It’s been a quite exciting few days! I have a lot to write about, but not much battery so I’ll have to squeeze it in quickly.
2 days ago I played hide and go seek all day long with thunderstorms along the ridge line. The trail was winding up and down the hillside, looping from one side of the ridge to the other. It would be dark and stormy on one side and bright and sunny on the other. Thankfully I was lucky enough to avoid everything but a light rain.
That night we had our first real thunderstorm and, honestly it was pretty scary. There are a lot of risks out here that don’t bother me, like hypothermia, hunger, and bears because I know how to manage those risks, but I haven’t had much experience with lightening. So I was worried that I wasn’t doing everything I could to protect myself. Plus it’s, in some small part, an unmanageable risk beyond a certain point. Dumb bad luck could result in a strike.
I spent the few hours the storm was over us counting the time between lightning and thunder and hoping it wouldn’t pass right over head. Thankfully it only came about two miles away from us.
Perhaps one of the coolest/scarier parts about it was the wind. The wind was roaring louder than I’ve ever heard before, but in my tent I hardly got a breeze. The wind was confined to the treetops and was broken by the trunks. My tent did the rest. But it sounded like just short of a tornado passing overhead.
After that stressful night I woke up to an incredible view of clouds filling the valley and the sun rising over it, which almost made the storm worth it.
That day, yesterday, we hiked 16ish miles to the Nanathala Outdoor Center, or NOC. We had planned to hike only 15 to a shelter nearby, but when my newly found hiking partner heard there were free showers he was eager to press on. He wasn’t feeling very well.
We get to the NOC, and with the help of a friendly employee we met on the trail, figured out all the ways to sleep/shower for free. Our first attempt was a locked shower facility near the trail. The wall did not connect to the ceiling so another friend jumped over and unlocked the door. But after getting ready to hop in the shower we found out the water wasn’t turned on. Thankfully we were, with the help of our guide, able to find other free showers up the hill.
After an amazing (although way too expensive) dinner of burgers and key lime pie, we had to find a place to sleep. Remembering the shower facility, we decided it would be the perfect place to crash for the night, so we broke in again and locked ourselves in. It was a glorious dirtbag evening and I’ll post pictures when I can.
This morning, after another good meal, we hiked 3500 feet up over 6 miles. It wasn’t too steep, but long. The NOC was down in a gully so over the past 2 days we’ve had 7000 feet of elevation change. Tonight were camping in a gap about 10 miles from the NOC.
The hiking partner I mentioned earlier is my friend Chris, or Screwloose. We have similar paces and have become quite close over the past week, so we’ve decided to hike together until at least hot springs, where his wife and child are meeting him. Last night we planned out the next two weeks. We’re planning on pushing hard, but the past two days were really tiring so I’m not sure if we’ll quite make our pace. Regardless, by the time were done with what we’ve planned, we’ll be over 300 miles in, done with the smokies, and done with the first “section” of the trail (springer-hot springs). Which, needless to say is very exciting.
I suppose that’s all for now. Wish I could post some pictures, but they’ll have to wait.