**This is my first actual post on the blog. The previous 3 entries were migrated over from my page on TrailJournals.com. I found that site to be difficult to navigate as a reader and challenging to manage on my phone. I look forward to posting more frequently!
Today marks a full month on the trail, about 275 miles in. I’m enjoying Trailfest this weekend in Hot Springs, NC, a charming festival in a small, picturesque mountain town. On Friday evening I caught up with an old friend who lives nearby in Asheville over a mound of fresh fish and chips. I enjoyed a farmer’s market on Saturday (great for Second Breakfast after some quintessential diner food), watched my friends compete in a Chopped-style cooking challenge, and entered an ice cream eating competition to lethargically enjoy some dessert. There was a rubber ducky race in the river but I napped through that situation. A pancake breakfast this morning helped to ring in the rainy Sunday.
The Hiker Hunger has hit. Eating during the first few weeks was surprisingly nauseating at times. You know that your body is fatigued and needs calories, but your metabolism and appetite have yet to catch up. Finishing that second serving of mildly chicken-flavored rice is an exercise in studied breathing, swallowing gags, and sheer force of will. This is no longer an issue.
My daily trail diet currently includes
- Breakfast: 2 pop tarts or 2 packets of oatmeal/grits
- Day snacks: 2-3 bars (ex. Clif Bar, granola bar, protein bar), 1-2 candy bars (often Snickers), 1 Honeybun (550-680 calories, horrifying in any other circumstance)
- Lunch: Jerky or pepperoni, crackers, and cheese (about 1/4 block of something sharp like white cheddar that will survive several days without refrigeration, albeit a bit sweaty)
- Pre-dinner: Trail mix and Skittles
- Dinner: 2-3 servings of a rehydrated meal (Knorr Rice or Pasta Side, Mountain House, Ramen, etc), 1-2 servings of rehydrated potatoes as needed, and the smallest number of Oreos I can get myself to eat
- More Skittles and about 1L worth of powdered Gatorade spread throughout
- My food bag must be hung immediately upon completion of dinner to prevent further eating, around 6-6:30 pm.
I recently completed the 72 mile stretch through Great Smokie Mountains National Park. This included Clingman’s Dome, the highest point on the AT at 6625 ft. The views in the Smokies have been some of the most expansive and stunning I have seen in the county. The alpine forest seemed to come alive in hundreds of shades of green. I have never been the most “patriotic” of citizens, per se, but I’m really fucking in love with America right now.
Supposedly around 40% of thru hikers have dropped off by Hot Springs. I’ve dealt with an allergic reaction rash (a trip to the doctor in Gatlinburg, TN and some steroids cleared everything right up), several rolled ankles, and a rough knee-meets-slippery-rock moment, but thoughts of quitting have yet to enter my mind. If anything, the intermittent days I spend hobbling forward at a snail’s pace give me conviction that I can tough it out for the long run. The pain can be severe, but it passes. It can be endured.
Because then you meet an elderly former section hiker named Toe at Motel 6 who wears his mummified toe on a necklace–and yes he would LOVE to show you the severed toe and the stump, no need to ask–and you can’t imagine missing one single challenging moment of this deeply bizarre, spectacular adventure.