Hiya, so last time I checked in I was in the silly town of Erwin, TN. We hung out at Uncle Johnny's hostel most of the afternoon and finally hit the trail around 5pm. Due to the late start our goal was only Curly Maple Gap shelter about five miles away. The hike out of Erwin was pleasant, it followed a stream most of the way until we hit a stupidly steep climb right before the shelter. Those climbs that are so steep, where the ground is in your face, suck all the energy out you. When we got to the shelter, it was packed but luckily most of us were able to squeeze in. Like towns, shelters are fun gathering places for hikers. We spread out so much on the trail, but when you hit a shelter or a town sometimes you see hikers you haven't seen in weeks. The next morning we were, of course, the last ones to pull the trigger and leave. We hiked up to Beauty Spot, a grassy bald with a great view. We spent 2 hours up there with Blues Clues and Lighthouse playing Ninja and sunbathing. We still had Unaka Mountain to climb over. I decided I didn't want to carry water up the mountain, as I knew there was a stream on top, and I also had about three pounds of gummy bears in my bag for our 'zero in the woods' day.....
We all decided in Erwin that we should take a zero in the woods (a zero is a day you hike no miles, a nero is a day you hike very little miles - at this point I consider any day below double digits a nero). We normally take our zeros in town but we thought it would be fun to actually just sit and enjoy the woods for a day without the need to get up and hike. We all agreed to pack in 'shareables,' so we could sit and eat candy all day long. We found a pretty little apple orchard with a stream, set up camp, and dumped pounds of food in the center for everyone to pick through as they please. It was awesome. I will definitely be doing more zeros in the woods, minus the gummy bears as they were horribly heavy and a hiker should never really choose gummy bears over water.
During the zero, while cooking dinner, Pac-man either knocked over his bottle of fuel or the log he was leaning against shifted - whatever the course of events - Pac-man started himself on fire. The entire right side of his down jacket, including his hand, went aflame. Luckily, Pants on Fire jumped on top of him before any damage was done while Hollywood and I put out the rest of the fire. Other than that little incident, the zero in the woods was one of the most relaxing days I've had on this trip, and I've had a lot of them.....like the next day when we only walked three miles and ended up at some lady's house playing cards most of the afternoon and then getting shuttled to a Mexican restaurant. Connie (or CC) runs a hostel in the middle of nowhere and will take hikers into town (I'm honestly not sure which town or state I was in) to eat. Hollywood, Pants and I ended up spending the night at her hostel and hiking out to meet the rest of the boys the next morning. Daystar had hiked ahead during our zero to meet up with a friend in Boone.
Unfortunately we woke up to some pretty shitastic weather. We had a little over 16 miles to Overmountain shelter, and during my climb over Roan Mountain (which is known for it's cold temps) it started to snow on me. Then it started to sleet on me. We were frozen and soaked by the time we got to the full shelter, and it only got worse. Overmountain is an old barn that has been converted to a shelter, so the top level is completely enclosed, but the assholes that were already up there set up their tents INSIDE the shelter. They double sheltered, which is just a rude thing to do because it leaves less room for other cold wet hikers, like us. We ended up have to sleep on an exposed platform under the barn. It wasn't warm. We woke up to frozen solid boots that took 15 minutes to pound out, frozen water bladders/hoses and our sleeping bags were dusted with snow. It was blizzarding outside and I was seriously dreading hiking the nine miles in my ice block boots to the road where Daystar was going to pick us up, but I didn't really have a choice.
What we didn't see coming was the four miles of exposed balds we had to walk over in the 40mph winds. That four miles was probably the most exciting/terrifying on the trail. It was impossible to walk straight as the wind bitch slapped us over and over again, and you couldn't see more than a few yards in front of you, I just followed the frozen footsteps of the hikers from the day before. We got to the road and were immediately escorted to the Best Western in Banner Elk by Daystar and her awesome friend Monica for hot showers and a sandwich party. The hike from Banner Elk to Damascus (where I currently am) was a tough one. The weather was still being an asshole and we put in a lot of long days. I hiked my longest day at 22.6 miles. I am also officially done with TN, my least favorite state so far. VA is going to be a lot easier than what I've hiked, so I am excited to get up to 30 mile days! I never thought I would be able to hike that much so it feels great that I am getting to that point. I'm going to be in Virgina for the next 550 miles or so. I'll be coming back to Damascus on the weekend of the 18th for Trail Days, the annual hiker festival. The big park turns into 'Tent City' as thousands of current and previous thru-hikers gather here to drink, eat and be merry for one awesome weekend and I can't wait. Sadly, Hollywood, Flugelhorn and Pac-man got off the trail yesterday to go do some trail work in Arkansas for a week. I hope they can hike fast to catch up with us when they get back on because we will miss them!!
But for now I'm gonna go grab some lunch with Daystar, Gribley and Pants and hike out of here, 5 days to Atkins. Tomorrow I will be hiking through Grayson Highlands State Park, where there is a herd of wild horses I plan on finding. I've got carrots:) Miss you all! Kisses!