Day 30 ZERO
We took a zero day on leaving the Smokies with a group of friends from K2 (the company I am on extended leave from). Stayed in a beautiful cabin in the mountains and had a chilled and relaxing time. Perfect at the end of the first month and much needed. However over night the weather hit and the roads were in heavy ice and snow. Fortunately with the help of a few local lads we managed to get the car out of the mountains and headed back to the trail.
Day 31 238.1 – 243.8
We started later than intended and headed out of davenport gap. Who ever said it gets easier after Georgia, or was it easier after Clingmans, or easier after the Smokies…..well where ever it is people keep saying it gets easier from it wasn’t today. Going through the I-40 underpass and straight into a long steep climb and back into the snow. We managed just over 5 mile before we started to lose daylight and made camp.
Day 32 243.8 – 255.9
Waking to a freezing morning we set off in the icy snow and continued climbing. Unfortunately I slipped on a stream of ice hidden under the snow and pulled something in my back. The day consisted of slush, mud, ice and snow and every slip aggravated my back more and more. We still managed a 12 mile day and even summited Max Patch Bald which had amazing views and was a great place to camp……except we wanted to push on and stayed closer to a shelter.
Day 33 255.9 – 267.3
Again a cold morning and I felt my back was recovering…..until that first slip on the slushy snow and back to the pain. I started popping Vitamin I and continued for another 12 mile day. We wanted to try a 15 so we could get closer to Hot Springs but unfortunately my back and the daylight put a stall on that.
Day 34 267.3 – 273.9
Hot Springs…..my back was killing me and I was slow hiking the 6.6 mile into Hot Springs, over 5 hours and in pain. It didnt help when I very nearly stood on a snake which was at least 1 meter in length and scared the willys out of me when it jumped up and moved!!! We went straight to the Laughing Heart Hostel and booked in. Originally the plan was to get our resupply and head on the trail but I had to rest. We ate the famous 12oz Hiker Burger at the diner and took a room.
Day 35 ZERO
My back was no better so I decided to rest for the day. If we pushed on I would be slow, in pain and potentially end the hike early. The Local ministries (Hiker Ridge) kindly gifted me an hour in the hot spring mineral spa and I took full advantage. The jet on my back certainly did help and although there is still an “issue” it is a lot better. Right now we are trying to arrange a slack-pack day tomorrow and see if we can get back on the trail while also nursing my back to health.
No one said hiking the AT was fun! Its a challenge, you have to overcome your mind and keep going, not give up at the earliest hurdle. Rain, cold, snow, mist, sleet, hunger, climbs, pain, sad, unhappy times are all balanced with the most beautiful amazing views, with blessings of people who truly care and make a difference, of a comradeship with fellow hikers who experience exactly the same as you experience. That’s life on the AT!