July 31, 2015

boonetown, usa in under 48 hours

as i've probably mentioned before, i went to appalachian state for undergrad.  loved it 112%.  best place in the world.  i miss it like crazy, so when i had a week between my MST adventure and my WWOOF adventure, i texted college friend and current boone resident danielle (yay danielle!) and made plans to visit.

what to do in boone/what i did in boone with less than 48 hours in the summer:

arrive in time for lunch.  hit up our daily bread, or odb, as the cool kids call it.  the apple walnut salad is amazing, and i've heard good things about the chipotle turkey press, but i always order a diy sandwich with cheddar cheese, tempeh, sliced apples, and basil aioli that's basically something they had on their old menu called the tempeh press.  IT'S SO GOOD.  everybody loves odb.

walk around king street.  boone has such a sweet little downtown that's mostly made up of tshirt stores, hippie shops, boutiques, and restaurants.  we only went into lucky penny (cutest clothes, good grief) and a natural pet store, but definitely check out 641 rpm, strand beads, and something called lililu, cause that one looked really cute.

drive to the blue ridge parkway.  it's maybe 15 minutes from downtown, and it's a gorgeous drive with lots of places to stop for overlooks or hikes.  we went to price lake and walked the 2.3 miles around it (they rent out kayaks and canoes too) and then drove up some more, past the viaduct, to beacon heights.  it's the shortest hike you can take for the best view.  it also joins up with the mountains to sea trail for a hot second, and i was having flashbacks to the hours i spent hoping for a blaze.  in the hundred feet that we were with the mst, there were of course about eight blazes.  NOT ALWAYS THE CASE, TRAIL.  i see you luring people in.

grab some takeout from hokkaido.  i was devastated to find out after college that it's not actually that common for japanese restaurants to make sweet carrots, which is stupid, because they are little nuggets of decadent orange magic.  and hokkaido's are on point.

if you're looking for places to grab a drink, i recommend galileo's (especially on friday for karaoke night) or town tavern.  they're both very relaxed, and galileo's has the added bonus of really good food.  or, if you're like us, you can also go home and watch celeste and jesse forever and eat popcorn and fruit snacks.

crucial next step: go to melanie's for breakfast.  sit outdoors if you can.  get the granola.  get the homemade toast.  get the apple juice.  go wild.  it's good stuff.

drive up up up the mountain to howard's knob for the best view you can get to in under 10 minutes.  you can see app's campus, you can see the public schools, you can almost see the house where we used to live.  climb the fence if you're ballsy and good at climbing fences for an even better view and a great picture opportunity.

at this point, it's probably going to rain, so head to the boone cineplex (haha, not) for a movie.  preferably trainwreck.  sneak in fruit snacks.  get a zap pack.  eat a million fruit snacks because the zap pack also comes with them.  laugh obnoxiously loud at the movie and then feel awkward because the only other people in the theater are senior citizens and they know what jokes you're laughing at.  worth it.

because it's boone, you're going to get absolutely drenched leaving the movie theater and then it's immediately going to clear up and get gorgeous again.  take this opportunity to drive to blowing rock, cutest little expensive town in western nc, and get kilwin's ice cream.  for lunch, because you're an adult.  danielle showed me this really lovely little park with a gazebo behind the parking deck that also apparently exists.  we petted a dog.  check out all the little stores, because they sell cute things and good gifts, expecially the grocery, which is new and has lots of locally made foods.

while you're in blowing rock, you may as well check out the outlets, aka the only place to actually shop anywhere near boone besides old navy.  they have a pretty solid j crew, and banana republic can have nice stuff, and gap is always good for the basics.  (i bought a pair of jeggings that i'm preeeetty excited about.)

for dinner: COYOTE KITCHEN.  this is what we've all been waiting for.  absolutely order sweet potato fries and sweet plantains.  they have these things called boats, which are basically bowls of deliciousness, and you can also order canoes, which are half sizes.  the restaurant is tiny but i really like the ambiance.  you will leave so, so satisfied.  i promise.

again with the going out for a drink and the anna/danielle alternative, but this time it was girl most likely and cantaloupe.  the movie was really, really good.  it's on netflix, which i tend to be hesitant about, but i thoroughly loved it.  great characters, great story, great great.  especially the brother.  and darren criss.

alright puppies, your 48 hours are about up and it's almost time to leave.  but first!  swing by boone bagelry.  you can get my favorite, which is a blueberry bagel toasted with butter, or you can do something a little more... interesting.  and and and!  don't leave town before stopping at stickboy for the number one best baked goods.  i recommend the oatmeal chocolate chip and molasses cookies, but really, you can't go wrong here.

so that's it!  two days in boone, north carolina.  what did i miss?

July 26, 2015

Alright, here goes. The conclusion. I am still disappointed in myself for quitting, I hate quitting, I dislike quitters, but the thing is: this is my year. This is a year I have taken to push myself out of my comfort zone and to figure out what I like doing and what I don't, what I want to do the rest of my life, who I want to be. And I don't want to spend two and a half more months feeling miserable and lonely just to prove that I can hike across North Carolina. I would love to have hiked the trail, but I don't want to hike the trail. As Ben & Jerry's would ask, "If it's not fun, why do it?" and it was not fun or lucrative or productive or enlightening, so I decided not to do it. And I don't want to bash the MST, it does have some growing up to do in terms of blazes and ease of following and campsites, but it has such potential to be a wonderful little trail, and if someone is out there reading this and feels discouraged about the MST - I think it could be a really great experience as it is now if you do it with someone else or really like being on your own.

Okay. Now that the excuses etc are out of the way. Next step! I've decided to take Bixby and George Weasley the Hyundai Elantra on the road and travel around volunteering on family owned organic farms through WWOOF USA. People! Connections! Driving! Physical labor! Beds! Fresh food! Contact to the outside world! I'll be starting as early as next weekend, and will continue writing about my adventures here. See ya on the flip side, world.

July 24, 2015

Writing this next to the pool at a Motel 6 in Asheville. The hiking has officially ended. Actually, it ended yesterday when I got into an Uber on the Blue Ridge Parkway. So. I woke up yesterday after having barely slept, as usual. Pulled the stuff together, charged my phone the rest of the way, and set off. It was awful. Not the whole day, but a lot of it. I can honestly say I couldn't have gotten as far as I did without Bix. Anytime the incline got especially steep, I'd let him walk ahead, and he's gotten so much better about not pulling, but he knew what I wanted him to do, and he would sled dog me right up the hills, occasionally looking back to check in with me. Little wonder dog. My mountain goat. The guide said we'd go from 5000 feet to 2000 or something like that, so I figured it'd be a downhill day, but ohhh there was uphill too. Enough downhill to break my knees and enough uphill to make curse the mountains. A lot. We saw the place where Whats-His-Name Vanderbilt of Biltmore Mansion fame had a hunting lodge or something, and there was a really spectacular view there. Mountains are better with a few clouds. And then we went down and up and down and the trail was poorly marked and a guy gave Bixby some water. And then we climbed Ferrin Knob, and honestly, screw Ferrin Knob. Halfway up I had a moment of absolute clarity, and that clarity was get me the hell off this trail. It had started raining and the lilies were lovely but honestly I can find lilies not on top of a mountain (that doesn't even have a view of anything) in the middle of a thunderstorm holding a ski pole. So we went up and then we went down and I prayed to not get struck by lightning and then we crossed into Bent Creek, which is an experimental forest that doesn't allow overnight camping, and it was probably the warning signs and the rain and feeling ready to be done, but that place was spooky as all get out. And we walked and walked and walked and it was fairly flat, the trail itself was, the mountain we were on the side of was not, it went down down down and that was eerie too. Anyway, we were booking it and we were only supposed to go two miles but then it had been 40 minutes and then an hour and hopelessness happened and then FINALLY after a million miles of walking the Chestnut Cove Overlook was there and I pulled Lake Powhatan Campground up on phone and it was still a million more miles away and I called an Uber and 16 minutes later I was on my way to Asheville. I mean, I was already on my way to Asheville, but I was headed there a lot faster. And that was where my stint on the MST ended. Adios, trail.

July 22, 2015

Bixby got to cuddle me last night, and I almost slept. I woke up so many times, and at one point I considered packing up all my stuff up and hiking in the middle of the night. Not sure why that seemed like a good idea. But we made it through, and everything was brighter in the morning, and we set off for our hike nice and early. We were making decent time and there weren't many blazes but the intersections were well labeled and we were hop skip and jumping from landmark to landmark - but not too quickly, I made sure - and then we hit a completely unmarked intersection. "Okay, this is fine," I thought. "The book says a tenth of a mile after the creek turn right so this must be it." And we turned and went up and there was something that could have been a campsite if you squinted so I thought it was fine, if unblazed, but then the trail forked again when it shouldn't have, and neither side looked more like a trail than the other. So I thought maybe we weren't supposed to have turned. Bix and I went back to that first intersection and went straight, but after a swarm of stinging nettles it became pretty clear that this wasn't it either. So we went back to the other fork and checked down a couple of ways and then we went all the way back to the creek, where I left my pack and Bix's leash and we did another branch of the fork that was marked, oddly enough, with strips of blue tape. I let Bixby lead because dog's intuition and whatnot but no good because we just climbed this dumb field and I would have done Sound of Music if I hadn't been so grumpy. And then we headed back towards the Parkway, because what's the point. It was very disappointing. I didn't want to end the trail by not knowing where it was, but there you have it - can't hike a trail if you have no idea where it got to. I miraculously found service with my 3% battery and called Chris to see when he could pick me up, but today was the one day he really couldn't swing it, so he said he could come get me first thing tomorrow from whatever hotel I could get to.

Bixby and I cut through the woods to the parkway and I ate a PBJ and tried to think of the best way to get a ride. I'm still a ninny, so we walked three miles on the road to Devil's Courthouse. Bix HATED it. Loathed it. Laid down in the grass to pout about it. He refused to drink anything but parkway runoff and water directly off of my hands. That's when I started to feel better about quitting. There's a lot of road on the MST, 400+ miles, and Bix was the droopiest little flower about the three we covered in the mountains where it's cooler. We did get a ride from Betsy and George, thank goodness for dog lovers. And a hippie looking youth group from Florida gave me water and apples.

The Pisgah Inn, where I'd planned to stay, was all full, which was probably for the best as it is also not free. So I wen to the campground and took a shower (!!!) and threw all my stuff except my debit card, phone, and charger down and took Bixby to the store, where they had Wifi and outdoor outlets. I stayed at least two hours, texting and Facebooking and waiting for my phone to charge. I also registered for WWOOF USA, which I think is the best next step to take. I told Chris he could come get me Saturday, since that was easier for him, I could hold off until then, and I started feeling all mopey about being a quitter until I realized that a) I'd already walked nearly 100 miles, b) 10+ days is a perfectly reasonable time to try something out and realize you don't want to do it, and c) looking at the guide and trying to map out places to stay where there weren't campsites made me sick to my stomach. At the end of it I'll have hiked well over a hundred miles, which isn't 1150 but it seems respectable.

I bought some junk food for dinner, and then the cashier came out and gave me his leftover pizza Combos, which I ate gladly (who am I?). I met the guys nearest the camp where I'd chucked my stuff, and talked my head off at them, and they helped me set up my hammock. They're driving their motorcycles all around. Bix has been very good, talky but that's always, although he did do one angry bark at a man today, but I'm chalking that up to the man. I've got tonight and then tomorrow at another campground and then hotel and then home home home!

July 21, 2015

It poured last night. It started softly, and then it just dumped. It can be nice to fall asleep to when you're not worried about your things getting wet. It stopped around 10:30, which I know because I woke up and then couldn't sleep. I woke up around 7:15 this morning, and we headed out at 8:30. So I talked yesterday about how I'd gone 7 miles without feeling like I'd gone that far - I hadn't. Even though all the landmarks had lined up, campsites have gotten more and less developed and streamed have grown and dried up and when I finally passed the campsite I meant to sleep at, nearly four miles later, I was beating myself up for being so stupid and naive. Eventually I had no idea how far I'd gone or how far I had to go. My nine-mile day had turned into a 13-mile day. Everything was Very Bad, and I sat down in a gully and got all weepy and felt sorry for myself. Bix was an angel though. He's so good-spirited and enthusiastic about walking aimlessly through the woods until I say stop. I swear at him sometimes and kick at his backpack for doing some doggy thing he didn't realize was wrong (PULLING, ohh my gosh), and he still just grins and walks and grins and walks. He's really a fantastic hiking buddy.

Here's the thing though. I'm spoiled. You say hiking or backpacking and I think of these sweet little destination spots like Rough Ridge and Panthertown. Grayson Highlands was miserable, but even its good views to not good views to trail difficult ratio was better than what I'm dealing with here. You may as well have set me on a treadmill in the forest, wonked up the incline, and thrown stinging nettles and gnats at my face. I knew it wouldn't be glamorous, but I thought it would be worth it. What I've done so far just hasn't been worth it. Bix helps, he really does, but I still could be with him except someplace better. I'm starting to think this isn't the right adventure for me. I'm too extroverted, depend too much on my friends, to be out here alone with Bixby. I need actually human interaction to avoid frequent meltdowns. Plus I can't tie a bearbag to save my life. Tonight I just tied the line to a tree, which isn't how you're supposed to do it, but at least the bags aren't at eye level anymore.

It's still so early, only 8:30. I should stay up until at least 10 if I want half a chance of sleeping through the night. Bix keeps moving around and sniffing the air and looking at things I can't see, and I don't like it. The only people I saw today was a slew of Boy Scouts or something. They didn't talk to me, they just yelled "Stay to the right!" at each other when I passed and cooed at Bix a little. I reached a berry field shortly after I saw them, and I think they ate all the ripe ones.

July 20, 2015

After a really wonderful few days filled with happy moments and surprises - camp! wedding! Iron Chef! - I am back on the trail. I got up this morning and drove to my dad's, put my stuff in his truck, got Bix, and we left. We made it up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and he dropped me off at Doubletop Overlook. I'm not sure if Bixby makes things THAT much better or if the guide is wrong or what, but the seven miles we walked were the fastest ever. We started at 2, rolled up to the campsite at an impossible 4:30. I ate blueberries growing along the trail, crossed streams, saw a great view, didn't get freaked out about going the wrong way - it was ideal. The camp was easy to find, and unlike last Tuesday's stealth camping, people have actually stayed here before. There's a firepit and everything. I still suck at hanging bear bags. That was probably the best part of the Smokies, those cables. It took a million tries to get the rock over the branch I'd picked, an d a million more to get the second rock over for Bix's bag, and tying them killed my hands, and after all that I'm sure a bear could just go up on its hind legs and knock the bags out. It's been thundering all evening, and just now it started to drizzle. Bix hasn't really worked this tarp situation out yet, so let's hope he does soon.

July 19, 2015

hi!  things have been a little nuts because i've been living in the woods/at a friend's house for the past week and a half.  oh, and miami.  i've been doing the mountains to sea trail (you can see all my traily writings at www.trailjournals.com/probablyanna), so not only am i very busy walking around every day but i also have incredibly limited access to technology and the internet.  gotta save my phone battery for emergencies and not snapchats, you know? 

anyway, i've done eight days of the trail so far and it is hard as heck but i'm going back out tomorrow.  i had to come home this weekend for aileen's wedding, which was wonderful and gorgeous and not only did i get to see aileen but many other app state ladiez were there as well and we danced around and drank too much wine and had a really great time together, as per usual.  so i took four days (which have really been the best four days ever, i could just hang around chapel hill and eat good food and visit camp and not have a job instead of this trail business, right?  this is totally sustainable.) to recharge and assess how to make my experience less miserable.  i wasn't actually supposed to come home til friday but wednesday was a really rough day so i just came back then instead.  and now my pack is lighter and i'll have the bixber with me and no deadlines and things will be better, i think.

July 15, 2015

Today was really, really hard. Last night the thunder started up again, and then the rain started, and because of the stealth camping I'd hung my hammock over rocks and hadn't been able to stake my tarp very well so it blew around and got my hammock wet and woke me up and I had to get out of bed in the middle of the cold, windy, rainy night to retie my lines and it was very unpleasant and then I slept in until 10 because I'd gotten so little sleep, so I didn't start hiking until 11, again, which has GOT to change. And then, the blazes abruptly stopped. The trail was clear the whole time, it hadn't split or anything like that, but it was as if the trail crew had run out of white paint. I was going crazy, alternating between walking listlessly on the trail and plowing desperately along, never sure if I was heading the right direction or whether the lichen I was seeing was blazes or the blazes I was seeing were lichen. And then I got to about the 24 hour mark since I'd last interacted with a human, and then I think I saw a bear cub trundling down the mountain, and then I realized my car was only 15 miles away by the parkway, and I broke down a little (lot) bit, so I got a ride from some Texans at an overlook that marked the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I've never been so happy to see anything in my life as I was to see my little Hyundai sitting there, still teal, still missing a side mirror, ready to take me back to Chapel Hill. So now I'm here, figuring out how to make my trail experience better. I had a moment, a few moments honestly, when I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue at all, but going forward I'll have Bixby, and I'll be dropping a couple pounds from my pack hopefully, and my blisters will be a little bit healed, and things will be better. More posts after Aileen and Nick get hitched and I get back on the trail.

July 14, 2015

This morning the trail magic continued with breakfast at Tiffany's (her joke, not mine). We ate waffles with blueberries and bananas and baked peaches to write home about, and then Tiffany and one of her kids, Josh, who I adored because he asked a million questions about the trail and I got to brag all about it, drove me back to Waterrock Knob. It was storming when they dropped me off but it quickly turned into a gorgeous day. The clouds sank away from the mountains, orange and purple flowers grew along the trail, I crossed the sweetest streams, and the sun shone on all of it. I kept thinking, "The earth can do that?! Did you know the earth can do THAT?" I was walking along the MST, and I saw two men, and one of them asked if I was hiking the Mountains to Sea Trail. I felt my face light up and said YES! because while people have maybe heard of the MST no one has ever brought it up like that and then he asked if I was using Taba's guidebook and I said yes again and he wished me luck, and anyway, Scot Ward, if you happen upon this trail journal, Ken Douglas says hi. And then it rained again, and thundered and lightninged, and I had to stealth camp and I got scared but it cleared up and it's supposed to stay that way, and I remembered how to tie a bear bag so everything is okay. As long as a tree doesn't blow over on top of me tonight.

July 13, 2015

I spent this morning trying to figure out how to get back on the trail from the hotel. Getting a ride from a remote mountain into a town - any town - isn't so hard, but getting a ride from that town back to the remote mountain is a little trickier. Shortly before my 11 o'clock checkout time, I threw my backpack on and just started walking out of Cherokee towards the parkway. A couple with three small children in a pickup truck let me ride in the back up the highway a little, but there was a miscommunication where apparently when you're in the mountains and you say, "Are you going to the parkway?" people don't assume you mean the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is obviously what you're supposed to assume. App people, back me up on this. So we zoomed past the parkway exit, and I tapped on their back window, and they let me out a visitor center where I saw a 3D map of everywhere I'd been, up and down and around the mountains. It took my fingers seconds to travel what I'd been walking for five days. There was a ranger heading to the parkway like I'd hoped, but it was taking forever, and then it was going to be another hour, and it was already noon, and I needed to get some miles under my belt, so I got a ride from a very friendly hippie traveling dude and he dropped me off in the middle of the woods, which I quickly realized was not exactly where I needed to be. Fortunately, and oddly enough, after I'd walked on this dumb gravel road for no more than 15 minutes, a very lost little Jetta trying to get to the parkway pulled up, and I climbed in and told them where to go. I got dropped off on the MST, they got to the parkway, it was a win-win experience. And then, for the first time, I got to walk on the MST that wasn't anything else - it wasn't the Appalachian Trail, it wasn't some weird weedy trail in the Smokies, it was just MST. And that was cool. Of course, when I got to the parkway I lost the blazes and got turned around and then wasn't sure I was headed the right way - but I was. Walking on the parkway was actually sort of really nice. It's smoother and flatter than trail walking, and you feel like you're in some kind of parade with everyone waving at you. I put flowers in my hair and got to see the mountain views at walking speed, which is even better than driving speed. I walked all the way to Waterrock Knob, where you could see Clingman's Dome. It was so far away, the farthest mountain you could see, and I'd walked from there.

And then things got interesting. I'd slung my pack down on a picnic table and was wandering around, trying to find water and use the bathroom and see if there was a place I could charge my phone for a few minutes, and these two guys pulled up in a red SUV. One wore sunglasses and had blonde hair and a very strong lisp, and the other had unwashed shoulder-length black hair. They let two dogs out of the car, and being dog-deprived, I waltzed over and asked to pet them. Their names were Cole and Roxy, and they were ancient and probably deaf and did not care about me one bit. The men asked where I was hiking, and that's when I learned an important lesson: you shouldn't always tell the truth. If someone asks what trail you're doing and whether you're hiking alone, you can lie all day. My intuition kicked in five minutes too late, when the one with long hair handed me two bottles of water and my mother's words came blazing into my mind: There's no such thing as a free lunch. "There's no such thing as a free bottle of water," I thought, and decided to eat my dinner and wait for them to hike up to the summit, come back down, and leave. They offered me a smoke, they invited me to come with, I said no to both and made my dinner. While all this was going on, a slew of people had shown up, and they were clearly setting up some kind of party. While I ate my couscous, I realized it was a surprise party, but I didn't know who it was for until a couple walked down the summit trail holding hands, and when they saw a photographer, they raised their clasped hands in victory, and I'm not much of a happy crier but suddenly I was all teary and everyone jumped out from behind a building and yelled surprise and blew bubbles and I felt so lucky to have witnessed such a huge outpouring of love and joy. BUT the two guys weren't back and it was getting later and later and after the party had settled and I'd thrown away the couscous I couldn't finish, I went up to a woman who had been glancing toward me the whole time and asked if the red SUV near the party belonged to them, in case I'd pegged the wrong car and had missed the guys leaving in the excitement. This was Tiffany, and she turned out to be one of the kindest people I've ever met. Trail angel doesn't even begin to describe it. I told her what had happened, and she'd seen the guys and agreed that they were sketchy, so she told me to join the festivities and that I could stay at her house and she'd drive me back the next day. My gut said yes and I said yes and my eyes said they were going to cry again, and they I ate some key lime pie to die for. I felt kind of bad - you only get engaged so many times and I didn't want to steal any of their thunder, but the new fiancees were so incredibly sweet, everybody was, and the guys left and Tiffany took me home. Her whole family could not have been kinder or more welcoming and Tiffany kept feeding me and I kept eating. I showered and washed AND conditioned my hair (heaven!) and did laundry and stayed up too late fiddling with my phone and talking to Tiffany and her husband and kids. The day couldn't have worked out better, and I am SO so grateful for trail magic.

July 12, 2015

Coming at you live from some motel in Cherokee, this entry is not being copied from meticulously hand-written notes (ha). I am dealing with the bugs and the rain and the ups and downs but one thing I'm really struggling with is sleep. After a fourth night of dozing off only to wake up shivering, I needed to do something, and it wasn't the 17-mile hike I'd mapped out from the comfort of my desk chair. So I walked the .9 miles from my campsite to the actual trail (why do they do that?) and the 2.8 doooown the mountain and plunked my stuff down on the gravel road between an SUV from Georgia and an Appalachian Trail Crew van and waited for some kind soul to show up. It wasn't hitchhiking, per se, there were no thumbs involved. I just got in the way of the cars coming down the mountain. I cried for the first time all week when an older couple in a bright white jeep turned me down, and then I wiped off my cheeks (it probably helped clean up all the gnats I'd smashed on my face anyway), almost fell asleep sitting up, and got driven into town by the next car to come down that lonely one-way gravel road - a million thanks to you sweet, chain-smoking, hiker-loving, Illinoisan souls. So now I'm at a motel alone for the first time, and I've washed all my clothes with real detergent and updated the journals and contacted a bunch of people about getting a ride back to the trail (another million thanks to Joellen, Outreach Coordinator for the FMST indeed, especially with it being a Sunday night). The only other thing I need to do is hit up the gas station across the street, except whoops, there was fraud on my credit card, so I better spend the three $20 bills I brought wisely. This is a whole new branch of problem solving to learn about, and I have come as far as I have only because of the kindness and generosity of strangers. Independence, schmindependemce. Goodnight. 

July 11, 2015

Today! Was great and miserable. It poured starting in the early morning, and I slept until 9:15 so I didn't start hiking until 11, which is why I didn't roll up to campsite 44 until 9:00 pm. Also because it was marked wrong in my guide. But it was sort of a blessing because I met Tammy, Shaun, and Amie, who were doing an overnight loop, and I'm not sure I would've made it up Chasteen Creek Trail without them. They shared energy gel, almonds, and cheese but more importantly i had people to keep up with and complain to the whole way up. We met horses too, and that seemed like a great way to get up a mountain: on your butt with a cold beer.

We split off at Hughes Ridge Trail. Enloe Falls Trail was so miserable and rainy and my boots are absolutely soaked, but it was really beautiful. There was even a giant metal bridge to cross over the falls. I stink to high heaven and I'm covered in dirt and scratches, but I'm proud of myself.

July 10, 2015

When I told Jason I had a 14 mile day planned, he suggested I get to site 52 and see how I felt and what time it was, but I felt okay when I got there around 3:30. I did wind up cutting the day down to 12.2, which is enough I think. The first seven miles were so much uphill, and the rest was alllll downhill, just like Jason had promised. I started counting steps so I'd have some idea of how far I'd gone and how much I had left to go. Janky Tortoise wrote a really sweet note in my book, something about taking this one step at a time and being patient, and that word stuck with me. I'm not a very patient person, but I think the trail may force me to be. My neighbors here at Smokemont are really nice. They've been coming for a long time. I met their super sweet hound dog named Woody. The dad gave me Zu vodka, which is Polish and has a stalk of bison grass in it, the mom gave me Cheetos, and the daughter (hi Kimberlee!) told me that what I'd seen was a timber rattlesnake and didn't get grossed out when I told her about how my calluses had turned into blisters.

July 9, 2015

2800 feet DOWN in 5.1 miles. I spent the whole time worrying I was going the wrong way and thanking my lucky stars for my ski poles (no joke, get ya some). But I did take the right trail and I did make it to Deep Creek. The other side of the creek had a sign, but not my side. I had a moment of bushwhacking panic when I tried to follow something that resembled a trail but wasn't, and I have the scratches on my arms to prove it. The rest of today was pretty flat, but my feet are crying anyway. It was all along the creek, which was pleasant except for the GNATS. They don't care about Deet, I put it on my face and they continued to dive bomb my nostrils and eyeballs. Yuck. More interesting than gnats though, I saw four snakes. Two maybe copperheads, one of which lay perfectly still but the other hissed and waggled its tongue at me, a big black snake wiggled into a long zigzag on the trail, and, most exciting of all, a RATTLEsnake. I saw his body first and thought it was pretty, then I looked up and saw its huge venom cheeks and looked down and saw its rattle and got right out of there. Cool though!

I'm camped at the Horace Kephart campground now. These places are huge, and I'm so grateful for the bear cables. I washed my shorts and was hanging out in my underwear since I hadn't seen a soul since I'd split off from the shelter guys this morning, but then a man showed up who turned out to be my campsite neighbor, and I had to apologize for being pants-less. Lesson learned! His name is Jason, and he taught me the PCT method of hanging food and shared his whiskey with me, a very useful neighbor!

Anyway, I've got 14 miles to crank out tomorrow, so I should get some sleep, particularly since I got next to none last night.

July 8, 2015

Today was my first day on the Mountains to Sea Trail. My dad and I dropped my car off at Sam Knob Trail and drove the two hours to the parking lot at the base of Clingmans Dome. We hiked up the half mile paved trail to the lookout tower, and the view was great, obviously, but I was so ready to GO. I'll say one thing about the MST: it's easy to think you just might be on the wrong trail. After a very strenuous 4 miles, including a lot of "Are you SURE the sign said the go right" and "There's an AT blaze so this SHOULD be right," we made it to the shelter. There were several people already there, a few that were out for the week and a few that were finishing up a 200-mile section of the AT. The shelter was such a luxury - no messing with tarps or worrying about rain, plus there was a privy with real live actual toilet paper. The guys there were great, another father-daughter duo, a couple, two army guys, and a slew of college dudes (hi, Janky Tortoise! hi Lumberjack! hi Sharkbait!) that I stayed up talking with. They told me my trail name was Nerd since I brought a book that I'd already twice along, but it's not very catchy... we'll see. I don't know, I'm here. It's cold. I'm happy.

July 7, 2015

eyelash tinting

this is possibly my dorkiest post yet, but as it is also super cruc for all my blonde eyelashed peeps, here goes:

when i was born, one of the absolute first things my mother said about me was, "this girl is going to need some mascara when she gets older."  my grandmother hushed her, but it was true. my lashes are just fine in length and volume, but they are, for all intents and purposes, invisible without mascara. and you know who looks good with invisible eyelashes? probably you, but certainly not me. this is where buttloads of mascara come in, or else eyelash tinting. 

eyelash tinting is the bees knees. the eyelash lady has you close your eyes and paints some mysterious, plant-based inky substance on your lashes. you wait 10 or 15 minutes, she splashes water all over your face, and blammo. dark eyelashes that don't rinse off in the pool or during tennis or after a good cry. it's expensive, so i typically save it for summer events. high expectations of the pool. sailing around the mediterranean. backpacking across north carolina. summer stuff. 

anyway, to wrap up this nerd of a post, this is my tip of the summer. BUT NOTE: i used to have it done at this one place, and then i realized there was a cheaper/closer place that did it, and i went and the experience was a thousand times better. the second woman was gentler and friendlier and didn't shame me for not being able to open my eyes at the end and the dye itself didn't sting the way the first woman's had. point is, krisztina kozmetika knows what she's doing. 

el fin.  

July 4, 2015

miami so far

it's been so, so lovely here.  hot and sticky with local beers and dog walks and pedicures and reading at the marina.  i spent the whole first day bare-faced, not a lick of makeup.  i canceled all my alarms.  i took three naps and slept in as late as my body said to and ate whatever my mouth said yes to.  which was occasionally more than what my belly said yes to (hi, food baby, you are mostly made of veggie tacos).  i did a tinder experiment that could not have gone better probably unless i had won at pool.  i've been making some headway on orange is the new black and a feast for crows.  it is the strangest thing that i'm not going back to work when i fly home.