Day 21 – April 8, 2017
Day 21! I’ve already been out here for 3 weeks – it feels so much longer yet so much shorter than that.
Some highlights / lessons learned / experiences of the last week or so:
- Day 14 (April 1): My trail family and I took a much-needed zero day at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC). I wanted to press on, but there was a beautiful/magical oasis of sunshine, a cool river, and friends that I couldn’t resist. Up to that point, it was my favorite “zero” on the trail.
- Day 15 (April 2): My legs were
thanking me for a day of rest, because we had to tackle a grueling, hot 3,500 foot climb the next day. Despite the difficulty, it was the most joyous hike on the AT! Either I got my trail legs, ate my Wheaties, or was on some amazing hiker/runner’s high. I put on my marathon running playlist and practically flew up the mountain. I was running (yes, literally running) on the flats / small declines, while also keeping an amazing pace on the ups. My body, mind, and spirit were overflowing with joy from the exercise, sunshine, and just being in nature that God so wonderfully made.
- Day 16 (April 3): The thunderstorm that went on from 10:30am-4:30pm was a reminder that not all things go according to plan. Instead of 12 miles, 7 of us traveling together arrived at a shelter 5 miles in, where we spent our day (and night) at. It was great to catch up on sleep, get to know each other more, and reflect. I learned the importance of valuing happiness and sunshine when it comes, because it doesn’t happen every day.
- Day 17 (April 4): Spring has sprung! At least, down in the valley… We ended our day at 2pm with our arrival at Fontana Village. The day was made even sweeter by ice cream sandwiches, salad (!), Munch’s mom visiting, a shower, and a game of sand volleyball. It was another slice of paradise.
- Day 18 (April 5): My original plan was to hit the trail in the morning and enter Smoky Mountain National Park, but that idea was slashed, after checking the weather in the mountains for that day. Storms, including thunder, hail, and 50mph+ gusts, were predicted to be scattered throughout the day, starting at 10:30am. For my safety (yet still reluctantly), I was forced to take another zero day. Once I accepted this (it took me quite a while to), I took advantage of it, with laundry, TV, and a long nap. Oh – and delicious Fontana Village biscuits! Even with rain in the forecast, I had high hopes of hitting the trail the next day.
- Day 19 (April 6): Fontana Village became my own Hotel California. With close to
freezing temperatures and rain (turning to snow at higher elevations), hiking up 4,500 feet to the SMNP would have been dumb. Wet and cold are a horrendous combination that would have been unavoidable. Since I hate mentally preparing for hiking in the rain, I was even more crushed and restless that we had to stay in, yet again. Velveeta and Pippin went out into it, but I knew I wouldn’t have gotten far, and my moral would have been much lower compared to sleeping inside in a heated, spacious, warm place.
- As the rain softly came down outside, I felt trapped. If I had running shoes with me, I would’ve been running around the Fontana Village property in no time (It’s a huge resort area with many cabins, activities, etc… think Dirty Dancing!). Also, noteworthy – the place was packed with either hikers, or more predominantly, VW Hatckback owners. Owners nationwide came yearly for a local gathering to drive the hills (who knew!).
- The day turned into one to remember as the 4 of us left (Waffles, Munch, Dilla, and I) weren’t able to get a room for the night. The staff felt bad about the influx of cold, roomless hikers, so they opened up the old admin building into a makeshift hostel. It had one bathroom and 5 random bedrooms. When Fontana Dam was under construction in the 1930’s, the building was a hospital/morgue! Eek! Rumor has it, the building is haunted.
- I took full advantage of this and scared Dilla when she walked out of the bathroom. Even funnier, 3 other hikers popped their heads around the corner (3 stooges style), one carrying a trekking poll – ready to take on a “ghost.” Haha!
- We rented a golf cart to drive around in the rain. Then, to top it all off, we watched Space Jam, put on by the Village. It was just us 5, some popcorn, and beers. After our Space Jam high, we went to dinner and had a really cool and open-perspective conversation on religion. All in all, it was a perfect last day!