Let me start with something I didn’t include in the last post. When Nicole and I came down off of Blood Mountain, we were wet, cold, and chilled to the bone. The hostel at the bottom of the mountain was our light at the end of the tunnel, except when we got there, it was closed for renovations. We saw the tents pitched behind the building, blowing fiercely in the wind and rain, and knew that there was no way we could do it with our frozen hands and soaked gear. The guys working there, probably because they sensed that tears would start on my behalf, looked left and right and emphasized that ‘the bunk rooms were closed’ before letting us crash on the floor in there on the ‘down low.’
The reason I’m including this is not to brag, but because a few days ago I divulged this secret confession to a fellow hiker, to which he burst out laughing. It turns out that the ‘renovations’ were really disinfections; the hostel had been closed because a group of hikers staying there had been plagued with the norovirus. Norovirus is a stomach bug that leaves you with vomiting and diarrhea for 24 hours, and is easily spread through shared spaces, such as a hostel, privy, or shelter. You can imagine it spreads pretty easily on the trail.
Luckily, Nicole and I managed to stay illness free. Our luck continued as we got a hitch into town within 5 minutes a few days later. Enter Dezzy, our driver. He was a young college guy who immediately told us that he had been praying all day for God to bring him people he could ‘talk about Jesus with.’ He was a super nice kid, and even prayed for our safety.
Side note: let it be known that Nicole is endearingly the absolute worst hitchhiker of all time. Of the three ‘free’ rides we’ve gotten, she paid every single one, because she felt bad that they went out of their way. Neil Young has to search no further for his heart of gold.
The reason we were hitching into town wasn’t so lucky. Nicole had taken a hard fall coming down from Rocky Mountain, and the X-rays showed that she ended up fracturing her foot. The day of the fall, she hiked 11 miles, and the next day, she hiked 6 before we made it into town. She barely complained, and was more worried about slowing me down. Like I said, heart of gold. After much discussion, we agreed that the best thing to do would be for her to come off the trail for a few weeks and heal, while I carry on until she can meet up with me. I know that we will be back a dynamic duo as soon as possible. Her leaving has been really hard on the both of us; this is something we’ve planned for years and we truly have a great system of support between us. We are doing our best to stay positive and to make it work.
A group we had been hiking off and on with took me in with open arms, so I didn’t have to worry about being alone on the trail. The thing that’s hard is that everyone hikes at different paces and for different distances, and has plans for days off that don’t always coincide. That group eventually got off for a visit in Asheville, and I said goodbye to another friend in Franklin. It’s amazing how close I felt in such a little amount of time. The trail is weird like that. I think it’s because you’re stripped away of all the formalities, boundaries, and small talk. You form very sincere relationships very quickly, even if you don’t know their last name or what they do for a living.
Besides the new relationships I’ve formed, another newness is the strike of hiker hunger. Because you’re burning thousands of calories, and probably because you don’t have access to certain foods for amounts of time, hikers develop an absolutely huge and insatiable diet. I had always heard about hiker hunger in blogs and the like, but I think my own is starting to develop. At my most recent stay in town, I immediately ordered and ate an entire cheesesteak, a side of fries, a side of onion rings, drank a glass of beer, and a large chocolate shake. The thing is, it didn’t leave me feeling uncomfortable. In fact, it didn’t even leave me feeling full. My finished plate left me craving a Mcgriddle and eyeballing everyone else’s dishes, asking, ‘you gonna eat that?’ (To which the answer was always, ‘obviously’).
Another great example of this was also in Franklin, when a few other hikers and I were sitting around enjoying some beer and live music. Someone at the next table placed a basket of fries in the middle of us because he had ordered extra. If you can envision a pack of hungry wolves attacking prey, then you can easily paint a picture of how we went after those fries.
I am writing this post at almost 150 miles into my journey, now in North Carolina. It is raining pretty hard, but I am safe in my tent. In a couple of days, we will be in the Smoky Mountains. Life is good and it is simple.
Happy reading and happy hiking, my friends!