Day 31 – Demascus, Georgia – Lost Mountain Shelter — 15.2 miles
All the bunks were full last night so I slept on the couch and slept really well. I woke up around 6:30 from everyone getting ready and relaxed a little bit more on the couch. Eventually I got up, did a load of laundry, and got a ride from a lady from the hostel to Walmart so I could resupply. Spotter and Rain Man came along as well. We had a breakfast feast at McDonalds and then went across the street to resupply. We drove back to the hostel, got my food bag situated, and then chilled out with everyone for a couple hours before heading back onto the trail. The trail followed along the town before heading back into the woods and conveniently passed a Subway as well. I decided to get a sub and inside I saw Second Lunch and Unbreakable. We talked for a little bit before I ordered my sub and then I went outside and ate it. I thought about getting a second one to take out on the trail with me, but ended up opting for some chocolate and vanilla ice cream instead. After the ice cream I was fueled up and ready to hit the trail. My pack felt really heavy and I felt like I needed to take things slow and easy. After a mile I saw Second Lunch and Unbreakable sitting down taking a break so I went over and talked with them for a while. After about 20 minutes we got our legs moving again. The sun had been out all day, but I started to head some thunder in the distance. Over the next hour the sky darkened and the thunder seemed to be getting louder and closer. After about 5 miles in, at about 3:30 pm, I decided to put up my tent and stay dry if it rained. It was perfect timing because right as I put my rain fly on I started to feel drops. I got in my tent and it felt so good to lay down I actually fell asleep as the rain started to come down. I woke up around 5:30 and had a second win. I cooked up some pasta, packed up my tent, and then I was back on my trail. I got to the next shelter a few miles up and by that time it was 7. I knew the next shelter was another 6ish miles away and stood there for a minute debating on if I should push on or not. I decided to push on. It was pretty hilly and I felt like I was walking slow. Soon enough the sun set all the way and had to put my headlamp on. Time to night hike again. Everything was all good until I got to a stream that was overflown because of the rain. Usually you can hop from rock to rock and get across, but it was so flooded the only thing to do was go straight through. I didn’t want to get my shoes and socks soaked, so I decided to put my flip flops on and go through the stream. I figured there were going to be a bunch of streams like this (and I was right), so I decided to keep my flip flops on and hike the rest of the way which ended up being a little more than 3 miles. I couldn’t wait to get to the shelter and finally at about 11 pm I saw the sign for it and I went down and put up my tent. It felt so good to lay down. What an adventure that was.
Day 32 – Lost Mountain Shelter – Wise Shelter — 17.5
I woke up to all the other hikers getting their things ready. There were a bunch of people there. I guess I couldn’t see them all getting in so late. It was cloudy and drizzly as I broke down my tent and made breakfast. I had the carnation instant breakfast with protein powder and a couple pop tarts. I chatted with a few of the hikers before I finally hit the trail around 8:15, which is a little late for me. The trail was pretty muddy from the rain and my shoes were damp within minutes. A few miles in I walked through some pasture land and took a break to look at the cows grazing and hanging out in the woods. I was excited today because I was going to enter the Grayson Highlands, which has wild ponies living on the land. I kept walking and at about 11 the skies started clearing up and the sun slowly came out. I stopped to eat right before entering the highlands on top of a wide open bald. It was the nicest spot I’ve eaten lunch yet. I had a couple bagels with tuna and some other snacks which totaled over 1000 calories haha. I could have eaten more, but decided to keep walking. I entered the highlands through a gate and immediately saw a group of wild ponies eating grass in the distance. It was wide open and I could see mountains off in the distance everywhere I turned. When I passed the ponies I took some pictures and spent some time just watching them. You’re not supposed to pet or feed them and you have to be careful not to be behind them because if they feel threatened they’ll kick you. They did however come up to me and started to lick my arms and legs. Supposedly they like the taste of salt. The Highlands stretched for about 10 miles and has been the most aesthetically pleasing stretch of the trail so far. It was however very rocky and my feet were feeling it pretty badly. So, instead of doing the 24 miles I had planned, I decided to stop at the shelter 17 miles away so I could rest my feet and give my body a nice stretch. I continued my way down and saw a nice spot on a rock where I could sit down and look out for miles and miles. Looking out at layers of the mountains in the distance and groups of ponies grazing in the open gave me a feeling of appreciation for my life. I finally got to the shelter around 5 o’clock and there were already two hikers there for the night. To be honest I forget their names, but we had such a good talk about hiking, food, and other things. A kid and his dad who were section hiking from Georgia, stopped by the shelter to eat dinner and told stories of all his bear encounters and the way he told them made us all crack up. For dinner tonight I ate some rice and beans and put it in tortillas to make burritos. I washed it down with a couple packets of peanut m and ms and then was ready to call it a night. Not sure where I’m going to end up tomorrow, but I can’t wait to be on the trail again!
Day 33 – Wise Shelter – Partnership Shelter — 29.9 miles
First off, I have to say that today was the most beautiful day in regards to weather since being out on the trail. It was perfect. Sunny, 70’s, and a slight breeze to keep me cool even when I would warm up on uphill climbs. Waking up it was a bit chilly, probably from a stronger breeze and the sun not being out. As the day went on though it got nicer and nicer. I ate breakfast at the shelter and then headed out and stopped at the first stream to freshen up and brush my teeth. The beginning of the trail went through some exposed highlands and I saw a group of wild ponies for the last time. I stopped to watch them and gave my mom a call before hiking on. I was happy because after the first couple miles the trail became a lot smoother with not as many rocks and roots coming out of the ground. On a smoother surface you can increase your pace because there isn’t anything you have to look out for. Also, it’s much easier on your feet. There were two shelters within the first 14 miles and I passed them within 4 or 5 hours. I passed some thru hikers heading north and a couple people coming towards me, but not many people wanted to talk so we gave each other passing hellos and kept moving. I got to a good spot to eat lunch around 1 o’clock and polished off a couple bagels and packets of tuna. I was back on the trail at 1:30 and in a couple hours I was at a shelter which was 20 miles from where I started. It was early and I was feeling good so there was no debate as I hiked right past it and kept moving to hit another 9.9 miles to the next shelter. The afternoon was beautiful and I was happy I decided to keep going. I got to the shelter around 6:30 and there were already about 6 thru hikers here. We all ate dinner together at a picnic table and then made a fire to wrap up the night. I’m going into town to resupply tomorrow and the bus is only 50 cents each way!!
Day 34 – Partnership Shelter – Crawfish Campsite – 18.3 miles
The shuttle into town wasn’t going to be there until 8:45, so I slept in as late as I could. I naturally woke up around 7, but dozed in and out of sleep until I finally got up and out of my tent at 8. There were already a bunch of people up and getting ready for the day. The shuttle picked us up at the Pat Jennings Visitor Center which was just a .2 mile walk from the shelter. There were about 8 of us who hopped in the shuttle which took us to Marion, Virginia. The bus dropped us off at Walmart and since I wanted to get back on the trail as soon as I could, I decided to go back with the next shuttle which would come an hour later. I got all my food at Walmart as fast as I could and then walked across the street to the McDonalds so I could get breakfast and an iced coffee. I ate as quickly as I could and then went back to wait for the shuttle. I was waiting in front of Walmart and a guy named Rodney walked by and asked what I was doing. He was from around there, but wasn’t too familiar with the trail so it was cool telling him all about. I got back to the visitors center around 11 and waited for until 12:30 before getting back onto the trail. I just wanted to do as many miles as I could until it got dark and then set up my tent. About 6 miles in there was a handwritten sign saying that there was “trail magic” in an old one room schoolhouse down the trail. The school closed down in 1937, but they decided to keep it to show people. It was a beautiful day out and pretty flat and smooth trail so hiking with a heavy pack didn’t seem too bad. About 13 miles in the trail crossed a main road and conveniently there was a Mexican restaurant right there. I didn’t have a choice, but to go in and get a burrito. I walked for a few more minutes and the trail passed through a pasture. I stopped to soak it all in and this hiker named Charlie, who I had last seen about 450 miles ago, walked by. We caught up on each other’s hikes and then hiked on. At this point I knew I couldn’t reach the next shelter which was another 12 miles so I was looked for a place to throw up my tent and also get water because I haven’t had any for a while. Right as it was getting dark I passed a campsite with some people sitting around a fire. I went over to ask if there was water around and thankfully there was, so I put down a liter and decided on camping out with Rattlesnake, Rodrigo, String Bean, and Gosh Darn. Once my tent was up I joined everyone by the fire and cooked up a ramen bomb. The crew were all great people and I’m happy I got to meet them. Ready for another day tomorrow!