“Two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.” (AT2015 mile 427.1)

*breathe in* *breathe out*

Okay.

This is going to be long on words and feelings, and short on pictures and snark, so not really the typical fun bullshitting.

First, a quick chronological summary of what has happened since my last post. I spent two nights at the hostel in Hampton, which is referred to as the castle hostel, though it looks nothing at all like a castle. Here’s my puffy hand after spending two days at the hostel.

 The morning of the third day, I optimistically returned to the trail and limped/suffered through seven miles (one back to the trail and six on trail) over Pond Mountain. I ran into Pinecone and Rock Licker and sobbingly admitted to both them and myself that there was no way in hell I could keep going.

I returned to Hampton, defeated, where one of my friends picked me up and drove me to Knoxville. I’ve been convalescing here since then. For those of you not keeping track, that means four weeks have passed, and single-digit miles have been hiked, since I fell.

Accurately describing the emotions that I’ve experienced since then is a difficult task. I continually try to remind myself to be grateful that my injuries are fairly mild; I really should have broken some bones and there is some likelihood that I could have died. But my injuries happened to be ones that heal within weeks, not months.

This gratefulness tends to be overwhelmed by a bevy of negative emotions. I’m disappointed that it’s taking so long for my stupid fucking body to heal, though I should have expected it because my body has always been slow to recover from injuries. This is peak hiking season, and I’m increasingly frustrated as each long, hot day slips by that I’m stuck in my boyfriend’s apartment not getting in any miles. I’ve expended significant mental energy trying not to determine what mile I’d be at if I hadn’t fallen and ignoring all AT-related posts on my Facebook feed.

I’ve also been mentally beating myself up for falling. I’ve always been hard on myself ever since I recognized that I’m entirely responsible for my actions and no one else is to blame when I do something stupid. And this was stupid. I made a mistake that was completely preventable because I was careless. Shortly after I got back, one of my friends told me to be gentle with myself, which is hard for me to do. Forgiving myself is a long, slow process and I don’t imagine that I’ll ever not regret the moment I stepped out on that waterfall.

(For the record, I wasn’t playing on the waterfall or anything quite that stupid. This was the water source for the shelter, but getting water required walking out on rocks slippery from rain and there were no handholds.)

Dealing with the pain has also not been easy. While I was optimistic about the extent of my injuries in the beginning, I hurt myself more than I wanted to admit. My boyfriend was shocked that I’d managed to hike at all based on my condition when I showed up in Knoxville. Even just sitting was uncomfortable for the first couple weeks, and I was pretty crabby. This was amplified by exhaustion because I was only able to sleep for erratic, limited periods of time. I was reminded of the fall every time I moved.

Let’s just say that I’ve paid dearly for my mistake, both physically and mentally.

But everything got better every day, incrementally if slowly, and I’m nearly better. This was the first time I’ve had a rib injury, which are notorious for being painful and slow to heal, but the pain has finally died down to a dull ache. My hand and foot are both very close to 100%. Simple tasks such as bending over, walking down stairs, turning door knobs, and standing up no longer hurt. The night I fell, putting on dry pants was such a struggle that I almost had to ask the other hikers at the shelter to pull my pants over my ass for me; dressing myself is, thank goodness, no longer a problem.

This was also the first time I’ve had a lot of time in which to do whatever (as long as it didn’t involve moving) since I was a kid. I binged on OITNB and Pretty Little Liars and watched almost every rom com on Netflix, probably exceeding my lifetime TV quota, spent hours scrolling through my newsfeeds and watching cat videos, and even read Deliverance while in Hampton. I don’t like doing nothing, so at least I can be certain of that.

 I’m beyond ready to return to the trail. I was so incredibly happy before this mess happened and I want to get back to that. I’m making peace with this setback and trying to appreciate how lucky I am that I’ll be able to continue this journey.

This is my plan from here on out. Because I started pretty late in the first place, and taking this many zeros has put me even further behind, I’m going to have to do a flip flop. This generally means doing something other than hiking the entire trail in one direction continuously, which is how thruhikes are typically done. The most common flip flop is to hike from Springer in Georgia north to Harper’s Ferry, WV, which is about the halfway point, then jumping up to the northern terminus in Maine and hiking back south to Harper’s Ferry.

My flip flop is going to be a little more complicated because I don’t want to do that. I’m going to skip about 300 miles in VA and get back on at Daleville, VA on Sunday. If I picked it back up in Hampton where I got hurt, there would be basically no other thruhikers and the social experience is one of the primary reasons I’m doing this. I’m hoping to catch up to at least some of the people I know (though I just found out that Postman, my hiking partner, has decided to get off booooooooo). I’ll hike north from there, hopefully to Katahdin (the northern terminus), then afterwards jump back down and do those 300 miles I missed in VA. I say “hopefully” because Katahdin technically closes on October 15 and there’s a possibility I won’t make that. If so, I’ll have to do another flip flop, but I’m not going to worry about that unless it becomes more certain.

This is all non-ideal, but part of hiking this trail is trying to learn how to chill the fuck out and go with the flow. The consequences of my fall provide me an opportunity to do this. I get really upset when my plans have to change due to uncontrollable factors, which is exactly what has happened. Even though I am upset about the flip flop, there’s really no need to because I’m still able to continue my thruhike and have plenty of fun, and that’s what I want to focus on.

I lastly want to thank everyone who’s helped me through this. My friends in Knoxville have been great at keeping my mind off of the pain and thinking of fun things to do (like always). Also, when I sent them a message about needing a ride from Hampton to Knoxville, three of them offered. Within five minutes. On a Thursday afternoon. How fucking awesome is that? Special shoutout to Marisa for actually picking me up. And winning the costume contest at the Pride Fest party…

 My parents have been really great. My mom and I talked a lot the first few days, which were the hardest, and I really needed that. And of course Wes, my bf, who let me crash at his apartment unexpectedly for almost a month and has gracefully dealt with my bitchiness and been his generally awesome self. I’m lucky to have so many supportive, helpful, wonderful people in my life.

 Speaking of fun things, in the midst of recovery I went to Bonnaroo. It was about as awesome as it usually is. The bands that I was looking forward to (My Morning Jacket, Twenty One Pilots, Shakey Graves, Moon Taxi) were as great as I was expecting, and we saw some excellent bands (Jungle, Flying Lotus, Woods, Jamie xx) that were new to me. 

 


 I’m really excited, and slightly nervous, about getting back on trail. Let the adventure continue!

“Pinball machine of hatred and death.” (AT 2015 mile 421.2) 

Being the dumbass that I am, I managed to fall down a waterfall yesterday. 

I am a lucky dumbass though. After falling down at least five rock ledges, each probably 2-4 feet tall, I slid to a stop minus one shoe and the Platypus bladder I’d been intending on filling up. I took inventory and there was some soreness and I was having some trouble breathing, but it didn’t seem like anything was broken. 

This was at Laurel Fork shelter. I struggled back up the hill and to the shelter. The three other thruhikers that were staying there, Silverback, Mamba, and Hero, did everything they could to help me out. Thank goodness they were there, though I’m sure they were frustrated with my stubbornness at wanting to take care of myself without their help whenever possible. 

So, my plans for this next section will have to change. I managed to limp the two miles to the hostel in Hampton this morning. My left foot and left elbow are pretty sore, as is my back, and I have quite the array of bruises and scratches. But, by some sort of trail miracle, I’m alive and nothing is broken. I’m going to hang out here until tomorrow morning at least and monitor the healing process. I’m optimistic for a quick recovery while simultaneously pissed that I was so careless as to let this happen. Wet rocks are slippery, folks. 

At least I got my first shiner out of it.  

 

“CCP.” (AT2015 mile 393.8) 

When I left Hot Springs two years ago, it was with a new hiking partner. This time I left alone, without my hiking partner.   This was sadness to leave Postman behind while he took a zero to hang out with his cousin. It shortly turned into sadness about having to stop every 30 seconds to try to not shart. 

Thanks to the beer, peach malt liquor, and moonshine for that. Yes, it was real moonshine, not that shit from the liquor store. 

This was the view back to Hot Springs.  

 It was a super beautiful day, even with the sharting problem.   So on this section, I had to choose between doing fewer miles or more miles than I wanted to. I was inspired from hanging out with some big mile hikers (Yogi + Kimchi and Texas Poo) who pull out 20s like it ain’t no big thang, so I ended up choosing more, which resulted in an accidental 23 mile day. That’s what happens when you decide to hike 7 extra miles at 4pm after getting the BEST French fries ever at this hostel.   It was totally worth it. And I don’t even like French fries. 

I also saw this rattlesnake that evening while booking it to the shelter. Bro was enormous.   Some pics from Hot Springs to Erwin.                I climbed over my first fence stile, which I hate…  …and got shit on by a bird. What a jerk.   In Erwin, I stayed at Uncle Johnny’s hostel and caught up with Texas Poo, who’s working on finishing his Triple Crown. 

The day out of Erwin, I met up with Kimchi and Yogi, my two favorite people, at our first really real trail magic (thanks Brother Tom!). We spent the next three days hard chilling and being pissed about the rain and section hikers setting up their tent in the shelter.                         I run the entire gamut of human emotion pretty much every day out here, and it blows my mind. One moment it’s raining and I don’t know if I’m on the second to last or last hill and the woods smells like Pizza Hut and I feel like punching everything. Then the next I realize it’s not really raining anymore and there’s a patch of legit blue sky and I’m actually on the last hill and I’m incredibly content and grateful. This roller coaster of emotion is definitely part of why I love this so much; I feel so much more strongly and authentically. 

But anyways, I’m currently finishing up a zero and nero in Knoxville, which included an Indian buffet amongst a shit ton of other food.     I have about ten and a half days in this next section before Bonnaroo. I should be getting out about 200 miles in that time if everything goes well, so wish me luck. Or don’t, it’s whatever. 

“Collecting brain lint.” (AT2015 mile 274.4) 

This is gonna be short and sweet cause I’d rather go take a soak. Made it to Hot Springs, NC. 

I mostly only took pictures on the day we hiked with a new friend, Kimchee, and an old friend we met on like day three, who’s now being called Yogi. It was an awesome, hard day that ended with summiting Max Patch and rain all night while we were cozy in a shelter.  

             Got three Snickers bars at Standing Bear hostel. Someone warned me about expiration dates there.  

 Oh! And we actually got a view from Charlie’s Bunion, and I got a view of Rock Licker taking a pee.  

 

“Small house, big porch.” (AT2015 mile 207.3) 

Waiting for three weeks to take my first zero was not the best idea ever. BTW, a zero is a day in which no miles are hiked. It just sort of happened this way, due to logistics. 

It seems like everyone around me is falling apart, including myself. It’s mostly just that my body is really tired, but also I had sore ankles today, which has happened exactly never. 

We pushed hard through this fucking brutal section though. Almost 100 miles in seven days, with no neros, the two intense climbs out of the NOC and Fontana, and two 15s and one 16. Like champs!   Okay, but let’s start at the beginning. Franklin, NC treated us well. We had Yeti beer at Outdoor 76, Life Saver caught up with us, and we slept on REAL beds at Gooder Grove. This is a new hostel opened up by this chill dude named Colin. He’s in the process of turning his garage/basement into a bunkroom.       There was rain for the first time on our day out of Franklin, which happened to be my first 15. Postman and I were ONE MILE from the shelter when it just started pouring. We got soaked. It was beautiful all day before that, though… …as was the next morning during a quick hike into the NOC, during which I caught up with #1.     The bubble we’d been in kind of coalesced at the NOC, with the addition of Happy, Fury, Crash, and Glider. (Postman didn’t make it into the picture 😟) We’d all stayed in bunks (or on the floor) at the NOC, drinking beer and making a ruckus until long after hiker midnight (9pm, when it gets dark enough to justify sleeping). 

All I remember from the NOC to Fontana was running from the rain. Actually running. Imagine a buff dude in an action movie running from an explosion.  

  


And this weird shrine.  
Fontana was mostly disappointing except for some trail magic beer. Thank disc golfing dudes with the cute dog!  

Then we finally got to the Smokies (da Smockies!). Beautiful day passing military guys with 80 pound packs.  





I’m remembering a surprising number of details from two years ago. Like the exact shelter and the exact spot where a guy I’d been hiking with got yelled at by a ridge runner for attempting to graffiti his name (which was Snafu).  

I’ve totally run out of steam finishing this shit up, so here’s Rocky Top, a fake candid hiker evening, Snow as a lunch lady, a handicapped privy, and no view from Clingman’s. Mostly a whole lot of WTF.  





Last thing, injury roundup! Woo fun yay not. My knee has been quite good, basically not sore at all. Probably because I started taking ibuprofen this week, but I’m hoping to wean off of it this next section. I tore my feet up hiking in wet socks and shoes into the NOC. No blisters at all, just tender red skin, which I’ve dealt with before. I taped them up for a few days and it seems to be all healed up now. Oh, and also some ass chafing (TMI, whatever, don’t care) and a partially torn off half a big toenail (kicked a door, so dumb, then pushed it back into place and have been taping it). That is to say, my body has been holding up real well, and that’s not sarcastic at all. 

Sorry if the formatting of these posts have been wonky, the WordPress app is kind of a jerk. 

Gatlinburg, where I’m zeroing, is such a trip.  

 

“Georgia wolf danger?” (AT2015 mile 109.8) 

Tuesday was border day! Otherwise known as cinco de drinko to you poor people trapped in the real world.   One down, thirteen to go. 

North Carolina has been easy cruising so far. Even Courthouse Bald right after the border, which I was warned about by several different people, was really NBD. 

Albert Mountain was the other little bitch of a climb, but the views!     Been hitting some 12s since my last post and my body has been fantastic. I haven’t had a single blister, and my knee has been cooperating. 

We’ve had a little bubble going since Top of Georgia. I’m still hiking with Postman, and we’ve been seeing Lone Ranger, Life Saver, Smoky, Fireman, and two section hiking UF undergrads, who I definitely hit up for advice about Gainesville. The latter were hiker trashing it up with us while waiting for the hostel owner to pick us up.   Life Saver attempted to give me the unfortunate second trail name of Bullet. I shut that down hard. 

Some views and other miscellaneous pics.               That last one is a funny misspelling. 

I’m hanging out at Outdoor 76, an awesome outfitter in Franklin, NC that specializes in helping AT hikers out with shoe problems. They’re amazing, and they have craft beer in the store. Double win! 

I’m planning on hitting up some bigger miles this next week to get to Gatlinburg next weekend. Nerrrrrvous! Hopefully Postman will be able to accompany me, but his awful blisters might require a zero when I hike on tomorrow. 

I’m really loving every day, every mile, and every hiker out here. 

“Name of your sex tape.” (AT2015 mile 69.6)

This is the best. Like actually the best. I’m having the time of my fucking life. 

Anyways, hello from the very new Top of Georgia hostel. It just opened last year, and it’s super clean and nice and the workers are friendly. They offered us soda and coffee the moment we walked in. And the guy who runs it is Sir-Packs-A-Lot, lolz.  

   The weather has been off the chain (i.e., not freeze ass cold, raining, or SNOWING), which is one of the benefits of starting late. It’s been sunny and clear except for a few sprinkles one day.    I’ve forgotten how much more brutal hiking is out here than out west. At least there aren’t any steps for giants (I’m looking at you, Bad Monkey!).  

So I’ve been hiking in tandem with another thruhiker, Postman, since we met at the Springer Mtn shelter the first night. I’ve been keeping my miles low and slow, good luck to all these dudes busting out 16 and 19 milers this early and blowing past me.

I’ve gone through a lot of firsts. First time tenting this trip (I’ve been a shelter rat mostly).  First town stop in Suches, GA, cute pudgy dogs included.  

  And first hostel, the one at Neels Gap. There were a bunch of old dudes staying there, but I had caught up with Postman because he was taking a zero.  Speaking of old dudes, I’m going to flip my shit if another one asks me if I’m okay or tells me to stay safe. I’m not the one who could drop dead from a heart attack with the next step. I may be a lady, but I not some fucking delicate flower. And I could do without all the racist comments. 

Though I did meet a couple cool older gentlemen from Mississippi while camping at Lance Creek before Blood Mountain. We had some good giggles, between their anecdotes about the south and me telling them they were sparkly clean.   I still can’t believe how beautiful it is out here, and how grateful I am to be here.        Dat swag doe!   Thanks to my sister and dad for coming down from Iowa to see me off, and to Wes for giving me a ride and being my moral support. Love y’all bunches!     Edited to add this pic, cause town is where it’s at.  

“Do you want a hug?” (AT 2015 Gear List)

I’m not going to wax poetic about any of my gear, cause ain’t nobody got time for dat, but you can correctly assume that I love all of my gear and selected each piece for particular reasons. If you have specific questions about any of this gear, ask in the comments.

Big Three

Tent: Six Moons Lunar Solo LE + stuff sack + 6 stakes + Tyvek sheet for groundcloth

Pack: ULA Catalyst + pack cover

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Sleep system: Western Mountaineering Ultralite down bag (20*) + stuff sack + silk liner + Thermarest Prolite Plus

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Clothing

Wearing: New Balance Leadville trail runners, Darn Tough socks (1), Under Armor compression shorts, Under Armor tank, Nike DriFit bra, black sleeve (to cover up my tattoo), buff

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Carrying: Nike Drifit running tights, Nike Drifit synthetic long sleeve shirt, Darn Tough socks (1), Patagonia synthetic puffy jacket, Patagonia down vest, Smart Wool beanie, Terramar wool long sleeve shirt, Terramar wool tights, Frogg Toggs rain jacket, cheap Walmart camp shoes

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Town: North Face town dress + small bottle of sunscreen (in a ziploc to keep safe from other smelly clothing)

*Latter two categories in a Zpaks dry bag

Cooking+

Jetboil + fuel canister + mini bic

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Water: Smart Water bottle + Sawyer Squeeze, 2L Platypus bladder

Gummy vitamins

Light My Fire spork

Miscellaneous

2015 Awol AT guidebook + ziploc + pen

Petzl headlamp

Stamps

TP bag

First aid+: bandaids, athletic tape, super glue, duct tape

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Toiletries: toothbrush, small tube of toothpaste, half a comb, Diva Cup, glasses (for emergencies, I’m wearing contacts)

ID + money holding cards

iPod + iPhone + headphones + charging cords

Leki Naya trekking poles

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Keep in mind that I’m using cold weather gear and will switch out bags and some clothing when I get to Virginia.

I developed a nice cold this morning, the result of a week of stress from packing and moving across the country and partying with all of my homies, so that’ll be fun. I start tomorrow!

TBS

It’s like Throwback Thursday, sort of.

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This is from when I started the AT in 2013. Yes, I was crying. I was happy though, promise.

One week from today I’ll be back there again, starting a new AT adventure.

You can tell something is happening, judging from how much of a hot mess our house is.

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“In July neither women nor snails.”

Hey creepers. Long time no talk. How’s it hanging?

In anticipation of doing this for six months while on the AT, I’m writing this post from my phone. For one, definitely expect shorter posts, I don’t want to get carpal tunnel or anything. Also, if it’s too challenging to do otherwise, all the photos might go at the beginning or end of posts.

I’m currently back in Utah, “enjoying” my last couple of months here. I had been in Tennessee since December though. I went on a couple of hikes there, which would have been way more if I had brought proper cold weather clothes, but whatevs. So that’s what we’re talking about today.

The first was on MLK day (whoah long ass time ago). I went with a couple of furry friends, and their non-furry owners, to House Mountain. This is probably the most decent hike that’s close to Knoxville. There are only a few miles of trail total, but they’re somewhat steep and have good views of the surrounding countryside. It was also a goooooorgeous day.

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Then in early February, we had a ladies-only hiking experience at Frozen Head State Park. This park is also really close to Knoxville, but has a lot of trails, some of which are rather extreme. There’s a badass ultramarathon called Barkley hosted here every year that only a handful of people have ever even finished.

Because we’re way too chill for that shit, we just did a few miles on Panther Branch and Emory Gap trails to the falls. We ate a lot of baguette and I managed to not hurt myself using a stick as a baseball bat.

There was so much water! Luv it. Something Utah lacks and I always miss.

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Elf.

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I wish we could say this came from brushing a black bear, but it was just lying on the ground.

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A few more.

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Besides that, I’ve done no outdoors things of note. And I effectively stopped working out and started couch potato training. It was awesome but now I’m going to get my ass in gear to prep for the AT. Training for the AT is mostly pointless, because within the first three weeks you get trained, but I kind of want some baseline fitness. I’m going to swim and stationary bike, and hike up Logan Canyon as often as possible.

BTW, using my phone for posting is kinda fucking annoying. And my phone is only able to upload about five photos before it times out. Useless.

Expect both a general gear list post and an AT-specific post in the near future. I’m out. Have a good week, so as many beers as that entails.

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