Hit mile 800, saw first bear, and headed to Trail Days!

For the past couple days I’ve been hiking with Sticks, Wildcard, Deadcat, Bacon and Airborne – an awesome group! Yesterday we hit mile 800 (!!) and this morning we hiked 7 easy miles to get to a road crossing. We are currently waiting for a rental car so we can drive about 200 miles south back to Damascus for Trail Days. Trail Days is a big hiker festival, which we will be at for 2 days, then drive back to mile 808 and get back on trail.

Three highlights from the past couple days:

1. Hitting the Triple Crown in VA (with awesome weather). The Triple Crown is Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs.

Dragon’s Tooth
McAfee Knob
Tinker Cliffs with Wildcard and Paws

2. Getting trail magic in Daleville, VA from the Quirins. They found us resupplying in town at a coffee shop and offered us a place to stay out of the rain for the night, shower, laundry, home-cooked breakfast the next morning, and an opportunity to slack pack 18 miles. The Quirins thru-hiked two years ago with their 1 year old baby! They rock!

3. Sticks and I saw our first bears! It was a mama bear with 3 cubs. Very cool experience that gave us lots of adrenaline to get up the mountain.

We are all excited for Trail Days, but a bit anxious about the crowds and party scene, which will be quite a change from the environment we have been living in for the past two months. Everything has been great and I’m looking forward to slowing down the miles a bit after Trail Days because this experience is flying by and I want to be more conscious of savoring every moment. Today is day 61 on trail πŸ™‚

On a less happy note, there was some shocking news on trail. A few days ago there was a murder about 100 miles north of Damascus in VA. A male thru-hiker was killed and a female was injured. The individual who committed the crime is now in jail. This tragic event is disturbing for the AT community, but the hiker community is incredibly strong and will come out of this even stronger than before. Thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the victims.

That’s all for now.

– Rocket

33 mile day brings me to mile 636!

Trail life continues to excite and inspire me every day. I woke up yesterday with no sure plan in mind and ended up hiking my highest mileage day yet – 33 miles total! Since hiking my first 20 mile day, I had two other goals in mind: hike a marathon and hike a 30 miler. As I set out yesterday morning, I realized all factors were working in my favor to go for a 33 miler. It was a bit rainy, which made for a cooler and shadier day, there weren’t many great views to stop at aside from Dismal Falls, the elevation was relatively mild and at the end of 33 miles was an enticing destination: Angels Rest hostel and Mexican food in Pearisburg, VA.

I went for it and am feeling very proud of myself. I don’t think I will do this many miles again for a while; the miles weren’t as enjoyable as other days because I found myself just wanting to get to my destination rather than enjoying the journey. That said, it was well worth it to meet up with my friends at the hostel and get a Cinco de Mayo margarita! I also now know how my body responds to 30+ miles. I’m a bit tired and achy this morning, but am planning to get a few errands done and have a leisurely hike out this afternoon. Maybe I’ll hike 1 mile, maybe it will be 20. The spontaneity and freedom to set up camp whenever I feel like is a characteristic of trail life that I really enjoy.

That’s all for now. Angels Rest is an awesome place and I highly recommend!

Oh and my Salomon boots that I put a little too close to the fire a couple weeks ago are holding up decently well! I’ll probably look to switch to the trail runner version in about 200 miles or so.

^^600 mile marker!

– Rocket

My favorite night on trail so far!

Last night was unforgettable and easily my favorite night on trail so far! I’ll do my best to explain, but it was truly an authentic thru-hiking experience and full of events that were unexpected and seemingly irrational to “non-thru-hikers.” Before that though, about three days ago I hit mile 500! Today I will hit mile 548, which means officially 25% of the trail will be done. Crazy! Here’s a picture of me and a pony that woke me up in my tent right around mile 500:

So yesterday I was hiking with Super Girl, Wildcard, Tigger, Dead Cat, and Stretch. When I say “hiking with” I mean we all leave the shelter at our own pace, hike on our own and meet back up for lunch or at the end of the day. It’s kind of like going off to work (fun work) and meeting back at home for dinner. We left the shelter in the morning and hiked about 19 miles to an old schoolhouse that we heard would have trail magic and camping spots. About 7 miles out from the schoolhouse there was a controlled burn happening near the trail, but luckily we got to that section of the trail early enough that we didn’t have to take a detour. The day was awesome – great weather, pretty views, and even a visitor’s center with a real bathroom! When we got to the old schoolhouse we were happy to see bins filled with snacks, toiletries, first aide, fruit and drinks! I was even happier to see my friends Sticks and Paws at the schoolhouse! I hadn’t seen them in a few days since I had to wait for a lost credit card and then got sick in Damascus (there’s a stomach bug going around). I’m all good now!

As soon as we got to the schoolhouse, Tigger was very eager to have a hot meal so decided he was going to try and hitch into town by himself to a restaurant he heard about. After a few failed attempts, he was successful and was off to town! Meanwhile, we all set up our tents and began making dinner. While we were eating, we spotted a man on a horse across the meadow galloping towards us with his two dogs running along side. With the setting sun beating down on him, I swear this was the most majestic thing I’ve ever seen. He comes over to us and introduces himself while we play with the dogs. After some standard trail conversation, he rides back off into the distance. About an hour later, Tigger reappears in the passenger side of a car, gets out, opens the trunk, and pulls out a case of Bud Light. “There’s another one where that came from,” he said. Then he proceeds to get back in the car and drives off with his new friends. He said he would be back later. We were pumped about the beer, which pairs strangely well with our ramen and pasta sides. About an hour later we’re all talking and drinking as it starts to get dark and out of no where we hear synchronized chanting coming from down the road. The chanting gets louder and as the people come into focus we see Tigger in the back of a line of six random women. They continue chanting all the way up to the schoolhouse and cheer when they reach us. While looking for food in town, Tigger met these six women and decided it would be funny to teach them this chant and march all the way back to the schoolhouse with them just to say hi. We were all so confused, so entertained, but also not that surprised because random and weird things like this happen on the trail all the time. We all try and process what just happened while Tigger goes to a pickup truck about 50 feet away to get the other case of bud light out of the bed. The night continues.

Full of beer and food, the stars begin coming out. A few of us lay down on our backs on the porch of the schoolhouse and look at the stars, talking about the universe, space, and random stuff people never have time to talk about in “normal” life. It was a perfectly clear night and we had no where to be, not a worry in the world, and were excited knowing that in the morning we had an easy 3 mile walk to a breakfast restaurant right along the trail. (We just finished said breakfast and it was delicious!)

Reading this back, it doesn’t sound all that exciting. It’s really difficult to articulate these events and why times like these are so very special, but last night we all knew how lucky we are. As the man road up on his horse, as Tigger approached with his troop of chanting women, as the stars came out, no one took out their phones to take pictures. We all just experienced these random and blissful moments. It was a perfect night and everyone went to bed so happy and so thankful to be right where we are.

Here’s a picture of the schoolhouse and some of the many amazing people I have met along the trail:

Writing this post honestly made me tear up. I love this lifestyle so much and I feel so incredibly grateful to be here. What makes this night even more special is it came after two somewhat lonely days of trying to catch up to my friends after falling a little behind due to sickness. Like so much of the trail experience it is really hard to do it justice in a simple blog post. Hopefully this portrays the beauty in the simplicity, spontaneity, and surprise of the trail.

Now I’m off to hike! Meeting my mom in a couple days and excited to hike a bit with her! Lucky for her, this is the longest I’ve gone without a shower. I think it will be day 9 by the time I see her.

Some more random pictures I’ve taken over the past few days…

Highest mile day yet!

Passed mile 420 today, on 4/20, pretty close to 4:20pm so we celebrated in proper 4-20 fashion and continued on. Today was a 24 mile day in the rain – the longest mileage day yet! The hostel we arrived at was full because of bad weather, but found another place near Hampton, Tennessee πŸ™‚

All good here! Too many stories, laughs, miles, views to choose what to share – the trail is abundant in all the important ways.

Hello from mile 288

Just left Hot Springs and spending tonight at a campsite. This journey continues to be amazing and I am enjoying the challenges and highlights of each day!

Today was the first time I actually listened to music while hiking. I have been enjoying hiking to the sounds of nature a lot!

Mile 136.7 – NOC!

Made it to the Nantahala Outdoor Center yesterday! My tramily booked a cabin to stay in last night and I camped down by the river with another hiker Duck Hole and some of his tramily. Duck Hole is a flip flop hiker, meaning he hiked about 1700 miles of the north end of the trail last year and is now finishing up the southern part of the trail. Duck Hole’s tramily from the initial half of his hike drove to meet us yesterday and help us do a cheaper resupply at Ingles than the expensive general store at the NOC πŸ™‚

Here we were also able to print our Smokey Mountain National parks passes, get some awesome food, and we even got beer trail magic while we were sitting down by the river yesterday!

Last night was the warmest so far, around 48 degrees; being at lower elevation definitely makes it warmer. We have continued to be super lucky with the weather!

We are making awesome time, so are probably only doing 6 miles up Jacob’s ladder today and camping up there to enjoy the views!

Physically, I’m doing pretty well aside from a few blisters that I’m working on healing.

I’m loving this new lifestyle!

– Rocket

Resupply in Hiawassee!

We’re at mile 62 (I think) and doing great! We hiked 7 miles this morning and got a ride into town about 12 miles down the road, but not before we were surprised with amazing trail magic!! A former 2003 thru-hiker named Switchback and his family grilled cheeseburgers, hotdogs and had a whole spread of snacks! People like this make the trail community an amazing thing to be part of!

In town we resupplied at Ingles, got LOTS of food and some beer at a local pub, did laundry, hung out with other thru-hikers, then got Dairy Queen πŸ™‚ I went to DQ in my rain clothes while all the rest of my clothes were drying. We’re headed to an all you can eat hiker breakfast tomorrow then back into the mountains. We eat A LOT. Shooting for a 9 mile day tomorrow to cross the GA/NC border!

Aside from some blisters and a few aches here and there, everyone is doing great!

We have seriously lucked out on the weather this first week! Rain is in the forecast for Monday and Tuesday, but looking good again after that. So far, I can genuinely say everyone I have met out here is insanely happy and having the time of their lives! Let’s see if the rain changes that…

I’m realizing these posts are very scatter brained but there’s so much to say, so little phone battery, so little service, and so much to do! Sorry no pictures this time – taking forever to upload!