Deer Park Shelter to Spring Mountain Shelter
Miles Hiked: 14.2
AT Milage: 285.9
This morning we all woke up around 6am in the shelter. I felt something crawling inside my shirt. I went to scratch it and I grabbed a bug inside my sleeve. I whipped off my shirt as fast as I could and threw it outside the shelter. I’m not sure what bug it was, but it’s funny how much I cared about it when I’ve been sleeping and living in really dirty places for such a long time at this point. I didn’t sleep well last night. I could hear so many mice crawling around and making loud noises as I lay there awake. I woke Emma and Caroline up in their tent and made a carnation breakfast with water. We hiked 3 miles downhill to town. Everyone was very excited to reach Hot Springs, NC since it had been such a long time since we ate any substantial food. Emma and Caroline weren’t as entertained because they just came from civilization. We all ate breakfast at the Smoky Mountain Diner (Myself, Emma, Caroline, Flamingo, Cocoa, Flip, Locks, and Locks’s friend from out of town). I ordered a huge breakfast skillet plus a BLT sandwich with an egg on it. My eyes were bigger than my stomach. I couldn’t eat it all so I shared most of it with Emma who didn’t want to order anything. It was delicious food, large servings, and a great price.
After breakfast, I made us all stop at an outfitter in town so I could buy some post cards and mail them out. Emma and Caroline filtered some water from the French Broad River. For a moment we considered going tubing because we saw a local place that had tube rental available for $20. Emma and Caroline came out to hike, so I didn’t want to make them go on extraneous adventures. I think it is something I could have convinced other thru hikers to do if I stayed in town for a zero. As soon as we hit the trail, it was an uphill hike almost all day until we reached camp. Every-time I go into a town there is always a drastic elevation change going downhill into it, and a difficult uphill going out. What makes the uphill worse is that usually my pack is at its heaviest weight filled with a new load of food to make it to the next town. Emma and Caroline brought me food for my resupply. I told Emma what I needed her to buy and she got it for me. It is the heaviest food bag I have ever carried. It’s hard to get an idea of how much food I need unless I see it. I should only be carrying about 5 days of food but instead I think I have 9 days. My pack has never been heavier in all of my backpacking outings. Today was extremely difficult because of all the extra weight that slowed me down. This was probably more advantageous for Caroline and Emma because they don’t have trail legs and wouldn’t be able to keep up with me if I hiked my usual pace.
I loved getting to catch up with Emma and Caroline today. They are my favorite people to backpack with. We got some great views of down town Hot Springs and the river when we hiked the first mountain out of town. Eventually we came to a dammed pond which was very interesting but also kind of gross. Emma drank some water from it (after filtering) and it smelled like sulfur. I meant to tell her not to get her water from a stagnant source if she can avoid it, but she was so thirsty and there weren’t any other close reliable sources. Later we came upon a really nice fire tower which was a surprise because it wasn’t even in the guide book. It was brand new, probably built last year. Most of the fire towers so far have been extremely sketchy so it was nice to climb up something sturdy for a change.
By the time we got to camp my feet were killing me. We took plenty of breaks today but I think my heavy pack weight and extended amount of time on my feet due to slow hiking did me in. I can’t wait to take my first zero days. I have to get off trail on the 15th because I am in my best friend’s wedding. I am so glad I will get a chance to rest my sore feet for a solid four days. The wedding is the same weekend of “Trail Days” a traditional and exciting AT hiker festival that happens every year in Damascus Virginia. I’m really sad that I have to miss it for the wedding. It is a great chance to catch up with other hikers you haven’t seen in a long time and meet many famous AT hikers and gear company start ups. I might try to go another year when I’m not on trail but it won’t be the same. Regardless, getting off trail will be a great rest for my body, but probably be difficult to cope with being away from trail and the shock of how hard backpacking is again when I get back on.
We are expecting heavy rains and severe weather for the next few days, starting at 3am tonight. It will be interesting.