April 27: The original plan for the weekend was for the guys (Slick, Coon, and SeaBiscuit) to spend the weekend with friends and family and to get back on the trail Monday afternoon, while the 3 hiking chicks would enjoy one day of downtime and get back on the trail Saturday morning. But with the weather forecast calling for rain all weekend and into much of the following week, Chiclet and Big Spoon were leaning toward taking the entire weekend off, as well.
I, on the other hand, felt my motivation draining out with each minute I spent on the sofa. The entire weekend just seemed like too much time to be off the trail. So on Saturday, I returned to the trail sans my hiking buddies, to keep that motivation in check. (Of course, now it looks like the joke is on me, since the weather forecast changed and it rained all weekend and then cleared up on Monday) But hey, at least I have my motivation intact!
I hit the trail around 12:30 to a light drizzle and hiked 11 miles to a Spring Mountain Shelter. For once, I got to a shelter that actually had room in it! Either the trail is thinning out, or everyone else was just smarter than me and stayed put until Monday.
April 28: Another rainy hiking day. Although it wasn't unpleasant. It was a light spring rain, the kind of rain I actually like to go for walks in. Of course, usually those walks aren't 15.4 miles long, and generally the rain has respite periods throughout the day. Not today. It was a steady rain all day and though it wasn't cold or windy, the trail conditions did begin to deteriorate by late afternoon. There were spots of standing water and lots of mud that got slippery and the day wore on. Unlike Saturday, I didn't see many other hikers out and spent a good part of the day hiking alone. By the time I reached Jerry Cabin Shelter, I was pretty wet and my boots were mud caked and heavy. I started getting shin splints from wearing those heavy boots!
Happily, I once again found a shelter with plenty of room. Donna and Legend had a nice warm fire going in the fireplace and we all sat together, drying our clothes, making our dinner, and comparing trail notes. The rain did taper off as night fell, and we were treated to a night symphony from some very noisy frogs!
April 29: The rain had finally stopped to a foggy, overcast day. I yo-yo'd back and forth with Donna and Legend all day. The temperature was mild, there was just enough cloud cover to keep cool. In other words, perfect hiking weather. Today I broke 20 miles for the first time! We had a few pretty big ups and downs, but the ground underfoot is less rocky, more dirt and pine needles. Camped in a low gap with my sort-of hiking buddies. This night, it was a concert by some coyotes and a barn owl.
April 30: Woke up feeling pretty ambitious and good. Headed out for the second over 20 miler in a row! It was a great day with lots of diverse terrain. Whereas for the past few days, I hadn't taken pictures, (since rain and fog aren't that picturesque unless you are in Paris or San Francisco) I took my time and took lots of pictures today. I walked over grasy balds that made me feel like I was in Ireland, through lush green forests, through some orchards, up a few steep inclines, and then down some very steep switchbacks into Erwin, TN. Though I took my time and had a good day, I do think the two 20's in a row was catching up with me, as that ankle that had been giving me trouble in Fontana Dam stared acting up again, and the shin splints came back, as well. By the time I stumbled into Erwin, I was exhausted and a bit disoriented. I walked right past the hiker hostel and onto the bridge, turned around, and to my delight, saw HawkEye waving to me from the porch of the hostel.
We had seen Subaru and HawkEye in Hot Springs and talked about meeting up on the trail on Saturday. Then, I heard that they were about an hour ahead of me Saturday and I estimated about a half day ahead on Sunday, and they had stayed at a hostel with Donna and Legend on Sat night. They had been my back up plan for same-speed hiking buddies until Chiclet, Big Spoon, and I cross paths again.
So I had a good shower, washed clothes, and ate an entire pizza by myself before falling asleeep in a cabin that I shared with a giant wolf spider.
May 1: I had a restless night last night. I was up several times because my feet were...hot. I actually got up and went to the bathhouse to run my feet under cold water to cool them off. So after the breakfast shuttle (ate 2 breakfast specials with 3 drinks!) as I packed up and got ready to get back on the trail, all I kept thinking was "I just want to soak my feet in a bathtub full of ice!" My feet and ankle were not injured. But as I headed toward the bridge to get back on the trail, it occured to me that my feet and ankle may become injured if I push it too hard.
So I made a sharp left and walked to the Holiday Inn where I have spent the day alternating between heat and ice, heat and ice, heat and ice. I'm hoping that I've used my second zero day wisely and staved off an injury.
Back to the trail tomorrow!