2019-Day 32: slack-packing edition

I had Another luxurious night of sleep in the king bed. I’m sad to give up the space but it makes a lot more sense to switch to tenting. I made the long six foot walk to the bathroom and then put together my breakfast of yogurt/banana and a cliff bar and ate on the back porch. The yogurt unfortunately sat a little funny but I ate it anyway. Then I changed into hiking clothes and finalized my day pack and my regular pack so it could sit out on the porch all morning. I attended to my feet (body glide) and put on my brace. Then I walked over to the main building and waited for the others to be ready. Opa and farm girl are heading out from sam’s gap so I will walk south to make the rides easier. I won’t see them again because they’re ending their section hike on Monday in Erwin. I imagine with my slowdown I might also not see Rosie again so I said goodbye before I hopped in the car to head to the gap.

Sara Dropped us off at Sam’s Gap a little after 8. I walked under the highway and up a little hill that quickly tucked me into the woods. I could hear the sounds of I-26 as I labored up the hill. I Saw a black-and-white Warbler land on a tree trunk right in front of me and stopped to watch it hop around. The pain in my foot is so long been my foot and it’s hard not to imagine that my foot is the thing that hurts.

I felt so weightless without my pack that it was hard to moderate my pace, but I didn’t want to overdo my Ankle right away so I did my best to walk a casual speed as the highway sounds slowly receded and the birds gave their morning report. I looked down early on in my hike and found that I had picked up a passenger:

Most of today is supposed to be rolling hills which is good because per the usual flats are one of the harder sections for me. The woods were green with a slight breeze and tall groundcover. The sun filtered in from my right as I waded through tall grass next to an old barbed wire fence.

I Took a short detour to the view at high rock, which was not a very hospitable point. The rock was covered in roots and there wasn’t really much flat surface. Then it was back to rolling Hills with sweat slowly dripping down much of my face despite the perfect hiking temperature. I went down a Gradual descent that passed a trail intersection where I decided to take advantage of the extra space and took a short pee break. Then I resumed the rolling hills and soft, mostly even footing.

Around the five mile mark, I Stopped at a small unofficial campsite and had a large snack. I always forget how good Payday bars are. Tom, the hiker I had breakfast with in hot springs, came walking along and stopped for a minute.

I mentioned my current hiccup. He asked where I was staying and mentioned potentially stopping at the same place. I regaled him with the pizza and the pulled pork that everyone has been consuming, both of which piqued his interest before he continued down the trail.

I Felt a little sick after my break. The pepperoni and cheese stick may have been too much food with an entire payday bar. I Called Oakland but I lost my signal pretty quickly. I went Up and over a hill that came out to a slightly open area with a view of the mountains to my right (today’s top picture) and berry patch lining either side the trail.

I received a text from North star asking me to transfer the Uncle Johnny’s hostel reservation to her name so I made a quick phone call with the randomly great phone service I had gotten back and took care of that logistical detail before getting back on the move.

A few minutes later, i Ran into Chuck wagon coming down the hill towards me. It’s always very confusing for NOBOs to see people coming south that used to be heading north. I gave him a quick rundown of my situation and asked how he was doing. he wished me well told me to stay out of trouble a couple of times. It reminded me of my grandmothers both telling me to “be good” at the end of our phone calls. Chuck wagon and I bid each other farewell and went our separate ways.

A little while later I passed an unmarked spring and stopped to assess my water situation. I only had 2.4 miles to go, so I decided to skip the water. Even if I drink everything in my daypack, I only have a little over an hour of hiking left and will be fine. Day hiking is so different from backpacking. The Pressure to be prepared is so much lower, at least when you’re hiking in predictable woods close to roads on a day like today.

I ran across two northbound weekend hikers with a couple of dogs. I saw them from a distance and they stopped short to put one of the dogs on leash. I called out that they didn’t need to do so for my benefit but they did it anyway. when they got closer I realized why. The dog leaned against the leash, front paws barely grazing the ground with pure unadulterated yipping excitement to get closer to me. I imagine if they had left him offleash he would’ve jumped all over me. The trail then led me downward, twisting through thick groundcover.

As I Wound my way down, I Could hear water rushing far below me and wondered if that was the waterfall that a northbound hiker named John had mentioned when I passed him much earlier in my hike. The stream I came upon a little while later didn’t seem to be much of a fall.

I eventually passed the actual waterfall a little while later. The footing started to degrade the last couple of miles, becoming slightly rockier and more uneven, but I took my time and tried my best to make flat contact with each step. I ran into a man I’ve been calling the ponytail hiker that I have seen on and off since Neel gap. He creeps me out a bit but he’s nice enough. We exchanged hellos at a small stream crossing and he jokingly told me I was going the wrong way. I gave him the brief rundown then wished him a good day of hiking on this sunny Memorial day weekend. The trail led me continuously down to a small road. I heard dogs barking close by and happened upon a note to hikers from the neighbors asking for our help bringing their dogs back if we see them. I crossed over a small stream and the road and went back into the woods.

I went up a short, hot climb to a barbed wire turnstile that I think might mark the TN/NC border.

I could hear the road and I checked to see that it was 0.2 miles away. I decided to go ahead and call Taft a little early. I’d walked a few yards down the trail, when I realized I’d told Taft the wrong pickup location. He’d mentioned having to pick up another guy at the same place I would be. Then it dawned on me that he was probably referring to Tom and that meant I had told Taft the wrong intersection. I had to call him back and give him my proper location, which was devils fork road.

Then I sat on the side of the gravel parking lot and watched the cars go by while a light breeze blew through the trees. My ankle ached but there hadn’t been any sharp pains my entire hike which I took as a good sign. I’m going to continue to baby it and slack pack the next two days. Hopefully it will continue to cooperate.

Taft picked me up around 1:40 and we made small through the 15 minute drive back to the hostel.Taft kindly retrieved a tarp from the barn and I put it down on the gravel hammock pad. We both made comments about how it seemed like rain and sure enough, 15 minutes after he dropped off, we a had a passing rain shower.

I walked over to the rental house and made myself a pb wrap which I ate with chip and a soda, experiencing non-recycler’s guilt with every sip. There’s no recycling service around here so they sadly don’t recycle the zillions of soda cans that hikers go through. After lunch, I went through the tedious but ultimately successful process of setting up my tent on the gravel. Then I set up my bedding while low-key freaking out about whether the double layer of tarp would be enough to protect my tent because I could see the pointy impressions of the gravel wherever I put weight down. Both my mother and Oakland assured me that it was probably fine.

I laid in my tent with ice on my ankle and worked on a blog post. The afternoon heat and prone position eventually got the best of me and I fell asleep for about a half an hour. When I woke up, my left eye was super cranky for some reason. I don’t know if i got gravel dust in it or if it was the gnat that kamikazed into it while I hiked. Around 5:45, I got up and made myself another plate of salad greens with avocado, grabbed my bag of chips and water bottle and went down to the communal space. I was allowed to leave my food bag and cold food in the rental house so I don’t have to worry about where to store it outside.

Tom, chuck wagon, silver back and bright side were all hanging out somewhat silently and awkwardly. The office played on the TV and silverback and I laughed at the nonsense while chuck wagon tried to figure out how to work the microwave. I offered chips to the room. Tom took a hearty portion and proceeded to eat every single one of them with his mouth wide open. I nearly stole them back so I wouldn’t have to listen to him crunch anymore.

After dinner, I begrudgingly took a shower at Oakland’s urging. Then we had a FaceTime call before she headed off to give a fancy science dinner to a group of parents from her school. I’m finishing this to the sound of the creek, someone clanging silverware down at a cabin barbecue, and an airplane passing overhead. Hopefully Sara was right about the lack of bears because I have my toiletry bag and food bowl in my tent. Chances are high that I will actually be too paranoid to leave them here and will stow them in the house with my food bag. My left eye continues to tear up. Fingers crossed for a decent night of sleep in my new abode, through which I can see this cheerful string of lights that hopefully don’t keep me awake.

Mile 311.1 to mile 319.5 (8.5)

Total miles: 327.9

Creature feature: a few chipmunks, the black and white warbler, robins, and a dog in one of the rental cabins that was too far away for a picture.

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