Zero, semi productive day

My knees were pretty bashed up this morning, and the right one was noticeably swollen. The guys went ahead without me today which is totally fine, I’ll rejoin them tomorrow.

Got a package from home today which contained my hammock bug netting, the Jacks ‘R’ Better tarp tensioners I’d ordered, a Union Jack patch, and some other goodies – including a small coin-like token with an angel stamped on it; my very own trail angel.

Spent most of today watching TV and resting. I sewed on the patch and it looks great.

Back to resting.

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The Captain’s Gaf: zero

Dan has an awesome Polaris Ranger ATV and took some of us for a spin around the neighborhood; dirt tracks, hillsides, and steep ups ‘n downs. We had a blast, totally awesome bouncing around and whipping through trees and over gravel roads (I took video of the whole ride, it was epic). Afterwards we popped round to see Dick and Suzie, a really nice couple that live in the same private riverside community. We chit chatted for about a half hour and headed back to Dan’s gaf.

We took a trip to REI later in the day and I picked up some new trail runners, La Sportiva Wildcats. My other shoes don’t provide enough support under and around my heel/ankle and I spent a good half hour with the footwear rep.

Tie Dye and I went food shopping for dinner at Walmart, and I got to drive Cap’s 6.7L Ford F250 – it’s a freaking beast.

Back at the cabin, the fire pit was blazing and Alfalfa wanted his head shaved; I obliged, of course. Ken Jolley pitched in with the shaving as I snapped a pic. A great steak, pasta and salad feast quickly ensued.

We chilled by the fire towards the end of the night.

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Zero #2 in Newport TN

I took another day off to rest my left ankle and a tendon on the top of my right foot; I was also expecting a package from home which had my Warbonnet Blackbird hammock and UQ – so excited to hang again.

Nothing really to report other than I did a little more laundry after a hot and sticky 3 mile walk to the post office to mail my tent etc back home. I was totally not comfortable sleeping on the floors in the shelters, so I can’t imagine I’d be any happier in the tent – I just can’t sleep on those NeoAir pads, they’re too thin. I got a hair cut, also – #1 buzz cut. Perfect. I picked up some tortillas and Babybel cheese from Walmart on the way home.

I joined Tie Dye, Captain Dan, and Tank (formerly just Tom – another hiker I named!) for dinner at a local steakhouse and we polished off an entire plate of ribs each.

I called Melissa to confirm a time for a shuttle back to Davenport Gap: she’d be at the hotel at 8:30am. Sweet.

I got to have some time with my honey over FaceTime, and I loved it. I’m glad I’m done with the Smokies and the lack of cell signal; it’s nice to be able to call home and chit chat with my better half; I miss us.

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Zero #1 in Newport, TN

I must have slept like a rock as I woke up in the same position as I’d fallen asleep – on my back, one arm on top of the sheets, the other underneath. My watch told me it was 7:15am, and I had no mouse shit by my head – brilliant.

Sweeping back the curtain I gazed upon the 6,000’+ Smokies ridge lines in the distance; my arms goosebumped, I couldn’t believe I was hiking on top of them only 24 hours ago. Majestic, they looked down upon on my humility with a nod of completion. I could stare at them for hours, they’re beautiful, but I’m glad they’re behind me.

My ankle took quite a beating over the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been nursing it like a baby. One thing I’ve learned very early on is that my feet are the only things that are going to get me to Katahdin. I can work through the mental stress, and the athletic requirements are becoming easier each day I’m out on the trail; I can’t believe how fit I’m feeling.

I emptied my food bag on the bed and went through everything I have; three days of food, that’ll get me to Hot Springs with no problem. Wifey is sending me some more food items like Ramen and taters so I’ll be set for another couple of days beyond that. I’m also getting my hammock back, this time opting for the Warbonnet Blackbird. I figured I may as well go for the WBBB now as its getting warm and it has the built in bug netting. It also has the foot box in the bottom which I’m really looking forward to; it means I can lie on a diagonal and sleep soundly and comfortably.

Tie Dye and I headed to Sagebrush steakhouse and pounded some appetizers while we waited for Captain Dan; he was on his way.

Seeing Cap walk through the door was awesome – I hadn’t seem him in three days, he’d lost a ton a weight – and looked really great.

Sat here with my two friends, I’m reminded why the AT holds such sentiment for many: it’s the people. Everybody is going through this; the pain, the aches, and getting in our own heads. It’s tough, but it’s so bloody rewarding – and when you can share that with someone you trust, well, it’s pure unadulterated friendship.

I also got to FaceTime with my wife, a complete and utter treat. Each day brings a heavier heart, new thoughts of her, of us. I can’t believe I’m away from our life together in NY; I feel responsible for what she’s going through. Like me, she’s going through her own journey and it’s difficult to know she has bad days – there’s nothing I can do to abate those feelings. Well, there is actually… I could get off the trail. Ironically, she’s one of the main reasons that I’m still on the AT. Her constant and unwavering support is extraordinary, as strong as oak, and she lifts my spirit with her positivity.

My spirits are lifted after speaking to her. We were in great moods.

I’m going to hit the sack very comfortably tonight. Wife, friends, a full belly, and a clean bed sans mouse poop.

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Zero in Gatlinburg

St. Croix, B Rocket and I headed out for the ACE (all you can eat) breakfast at Bennett’s down the street around 9:00am. I hit the buffet like a bull in a china shop and walked back to our booth with a plate high and wide with sausage, bacon, eggs, biscuits, gravy, and some other fixings; large glasses of OJ and water, along with cups of coffee filled the remaining space on the table.

Breakfast woolfed, we headed down the main drag to Walgreens and picked up some essentials: toothpaste, razor and shaving foam (I was ridding my face of everything except the stache again), an AC/USB plug for my iPhone, and some other crap.

Onto the NOC to pick up some trail food and new socks (I’ve lost a small clothes bag which contained my Marmot mittens/gloves, two pairs of socks and a pair of skids; Steve’s (Aquone Hostel) bandana was also in that bag, so I’m f*cking livid.

We checked out of the hostel — given it’s a dump — and checked into the Park Place Condos next door where Tie Dye, Cap, Mike, and Tom had gotten a room. The rooms were amazing: laundry room inside each condo, two separate bedrooms (one with two twins, the other with a king), two bathrooms (the master had a jacuzzi), larger living room, full kitchen with dishwasher and fridge, stove and plenty of cupboards. All the balconies backed onto a gorgeous river which flowed right through the town. It was a far cry from the previous night on in the hotel where nothing worked. I baggsied the king to myself.

Dinner was a feast of Pizza Hut, and all four of us pounded our pies: St. Croix actually finished an entire large sized (14″) “Supreme”. I got the meat sweats with two slices of my “Meat Supreme” to go and almost passed out.

A rain storm blew in and turned the street into a river. Walking back in the rain we threw our wet clothes in the tumble dryer back at the condo and hit the sack after some final food bag tweaking. B Rocket’s flip flops has turned into skis on the wet pavement, fun times.

Tomorrow we are getting a lift from Dave “Griztrax” Landreth back to Indian Gap Road.

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Cabin in the Woods, zero day

After the battered knees and swollen left ankle, I felt it prudent to zero in Stecoah Valley, specifically at the Cabin in the Woods. Cap insisted on sleeping outside on the porch sofa, claiming he’d have a sound night of sleep. I made sure I took a pic of him in the morning; it had dropped to 28°F.

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Tie Dye, Cap, and I had a relaxing day which was kicked off with an excellent breakfast of biscuits and sausage gravy, bacon and eggs – thank you so much, Donna!

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Donna dropped us off at Fontana around lunch and we grabbed a burger and some wings, whilst also resupplying for our five days through the Smokies day after tomorrow. We took a walk around the Lodge as we have a room booked for tomorrow evening.

The evening was a quiet one with dinner at Stecoah Diner down the road from the cabin; good Southern grub and Donna treated me to a cold bottle of Guinness when we got back home.

We’re packed and ready to go back on the trail tomorrow.

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Zero day #1

Woke up to a pretty crappy weather front that had made its way through Georgia during the night, so [newly-named] Tie Dye and I decided to take a zero (a day of no hiking miles) at the cabin we’d snagged the night before. Obie and Turtle decided that they’d face the rain, and after we got back our clean clothes from George — one half of the lovely couple that runs the Blood Mountain Cabins — they packed up and headed out. I think they’re trying to make it to Low Gap by tonight, and we made soft arrangements to meet in Hiawaassee.

After seeing them off I bumped into Scootini and Olive Oil inside the outfitters; Scootini had mentioned yesterday that she, too, would take a zero if the weather turned sour, so she took the third space in the cabin (they hold four each, max). Olive Oil definitely wanted the fourth spot. Cool, full house again with friends.

It’s 12:45pm on a rainy and cold Saturday March 23, and I’m sat in my hiking shorts and my new AT t-shirt watching Chasing Amy.

Got to speak to my better half this morning at least — big smile on my face and a huge shout out to my honey!

(edit) Tie Dye just came back from the store with the news that there’s a tornado warning in effect for tomorrow… Damn. I was not planning on taking a zero this soon into my thru-hike, never mind two days.