Saturday, March 23, 2013

Franklin, NC to Fontana Dam, NC

Time on the AT isnt measured in days like in regular life, its measured in miles. I walked out of my home state about 75 miles ago. I haven't worn a bra in about 50 miles. I'll be in the Smokies in about 10 miles.

That being said, I don't know the last time I updated except that it was in Franklin, NC. The day we got back in the trail, the terrain picked up again and the nice rolling laurel tunnels were no more.

A few miles after the drop off, Fresh Ground, who was providing trail magic at Woody Gap the day the Appalachian Shitstorm set in, was back to give us more and we all stopped for more of his wonderful food and spirit lifting energy.

Fresh Ground plans to follow this particular group of hiker as far up as he can and as we rolled up in the mid afternoon to stuff ourselves, he offered to make breakfast for anyone who stayed the night. The routine had been that by 5 or 6 most hikers were passed and he would clean up and prepare for the next day when they would start flowing in by 9 or 10. He was ready for a bit of company so Hermes and I and nearly 10 others camped in a rhododendron cove just beside the picnic area. That night we sat around the fire with an array of great characters. Clever Girl, Dumptruck, Apollo, and BP (broken pack) made for great new friends.

Unfortunately, Movie Star had gone on, missing the jiffy pop around the fire camaraderie because the food had done him too good to waste the energy on sitting around. The rest of us were captured by the idea of eggs and bacon.

Come morning, Fresh Ground had eggs and bacon on by dawn and a round of pancakes to top it off. It was a damp drizzly morning but I set off with a stomach of warm food. I took a break at the first shelter and discussed camping plans with Hermes. I was a bit down because it had been my first night on the AT not camping with Movie Star. I felt like I had lost a security blanket, even if I did still have Hermes, the other security blanket. So I put music in for the first time and realized that it is a hiking drug. I put down 10 miles by 1pm that day, in rain much of the way too, and as I strolled into the next shelter to stop for lunch, there was Movie Star. I berated him for being lazy and not making many miles and he questioned how I caught up to him so fast. 15 minutes later, Hermes shows up, also wondering how h never caught up to me, as the typical day is me catching up to him, leaving before him, and being passed in a matter of a mile.

After lunch at the shelter, we decided to stay because we knew thunderstorms were rolling in that afternoon. A pair of bromantic college guys stayed with us after they attempted to hike in the storm and turned back because of lightening and hail.

The next day we descended down to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, an outfitter, restaurant, convenience store with a hostel. On the way we crossed over the fire tower me and so many friends have hiked to on summer days after rafting the Nantahala. It was really amazing to come to it finally and think of all the other times I had been there and who I had been with.

At the NOC, we ate real food and drank lots of beer, then caught a ride into Bryson City to resupply and stay the night. The next day, I had already decided to take a zero at the NOC to rest an ailing Achilles' tendon, a common hiker over use injury. We got breakfast with BP, who always takes his time about getting on the trail in the morning, and PrayerWalker, who was also planning to take a zero. By the end of breakfast, Hermes had decided to stay as well since he has done this all before and is in no rush.

Movie Star hiked on and Hermes and I spent the day eating junk food and drinking wine. We also sown a lot of time talking to PrayerWalker, who is a 64 year old woman who is hiking because God told her to. She is fascinating and so inspiring and ended up buying dinner for Hermes and I when we asked her to join us at the NOC Restaurant.

Heartbreakingly, two days after this night Hermes informed me that PrayerWalker was getting off the trail. That the ice and snow were too much for her, too dangerous. It was hard to hear but I am so inspired by how far she had come and I know she has made a huge impression on the 2013 hiker crowd already. She is the sort of spirit that will be very missed.

Heading out of the NOC I did a 16 mile day. To be truthful, I was Party Blazing Clever Girl. She, Dumptruck and Apollo were planning to have a birthday party for Clever Girl on Friday at Fontana Dam. I made it to the shelter, leaving Hermes at the last campsite back, to find Movie Star. It was the second time I had caught up to him.

The next day we made to to the Fontana "Hilton", a shelter that holds 21 people and has showers. Upon arriving, Clever Girl shoves an ice cream bar and a beer I out hands. Dumptruck and Apollo show up with hog dogs and tons of beer soon after and the party begins. Hermes rolls into camp jut about this time and tells me about Prayer Walker. I was excited to see him because I had missed him when he stayed back, nursing blisters from new shoes, but I was sad to hear the news. The party was a wonderful distraction. It was beautiful to sit around with so many hikers and enjoy non-hiker food and beer. Clever Girl, Dumptruck and Apollo are saints for bringing together such a gathering.

Right now, I am taking a zero here at Fontana Dam. Almost everyone I know is doing the same. Clever Girl, Dumptruck, Apollo, BP, Hermes, Maniac (who we met yesterday because he heard about the party and hustled to make it), and even Detour and the Almighty D. In his typical style, Movie Star moved on, but maybe I will catch him again.

Starting the Smokies tomorrow. It will be a wet an cold week to come.

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