2019-Day 20: frozen feet edition

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It was a cold and somewhat miserable night. My feet were numb when I went to bed, so I put my puffy coat around them and that helped. Dizzy snored on and off all night which was somewhat forgettable but their shuffling around in the middle of the night and the early morning hours was almost too much for me. Brownie went out early to take care of business.

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I followed suit shortly after her and didn’t quite wait long enough but I managed to not “walk in” on her until she was covering her hole. She passed me as I waited to step into the rhododendrons and said “there’s good diggin back there!” I laughed and went about my duties. Pun intended. 

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Afterwards, I grabbed my food bag off the cable and began the dance of trying to eat and do morning chores without having to put on my wet socks and shoes. I put on my spandex inside my sleeping bag and put my long johns back on to keep me warm until I walked out of camp. I sat on the edge of the shelter and ate a bar in my wool socks. After eating, I put my pack back together which meant taking off all of my warmest layers. Then I brushed my teeth and rushed through the rest of my routine because I was frozen. Someone said the temperature was 44 degrees. 

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I left camp first and walked up the trail into the morning fog. Today started with a small climb through the mist as water dripped from the trees. The trail was a roller coaster. my feet were useless blocks of ice as I navigated the rocks and the muddy spots while staying alert for bears. My right Hip and my knee were a bit sore from yesterday’s fall. The trail took a Slight uptick through a soggy rhododendrons tunnel. A Junco chirped angrily at me while I took my gloves and hat off and stood still to drink water. 

The trail eventually Opened up to a green, fern covered stretch. Every now and then the sky brightened just a tad but it quickly darkened again. I Stopped to take my raincoat off and got passed by Jose, one of the section hikers from last night. I felt Grumpy about being done so early in the day today but also worried that 17 miles would be too far and put me in a weird spot. I Passed by a patch of the pinwheel flowers and heard a squeaking that made me think about Boar but it turned out to just be a cranky bird. 

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I smelled smoke and Thought I was passing through a recent burn section but it was someone making A fire at the shelter around the corner. I waved and kept going through a dark rhododendron patch and thought about brownie’s phrase “good diggin’” and wondering how many people had pooped there. Decided to take my chances with a drainage ditch to take a quick pee before I got overtaken by other hikers from my shelter.  Noticed tiny button mushroom on a downed branch while I peed. 

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Had my 4ish mile snack on a rock in sun on the apex of a hairpin turn.

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The sun seemed to come out for good but there was a cool breeze that felt more like October than mid May and made me wonder if I should put my fleece hat back on. I decided against it for now and kept moving. The Trail continued upward for awhile. I Stopped at a rain-fed unmarked water source to get half a bottle. Water is sparse today and this was right on trail. When I got moving again, I found a peekaboo mountain view and continued along the narrow grass-lined trail.

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After what felt like longer than usual, I Finally got passed by someone (west Texas) and ranger passed me shortly after that. They’re attempting to do a 20 mile day so they can get to clingmans dome in the morning. I’m going to guess that clingmans will be socked in tomorrow morning, but I can relate to that kind of gamble.

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At some point in the morning, I Saw a horse! I passed through a Soggy section with annoying loose rocks and made a slight detour off trail to take a picture of the blooming tree that is today’s top picture. Then came a Small field with a symphony of bird noises as the trail continued upwards.

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I arrived at a small false summit with a bit of a view on the way up to rocky top. I decided to take a side trip to the edge of the bushes to pee, and I Nearly fell on my face because I tripped on my bag after putting it down. Am I too klutzy to be a thru hiker?? I noticed a clouded over summit in front of me and wondered if that was thunderhead mountain (my next destination).

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I kept moving up the gradual incline, feeling tired and hoping that the summit of thunderhead wouldn’t be clouded over. I was Socked in just below rocky top (a secondary summit for thunderhead), where I ran into West texas and ranger having an extended snack and smoke break. Apparently I had just missed an amazing view, but a cloud rolled in right before I arrived. I managed to get a small view just above where they were taking a break. It seemed too cold to stop, so I kept moving.

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I finally decided I was too hungry to wait for thunderhead summit, but I inadvertently had Lunch at the top of thunderhead because I had misread my location when I had stopped earlier (or maybe my GPS hadn’t refreshed fast enough before I closed the app). I had a short phone call with Oakland while I ate. I feel inexplicably Sad and fell apart towards the end of the call.  I was preparing myself to get back to walking when Josh caught up. We walked down the annoying rocky descent together. I lagged every now and then because of texting, but I caught him on the hills. He let me pass at the top to take a water break.

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Towards the top of that climb, I Saw Jose taking a break. I decided to also Stop for a second to eat some fruit gummies then kept going to avoid getting cold. The trail went down for awhile. I paid attention to foot placement over the loose rocks and let my mind wander. Out of nowhere I heard something galloping through the brush to the left of the trail. I’m pretty sure it was a wild boar based on the footprint I saw a little farther down the trail.

Josh caught up with me and we walked down the rocky hill in the Dappled sunlight with a light breeze surrounded by green. I kept waiting for josh to ask me to go first up each subsequent hill but he kept chugging along. I decided rather than push past him I would hang back and let him set the pace. I had felt a few sharp pains in my right foot earlier, which thankfully disappeared. May as well let josh help keep my hill monster reigned in a bit. We passed by several giant blowdowns throughout our stretch of walking together:

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The Last two miles felt endless, not because anything hurt but because the hills just kept coming. I Got to the shelter and a man named denim was in the beginning stages of starting a fire. After I threw down my mat and pulled out a few things, I helped him keep the flame going while he wandered around getting more kindling. I sat out front and ate my afternoon snacks while two of the kids from last night ate before moving on to the shelter 5 miles from here.  They’re going into gatlinburg tomorrow which made josh perk his ears up because he’s trying to figure out how to go past icewater and possibly get his phone squared away. Apparently it decided to restore itself to factory settings while he had it in his pocket yesterday. Trying to fix his phone is part of why he ended up soaking wet yesterday afternoon. Were it not for the delay, he would have made it to the shelter before the late afternoon downpour. I have no desire to deal with gatlinburg even though power charging would be pretty useful. 

After snacks and a hand freezing trip down to the spring for water collection, I set up my sleeping pad and put on long johns. there’s a bone chilling coldness to the air right now. I have no clue how people do this in march. I would be absolutely miserable and frankly, not functional because of my reynauds. 

Over a dozen people rolled in to the shelter in waves. I feel good about having scored a spot in the snoring den rather than having to deal with my tent in the morning with frigid hands. It’s supposed to be about 37 in the morning. The space is not really big enough for the number of people but we made it work. Josh hung his hammock in the corner and several other people who showed up late tented. 

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I helped tend to the fire for awhile but I got tired of the duty and felt a bit watched but the older men, so I went over to my sleeping spot and put on my wool socks. I heard a German woman say she had hiked 26 miles today and she seemed so chipper that I wanted to smack her. She did, to her credit, say that her feet really hurt. 

After dinner and hanging my food bag, I Sat around writing my notes while the section hikers gabbed inside and brownie and dizzy talked to through hikers in the eating area out front. Josh huddled in his hammock and Jess tried to read her book but gave up quickly. I went out for my last pee and had a short conversation with a thru hiking couple from Portland, Maine. They also hiked 26 miles today and plan for another 20 tomorrow. Whyyyyyy.

I’m finishing this to sound of people creaking into their sleeping bags, denim making sexist comments about how this isn’t that hard because “girls are doing it!” to which I audibly said “hey! That’s not a compliment!” The older women next to me agreed, which felt good. Let’s hope my hands and feet still work in the morning. And where in the world are all these people going to poop! 

Mile 177.7 to mile 189.8 (12.1) 

Total miles: 198.1 

Creature feature: the loud rustling that I think was a boar. Juncos. The horse! 

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