It was bittersweet leaving Hot Springs; it’s such a nice town, but if I had stayed longer then I probably would have packed up my stuff and moved out to a local farm in those mountains. I don’t call it the vortex for nothing, you wake up one day and all of a sudden it’s four days later and you wonder how the heck time went by that fast. While I was in town I heard multiple stories of AT thruhikers who went off trail to live there; one met a girl in town, jumped off trail, and married her. Crazy right? It felt good to be hiking again.
Dirty J and I headed back to the trail at noon, and it switched us back and forth straight up the mountain for about two miles while the humidity caused me to drip sweat. Along the way there was a really cool dammed up pond with a little waterfall spilling over the top where I stopped and ate some candy to enjoy the view. Life is about the little things too. We walked six miles that evening before we set up camp. There was just enough time to get out tents set up before the rain came, thank goodness.
The next four days we covered sixty miles, hiking fifteen miles a day to get to Erwin, TN with the limited food supply we carried. It was tough, but it became easier each day despite the soreness of my muscles. The first day I became tired after ten miles, but each day following I was able to walk further and put in more miles before feeling any pain. My muscles were growing stronger, and I was losing more weight than I could eat calories. My hip belt won’t tighten anymore, so all of its weight now sits on my shoulders. Chaffing, a new thing to me, has begun to occur on my shoulders from sweat and the mesh rubbing against my skin, but a little moleskin and I’ll be fine.
I came into Erwin expecting to resupply yesterday afternoon and head back out to the trail, but first chow down at a Mexican restaurant. My plans were spoiled while walking to the restaurant when Dirty J and I heard a horn, almost like a police siren behind us. We turned around and behold, Ms. Janet’s huge green van with its smiley face on top pulling into the drive behind us. She asked where we were headed and replied back, “Well do you want to go there or do you guys want to go to the better Mexican restaurant with us?” Ask any thru-hiker to choose between a van packed full with hikers and a one mile walk, you’ll 9/10 times hear the van. So she drove all ten or so of us in her van to Los Jalapeños where I stuffed myself with as much chips and salsa I could hold. She then shuttled us to the Walmart, and waited for all of us to resupply. She’s as awesome as everyone told me she was, and I love getting to know her more and more each time I get the chance to hangout with her.
After resupplying she invited all of us to stay at her house in exchange for a little yard work, which was so easy granted there were ten of us. Huggybear mowed the whole lawn himself-I must give props to him for that work because he was killing it even with the sun heavy shining on him, sweating and so sunburned already. We all picked up sticks and swept the driveway, and did the best we could to make her yard look awesome before she returned with a few more hikers. I eventually retired to the kitchen where I felt right at home cooking dinner for us all. I made spaghetti with tons of fresh vegetables and garlic bread. The other hikers thanked me over and over for the dinner, but little could they understand how great it made me feel to cook a home cooked meal and to have people to enjoy it with. Afterwards the boys supplied Neapolitan ice cream and sugars cones, the cherry on top. I sat and socialized with everyone until Ms. Janet pointed out the tape covering my feet. She was almost distressed at how rough they looked; I got a good laugh out of it. She handed me a bag of epsom salt and demanded I soak them, and it did make them feel a million times better.
I pitched tent out back and slept without my rain fly so I could look at the stars in the clear night. It was one of the best nights of sleep I’ve had so far on the trail.
I woke up this morning before anyone and hopped in the shower only to be welcomed by a giant wolf spider at my feet. I ran out and begged one of the guys to kill it for me-I am thankful for Soco who despises spiders as much as me.
He and Chips both cooked breakfast for us all, biscuits and gravy served with bacon, sausage, and scrambled eggs. We all somehow managed to squeeze in at the table. It was a tramily breakfast!
Right now I’m headed to a bluegrass festival in Erwin to listen to some music and eat some barbecue before I head back to the trail. I plan to be in Roan Mountain, TN by Wednesday afternoon where I plan to make another post. Stay cool!