287.9 Miles (Including ~200 miles that follow closely or are on the North Carolina border)
The Roan Highlands
Thirty days into my Appalachian Trail thru hike, I found myself in the little town of Erwin, Tennessee. The day I hiked into Erwin was one of the hottest days thus far and I was anxious to find some AC and a shower. Noro virus had been running rampant among the thru-hiking community so instead of staying at Uncle Johnny's Nolichucky Hostel, Kenny and I opted to get a cheap motel room right outside of town. While it was nice to have a bed and AC, we spent much of the day walking around getting all of our town chores done. Despite the fact that Erwin is small, everything is spread out so it took us nearly all day to get everything done.
We arrived back at our motel room in the middle of the afternoon. I was beyond ready for a shower and even though it was in the mid 80s outside, I cranked the hot water in the shower all the way up. I noticed as I undressed there was a full length mirror in the bathroom. This is the first time I had seen myself in a full length mirror since leaving home. If it weren't for my own face staring directly back at me, I would not have recognized my body at all. Thirty days and my body had changed. It was lean again and muscle definition was starting to appear in my abs and thighs. I hadn't seen this body since my days of being an athletic teenager. Hmmm, body by Little Debbie, I thought to myself. I'll take it!
The morning that we ascended Roan Mountain was wet, windy and cold. We had camped the night before at the Clyde Smith shelter so we had already climbed Little Rock Knob and then had made the 2 mile descent into Hughes Gap. The climb out of Hughes Gap felt long. The trail was heavily eroded in sections and there was water streaming down in other spots. I slipped on slimy rocks over and over again which resulted in many rolled ankles. The trail twisted and turned through a dense spruce forest making it feel like it would never end. It wasn't raining but there was a steady mist coming down and as we gained elevation the wind picked up which made it that much colder. The trees opened up as we gained the ridge which on a nice day would have led to some nice views but today all we would see was the inside of a cloud. I continued to slip multiple times as I hastily made my way over slippery grass covered rocks. With a promise of no view from the top I just wanted to quickly make my way up and over the summit and begin my descent out of this wet cloud. In my haste I slipped again and then tripped and landed in a puddle of thick mud. ARRRRGGGHHHHHHHHH went off inside my head as I quickly stood up. Out of pure frustration I went to heave my trekking pole on the ground but somehow released it in an upward motion. Before I knew what was happening, a gust of wind took my trekking pole and lifted it high into the air. It literally sailed in the wind and landed some 30 feet up in a tree. Kenny stared at me dumbfounded. "Oh my god. What have I done?" I whispered.
The tree was on a steep embankment and surrounded by thick, thorny brush. Kenny proceeded to pick up large rocks and heaved them up at my pole in hopes of knocking it free. He was successful in hitting my pole numerous times but it stubbornly stayed put. Finally we were able to find a long branch and Kenny waded through the thick brush and poked it free. We immediately laughed about it and continued to laugh it about it the rest of the day. That was the last time I threw anything. Lesson learned.
The Rest of Tennessee
Einstein and Baby Girl
The last time I saw Einstein and Baby Girl was north of Damascus, VA. We had camped with them off of the Creeper Trail. Einstein was going to turn around the next morning and go back to Damascus. He was running low on money and needed to find some work and he also had to get Baby Girl to the vet and there was a vet there that gave discounts to veterans. As we continued north I kept hoping we would run into them again but we never did. I'm glad I got to know him. Russ if you ever read this-I hope all is well with you and Baby Girl.