really appreciate “warm” until you have to camp outside in freezing temperatures.

Photo Dump Post

So, here’s a bunch of pictures!

 

 

me-and-boots
Me and Boots! (Her Instagram)

 

16864347_10210424208274759_3476881066152232435_n
Summit of Springer Mountain
stover-creek-shelter
Five-Oh in the Stover Creek Shelter

 

ramrock-mountain-summit
Summit of Ramrock Mountain
blood-mountain-summit
Exhausted at the summit of Blood Mountain

 

went-down-this
You see that blaze up there? I climbed down that!
the-tree
The Shoe Tree at Neel Gap

Journal Entry: February 26, Night, February 27

February 26, Night

Lying in bed at the hostel, I’m starting to think I might need to step off trail for a week to recover. I’ll be the first casualty of the 2017 NoBo class, but I really don’t think I can make it to Unicoi Gap, which would be where I could step off into another town. I’m pissed that I’ll have to, but if I don’t, I’ll be forced off later, likely permanently.

 

February 27

I had a bagel with honey for breakfast as I sit here and wait for my ride home.I kind of feel like a failure, but I know I’ll be back in a week or two. And since I can barely put my pack on at this point, I really need the time to heal.

Anyway, I changed out my shoes, and they are far more comfortable than the ones I started with. So now I’m in men’s Oboz, rather than women’s Solomen shoes. I like the width on these, and there’s more toe room, so hopefully I won’t lose a toenail as soon.

 

Ta for a week!

Journal Entry: February 26

February 26

Union General Hospital 

Blairsville

Bleh. The good news is I only spent like five minutes in the waiting room, and I stole a wheelchair for my pack. But I’m in one of the little curtained off areas waiting to go back for an X-ray. You know it’s bad when the ER doctor looks at your injury and makes a noise of pain. But it started swelling up more, and now it’s painful even without pressure on it, so I need this, even though I’m going to complain about it a lot.
Anyway, another hiker gave me a ride down to the hospital, so I didn’t need to wait for a shuttle driver today.
Back from the X-rays. Why is it that the diagnostic procedure always hurts the area your looking at? The ultrasound for my gallbladder was painful, and the X-ray for my back made me lie on in, which hurts. Bleh. Sitting on the bed in the ER, reading and updating Facebook and Reddit while I wait. 
And had to go back for a CT scan for clarity. But there is an older lady on the other side of the curtain who’s being looked at, so I’ll probably be waiting for a bit.
So, turns out it was just a soft tissue bruise, so once I’m discharged, I’m free to keep on hiking. I might finish out today as a zero at Mountain Crossings today, though. I hiked from the hospital to the town square, and I’m just going to wait here for a shuttle driver to free up. 

5:15

Mountain Crossings Hostel

Neel Gap 
Got my pack shakedown done, and lost 13 pounds. Granted, my food weighs 16, and water is another six, so I’m still carrying 53 pounds when fully loaded, but I can send some more home later.
Other than that, nothing exciting happened today.

Journal Entry: February 24, After Dinner; February 25

February 24, after dinner.
I ate half the pizza in one sitting, I’m going to save the rest for breakfast, then find a shuttle driver to take me into town. Google says the clinic will be open, and I need to get a few things at Walmart. Mostly shampoo, as my soap didn’t get my hair too clean. I’m allowed to be finicky now.
I’m going to take another shower before bed, and probably veg on the couch here for a while first.
I’m kind of feeling bad, because I know Boots is over at Mountain Crossings tonight, and I do have the space here so she could stay, but I’m tired, sore, and cranky, and don’t want to talk to people right now. I’m worried that my back is going to force me off trail for a while. I just can’t deal with people tonight.
I’m enough of an introvert that meeting new people is draining, and not having my usual escapes is hard. I want to get a better pad so I can sleep in a shelter in bad weather, but I don’t want to socialize very much right now. And that’s because I’m hurting, and it all makes me feel worse.
My depression is also kicking up, because being cold, dirty, tired, and sore is never a help, so I’m tearing up at the slightest provocation. It’s much worse today, as coming down Blood Mountain has several points where the trail looks like it’s going over a cliff, and several points where I lost the trail for a bit. It was kind of anxiety inducing, to be honest, and that exhausted me more than the hike itself.
This hike is going to push me to the edge of my limits, and beyond, and I’m happy in my comfort zone. I honestly think my abrupt homesickness is from the anxiety and being so far from my usual stomping grounds. 
Anyway, as I was taking my first shower, I realized I have developed what is known as “monkey butt”, or more commonly: diaper rash. So I’m going to get treatment at Walmart, as well as a way of preventing it again.
Feb 25
So, went to the Walmart clinic, they couldn’t do anything, and told me to go to the ER for an X-ray. There is another walk in clinic, but they can’t do anything either. So tomorrow, I’m going to do my pack shakedown and then go to the ER. 
I really really don’t want to stay off trail much longer. I was only on trail for six days, and I’ve had one zero, that’s turning into a double zero. Fuuuuuuuuuu
Anyway, I got in a resupply, so I won’t need to stop in Hiawassee unless I really want to. According to AWOL, it will only take three days, but it was only supposed to take three from Springer to Neel Gap, so I’m planning on longer. And depending on what the ER says, I may need to get off trail for longer, which is pissing me off.
Anyway, one of the things that hikers hear a lot is that we “pack our fears”. For instance, someone afraid of freezing would bring extra clothes, someone afraid of starving would pack too much food, etc. Since my food bag weighs as much as the rest of my pack, you can tell where I fall.
To be honest, most of it is snack type foods, rather than meals. My diet right now is something quick for breakfast, like peanut butter on a tortilla, lunch is usually candy and some sausage with maybe another tortilla, and dinner is a real meal, usually pasta or mashed potatoes. I keep a snack baggie of Mike and Ike in my pocket as I walk, and I’ve finally transferred my trail mix into smaller bags to make it easier to get at, so I’ll start munching on that too.
I do need to get into the habit of actually stopping for lunch every day, rather than walking nonstop to the next shelter. I should be stopping, taking off my pack and shoes, probably changing my socks, and chilling for an hour or so. But I get hyper focused on the next shelter I forget, and then I’m too hungry to cook.
So, it’s quarter to ten, and I’m starting to think that my pack was putting pressure on it and keeping it from getting to bad, because I haven’t done anything today and it really hurts now. Bah.

Journal entry: February 24

February 24

6:48, Lance Creek
I’ve been up since about five, but it’s cold and I didn’t want to get up. My bruise on my back is now a small lump, which is probably not good. I’m going to Neel Gap today, and zeroing tomorrow, so if it’s still bad, I’ll get it looked at.
Not much else is happening this morning, so I’m going to pack up and head on out. Actually, I’m starting to actually be hungry, so that’s happening. Other than that, though, it’s just cold.
So, once I finished packing, I ran into Boots, Mama Bear, and Little Foot. They were in the same campsite I was at, but had arrived much later. So they’re trying to make it to Neel Gap today as well.
4:13

I have arrived at Neel Gap, and at the cabin I’m going to rent for tonight and tomorrow night. I’m staying in Woodchuck! It’s at Blood Mountain Cabins, just a bit down the road from Mountain Crossings. It’s pricier than the Mountain Crossings hostel ($99/night, vs $19/head), but they run a laundry service, a shuttle service, and it’s a small cabin all to myself, vs a bunk in a room full of other thru hikers. I think it’s worth it.
I’ve already had a shower, and feel loads better than when I first arrived. Blood Mountain is brutal on the north side, and that was the only way down. But the soles of my feet are bruised, I think I twisted an ankle, and the bruise on my back is swollen. It might be a bulging disc, so I’m going to rest tonight and all of tomorrow and hope it gets a bit better. If not, I’ll move over to the Mountain Crossings hostel, then take a shuttle to see a doctor on Monday.
I also got a package from my parents today. I got a bag of gummy bears, my meds, and a piece of labradorite, which is supposed to grant the bearer with protection and intuition.
Any way, there is a Walmart with a clinic near here, so I’ll get a shuttle over to see if they’re open on weekends. I’m sitting in the general store here, waiting on my pizza.