Day 12 – April 22nd

I left camp (mile 90.7) at 7.45am and had such a productive afternoon I was having a hot shower in a motel in Franklin NC (mile 109.8) at 5.35pm!

An early start for once though it is cheating slightly since I waited to use the privy at the shelter 3 miles down the track rather than avail myself of the woods. This turned out providently as I found my Day 0 chum Don pulling down his tent (at 9:15! Shocking.) so we hiked together or crossed all morning. It was great to see him again and also to kind of catch up the days I missed at the start with my arm/hand injury. I am now back in the game.

Here is a random view from mile 95.7:

And me contemplating that same view:

I had been told the weather forecast was for 70% chance of thunderstorms and today involved crossing Albert Mountain at 5250′ which is one of the few official AT ‘bad weather bypasses’ meaning it is dangerous to be up there during thunderstorms so the ATC allow you to take a side trail around it at a lower elevation when lightning is likely.

The climb up there is about 500′ of scrambling and tricky footings on wet rock. Here is a picture conveying absolutely none of the challenge:

It also boasts one of the best views on the AT. In good weather. Today it rained on and off all day (but no storms) so it was just grey dullness up there. Shame. There is a fire tower up there and here is a picture of Don trying to get into the room at the top to have his lunch, with no luck.


Don is going well and now goes by the trail name of Yogi Bear. He absolutely powers up uphills, my big weakness. Birdy (Anna) joined us and we were atop Albert Mountain about 12:30pm and hung around until 1pm before starting our descent.

I assumed the descent would be another ‘pick-a-step’ knee breaker but it started out wonderfully gently and I found myself stretching my legs out and actually WALKING for the first significant time on the whole hike so far. I wondered how long such kindness would last and resolved to enjoy it while it lasted. It turned out to last for many miles and I left Don behind and before I knew it (46 minutes actually, I checked) I had covered the 2.4 miles to the first shelter. More than 3 mph, unheard of!

Is it a stream? Is it the trail? Yes it’s both!

I kept going at full throttle. I reached the next shelter at mile 93.9, 5.9 miles from the firetower just before 3pm, less than 2 hours later. Although Don and I had earlier agreed that was a likely spot to stay the night I wasn’t stopping at 3pm so resolved to go all the way to the gap where you can get a ride into Franklin, North Carolina at mile 109.8. The lure of a hotel bed and a hamburger was way greater than the prospect of a rainy muddy tent spot.

I dipped down into the shelter to leave a register entry for Don only to be told it was kept in the privy! Bizarre. I wasn’t walking another 0.2m just to leave Don a note in an unhygienic book (I texted him instead later) so instead – for reasons I hadn’t pre-considered – I announced to the whole shelter of about 8 people that I was darn well going into Franklin that evening so if anyone wanted to share that experience to join me now. I assume most people thought me at least a bit odd. Anyway one young brave adventurer jumped at it and took his tent down while I gave out some of my not-needed-now rations to the damp left-behinds and we headed out into the rain together for the last 3.8m to Winding Stair Gap.

The brave man that I had basically swooped in and kidnapped was called Blaze, recognised by the full length running tights he wears in the color of hunting blaze orange. He comes from near Albany NY and this is also his first long backpacking trip.

We climbed at least a mile out then it was horizontal ridge walking for a mile and a half and then down for a mile to the gap. During the climb my strange hyper-energy evaporated and I was left back in Normal mode to struggle as best I could. Still, we made the Gap by 4.35pm which is good.

I had no actual plan to get us from the Gap parking lot to Franklin, 11 miles away. I figured something would turn up. It didn’t. I tried making myself look presentable and went off to try my luck at hitch-hiking. Oddly enough, I had no luck. Several trucks pulled in to look at us but then changed their mind. But here is a picture from where I was doing it:

My phone would only give 1 bar of AT&T which would not connect a call and Blaze’s phone was out of juice but when he said it was on Verizon I dug out my external battery and his phone was brought back to life. He called a taxi and 40 minutes and $30 later we were safe and sound in the Microtel motel. Which has nice rooms but no freaking laundry service of any sort!

A hot shower and an Arby’s beef and cheese sandwich with onion rings, curly fries and chocolate milkshake were the priorities. Tomorrow is a zero day for me as I will have to do laundry and try to sort out my feet.
Not my only blister but one I’m most proud of. You can just about see my foot there on the edge of that blister.

Oh go on then, I know you want to see more. I have these on both big toes also.

20 thoughts on “Day 12 – April 22nd

  1. Eww – gross toenails! And that blister looks painful. Congrats on the 1st 100th. So proud of you. You’re really steaming now. Have you acquired a trail name yet? Enjoy your zero and eat up.

  2. I started reading your blog tonight as Wired had a link to it from her hiking journal. Very interesting reading, you write well and have the dry British wit and self mocking humour that I am familiar with having parents that grew up in England. (They immigrated to Canada in their twenties and I myself live in Cranbrook, B.C., Canada.)
    You have suffered a few difficulties getting started and I am impressed that you persevered! Well done!
    I would love to do a long thru hike and the PCT would be my trail of choice but I do not see myself ever having that long a chunk of time free.(I am a mother of five kids and the two are autistic. ) Still I hope that I will be able to do The Colorado Trail next year if all works out.
    Anyways, way to go and good job on the journal and the hike!

  3. Great stuff dude (on the hiking I mean, not the blisters). Many congrats on completing the first state and the first 100! Makes my wee hikes up here in Scotland this week seem small… Be nice to the feet – they need to carry you a wee while yet :)

  4. Bill Bryson wrote a book about the AT. He even walked a bit of it. He described the Smokies as a place where big miles are possible. I hope this encourages you.

  5. Ouch! I remember getting blisters like that in the Grand Canyon when my feet were getting too hot, too moist, I was wearing the wrong socks, with too heavy boots. I have since gone to trail runners with Injinji thin toe socks, and have never looked back, with nary a blister since that ill fated trip in the GC. May your blisters heal quickly!(sorry for the suggestions, it’s a bad habit of other hikers to assume what works for them will work for everybody!). Glad you got a relaxing day in town with a good meal.

    1. I appreciate the tips. I’m going to stop by Outdoor 76 and see what they think. The weather has been much hotter and more humid than I predicted so an early footwear change may be needed.

  6. As an addendum to my previous comment, I discovered quite by accident that Wired and I shared a love for the same exact trail shoe, now discontinued by Montrail. (she is wearing them on the AT). I saw her at Nesika Lodge in Oregon, and told her I had stockpiled five pairs of these shoes for a thru hike! I think she got lucky and found one more pair online, so hopefully she has enough to get thru the AT.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion. Actually two of my toes are slightly joined together at the bottom so those socks and shoes don’t work for me!

  7. Hello, there! I was also sent over here by Wired, and now I’ve caught up on your journey. Bravo working through the kinks so far. I’ll be rooting for you!

  8. Hi Sparky, Glad Erin sent us all to your blog. She has posted her share of foot pics as well but none as serious as yours. Hope things get better soon. Great job persevering! Really liked your description of the famous tree – it does look like a deer!

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