3/27 – Day 32

Today wasn’t a great day…physically I was fine…the weather, although still cold with snow on the ground, wasn’t too bad. I just was mentally down in the dumps and it made hiking the 10.7 miles out of Hot Springs a little miserable. Hiking with Chris and Cassandra was a bonus and they were sympathetic to my mood.

Everyone else was ahead of us and I was looking forward to a reunion at the shelter, when we get there we find Crow, Roswell, Cricket, and Yay Blaze but no one else… They have all moved on to a gap a few more miles down the trail to camp. This shelter is full (counting me) and does not really have good camping so Chris and Cassandra head on down to join the others. I’m still not big on setting up my tent in the cold and snow and really not mentally up to any more miles so I stay behind. It’s weird not to be with the group I have been hiking with for the last 10 days.

I have been in several shelters with Crow, an interesting guy that is native Hawaiian and has been on and off the trail for a couple of years. The rest of the crew here I have met in different towns but don’t really know.

However, I am an extrovert so I start chatting everyone up and we start discussing ways to get into Erwin TN for Easter Sunday, which will require a 20 mile day for me. It’s going to be another cold night and I’m planning 15 miles tomorrow, the weather is supposed to start improving. I am hoping for a nice day to lift my spirits…

I am honestly sick of winter conditions and today was the first day I mentally considered getting off the trail! I am tired of getting in my sleeping bag immediately so I can get warm and dreading getting out of it each morning! I am tired of sleeping with my water bladder and filter in my sleeping bag so they don’t freeze over night. I am tired of only being warm when I am moving, of plowing through snow and slush that soaks my feet. I’m tired of putting on frozen boots in the morning and then trudging on until they are wet again and finally I’m tired of temperatures that never get above the high 30’s!

OK…that was my rant for today…thanks for letting me vent!

I will be praying tonight for God to refresh, lift and revive my spirits so I can continue my journey with Him. It has been 32 days with 27 of them spent on the trail. In the next day or two I will hit the 300 mile marker…hoping I will be able to continue onward to Maine.

3/28 – Day 33

I woke this morning in much better spirits, it was still a cold morning at 22 degrees, but the sun was rising. I cooked my oatmeal and hit the trail with the plan of a 15 mile day. The first 7 miles are uneventful and I roll thru them without issue or concern. Crow catches me just before the first shelter where I stop for a quick lunch. I sign the register and see that Chris and Cassandra left me a note saying they miss me…it made my morning. At this point I start thinking I can skip the next shelter and probably catch them at the last one which would make for an over 20 mile day. Looking at the guide, I should have one big climb then easy ridge running all the way in…WRONG!

The climb is thru an ankle deep snow drift and even though others have plowed thru it, the climb is still long and tough. When I get to the “ridge running” I am actually climbing up and down the summit. It was a constant up 20 or so feet and then down, then back up…the summit/ridge was very rocky and at times I’m climbing with my hands and feet. This part of the trail slows me down and is frustrating, but great views.

I make it down to the next shelter and it is almost full but they have a nice fire going…I’m tempted to stay, it’s about 4:30 and I would have to go another 6 miles. Crow is there and tells me I just missed everyone, so I decide to push on. I would rather see my friends again then warm my feet by a fire!

There are some minor climbs and I go over a really nice bald, then hit a very steep and slushy down hill, it runs for several miles and now my feet are completely drenched! I keep going and going and end up with another climb. Finally I hear some peeps and see Jared at the top of the trail. Jack sees me and they all start yelling “Nomad”!!

Jack and Jared run down and give me a hug and then I say hi to the rest of the group. The shelter is full so I set up my tent across from Chris and Cassandra. I cook my dinner and listen to the talk about plans to get to Erwin (another 34 miles) and some would like to get there for Easter (today is Thursday).

Some of the hikers have heard that the next big bald, about 17 miles down the trail, is covered in 5 foot drifts and hikers are unable to get thru. There is a gap about 11 miles away where I can drop out and get to a little cafe and then to Erwin. Right now I am considering this option…even though I did my longest day today 21.3 miles and my spirits are good, I’m sick of the snow and the cold! We will see how I feel in the morning…

3/29 – Day 34
Got a decent start in the morning, I didn’t sleep too well in my tent since I was on a slope and kept slipping off my sleeping pad.

The first 3 miles was great and I made good time, then I hit a climb and the ankle deep snow begins…and continues. My friends start to catch and pass me, Golem, Dry Spot and Witch Doctor wait for me while stripping off layers and Golem makes me a “friendship” knot for my back…that actually made my morning! We hike another 5 miles thru the snow to the next shelter for lunch. I am beat and my feet are wet, cold and hurting…did I mention I had to put on frozen boots this morning?

As I’m hiking down to Sam’s Gap I see hand posted signs for a small Hostel called Mother Marian and I take pic so I have the number handy. I get down to Sam’s Gap and a light snow starts again…I decide I’m done! I give Marian’s a call and get picked up by Bobby and head to the Hostel. Basically I’m staying as a guest in their house…it was awesome! After a good hot shower Bobby fixes me 2 grill cheese sandwiches with a bowl of chicken noodle soup, delicious and followed by homemade ice cream and brownies…I am pleasantly stuffed!

Later Gummy Bear, Tarzan and Coffee Pot come in and we visit for awhile. They are eating peanut butter and trying to figure out dinner…so I have Bobby fix them some grill cheese sandwiches for dinner.

I head up to my private bedroom but stop in the main room and visit with Mother Marian, she is a sweet and pleasant woman that makes you feel like your part of the family. She loves having hikers and looks forward to expanding her Hostel. The Commander, a retired Navy man, is soft spoken and friendly and reminds me a little of my father who was a Navy man as well.

3/30 – Day 35
I sleep well, grab a shower and Bobby fixes me a great breakfast, he is a very good cook and a friendly young man. He gives me a ride into Erwin and I learn a little more of his story. He takes me to several places in town so I can figure out where to stay…all my friends are coming down today and I’m trying to make arrangements. I decide on Uncle Johnny’s Hostel, it is hiker and pet friendly and right off the trail. I get a haircut, pick up some drinks for the crew and rent a small cabin that sleeps 4.

I hang around and chat with some other hikers and run into a couple I have not seen since the 2nd day on the trail. I can see the trail from outside the hostel and watch for my crew to come down. As they come strolling in I lead them to my cabin and get them a drink. When Chris and Cassandra come down I meet them at the trail with a Mountain Dew.

We get a shuttle into town for dinner, resupplies and laundry. At the laundry mat I meet and talk to Joe the Hiker, we have very similar stories and he is from Lake Jackson TX, just south of Houston. Now we all sit at the hostel, packing food, telling stories off the trail and watching a VHS movie on our 19 inch tv.

Tomorrow a local church is picking us at the hostel for Easter Service, which is really nice. I spoke with the pastor on the phone this morning and he seemed really nice.

3/31 – Day 36
Happy Easter! I’m up early with the sun as always and I can tell the others all seem to be awake as well. Chevy wakes up and climbs up on the bottom of my bunk, she is so funny she will lay on the bunk with her legs stiff and shooting straight up in the air.

In awhile I will get up and get ready for church this morning.
The local church was really nice and everyone was very friendly and treated us warmly. The sermon was good and really covered the true point of Easter. Some of the children sang “the bible tells me so” it was very cute.

After getting back to the hostel we are ready for lunch, Jarryd has some friends hanging out and they drive me in to Hardee’s with an order for about 10 hungry hikers…Hardee’s was not prepared for our order!

After lunch, Golem, Dry Spot, Tail Lights, Ayce, Manchild, and Witch Doctor (Jack, Tom, Skyler, Andrew, Kyle, and Jarryd) hit the trail…the rest of us will go out tomorrow. We are just relaxing in our cabin as other hikers (Passover, Ember, and Shutterbug) come into the hostel. The hostel runs a morning and afternoon shuttle and we are not hungry enough to go into town, which would normally leave us without a ride…then Grim (runs the hostel) gives me the keys to his personal van and announces that “Nomad’s crew” has there own plan. I didn’t realize I had a crew or such notoriety!

We head into town and the only thing we can really find that is open is a Huddle House which is basically a Waffle House. I picked up Ember and Passover at there motel and have Coffee Pot, Chris, Cassandra (Wide Load), Camaro, and Shutterbug already in the van…the Good Times Shuttle is rolling.

It’s raining now as we make our plans for tomorrow. Once again we all talk about slowing down some yet it has been the bad weather that keeps pushing us into longer days. We have 4 days to our next stop and should leave North Carolina for good (the trail has basically been running the Tennessee/North Carolina border for the last 100 miles or so).

By the way…still no Daisies!!