Tropic Thunder on the AT

This article originally appeared on The Trek, which you can read here.

 

When I say “tropic thunder,” I’m not talking about the comedy; I’m talking about the real thing. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. For now, I’m plenty happy to be out of the elements in my bunk room at the NOC.

Foot Care

Yesterday, I promised to tell you about my feet once I got them dry and could diagnose my issues, so I’ll make good on that promise and you can skip down below if you don’t care. I developed some cracks in the skin between my toes. It’s definitely a moisture issue and it seems exasperated by the new liner socks i’m wearing. I’ve discovered that although I like the Injinji brand liner socks because they are toe socks, I also have moisture issues between my toes now. I’m now using some good old fashioned Gold Bond powder in between my toes to help, but when the rain is dumping on you day after day, the powder can’t keep up.

The issue on the heels of my feet is more elusive. I still can’t tell if I have a deep, developing blister or if I have some kind of impact related soreness that is very pointed. I’m going to rub both my heels down with Body Glide and see if that helps.

Having just discovered my medical kit does not have antibiotic ointment, an oversight on my part, I’ll be making a trip to the general store today so I can treat the open skin between my toes. I could have sworn I had a few packets in my kit, but I’m just happy I can fix that error no harm, no foul.

Coffee Time

With some possible purchases coming up at the general store, I decide to save some money on breakfast and skip restaurant food. I made my way up to the common kitchen area and made some oatmeal and coffee from my food bag. My pour over coffee is sure not to disappoint.

I walked into the kitchen just as another hiker was making coffee. The woman’s name is Tonya and she was just about to pour herself a cup of coffee from the french press she had rustled up from the kitchen. Nodding to her choice of coffee preparation, I struck up a conversation about coffee and food. This probably won’t be the last time you hear about food and coffee conversations.

Tonya told me she is hiking with her five year old daughter and I was stunned. Five years old!? She admitted their daily mileage was slow because she was so young, but kudos to them for being out here together and making the adventure happen.

Rock Slides

After breakfast, I packed up all the gear I spread out to dry in my bunk room. I was anxious to get to the general store and get the antibiotic oinment I needed as well as see about a charging block. Although it seemed like it took me forever, I got myself together and made it to the store only to find it closed. It’s supposed to be open. The posted hours say as much. Someone came outside and informed us the store was still closed because the manager couldn’t reach the store due to rock slides and it would open as soon as they worked around that situation or the manager arrived. You thought I was kidding about this weather, didn’t you? Nope.

The Long Charge

I decided to wait it out by visiting the outfitter and looking for a charging brick. Thankfully they were open; unfortunately, they didn’t have any charging bricks left in stock. They offered to let me use the computer upstairs to charge my phone, so I marched up there, plugged up my phone and waited. Forever.

I’m guessing my battery bank definitely wasn’t putting a good charge on the phone because it took a very long time to get a few extra percent charge. Once I got a little charge it picked up after that, but not by much. How long did this single phone charge take, you ask? Well, I arrived at the general store at 9am when they were supposed to open and then started charging my phone at the outfitter a few minutes later. I didn’t stop charging my phone until after 11am. Even then, I didn’t reach 100% charge. My phone hit 93% and I bailed; I couldn’t take it any more.

Joe and Kass

While I was waiting for my phone to charge, a couple hikers came upstairs and were trying to snag a few items they needed and get their permits for the Smokey Mountains. After introductions, I had met Joe and Kass – two more NOBO thru-hikers. This hike is tripping me out with all the late season northbound thru-hikers. The way they discussed gear it seemed like they were both pretty new to this hiking gig. I later discovered that was only partially true. Kass is brand new to this but Joe has had some experience in the past. They seemed like a nice couple and they scurried off before I bailed on my charging endeavor.

Riverside Excitement

With it being almost mid day, and amid my frustration, I decided to treat myself to lunch at the restaurant before departing. The hostess seated me one table away from Tonya and her daughter so they invited me to join them. They finished breakfast and I ordered lunch. I really enjoyed the conversation we had. I mean, can you imagine hiking the AT through the eyes of a five year old girl? It was pretty exciting, ha ha.

The whole patio full or patrons at the restaurant got pretty excited every time another round of kayakers came down the teaming river, too. That water is still too crazy for me to consider rafting, that’s for sure. After stuffing myself, I realized the portion size was huge. I found two other hikers happy to take my leftover fries and chicken fingers. +2 Trail Angel points 😉

Kayakers at NOC in the turbid water

Late Start

Finally headed towards the trail, I realized my late start would require an alternate plan for today’s mileage and where I should stop depending on the weather. I watched the train pull out of the NOC right next to trail and waved to the passengers and then disappeared into the woods.

The train at NOC about to leave

The weather decided to play nice for awhile and the meager rain vanished to reveal the sun. I was in a good mood and spent some time singing and praying as I cruised up the trail. After a mile or so I ran into Annalise and Indy again. At this point the heat had come out in full force and I had forgotten to put my Buff under my cap. Sweat was pouring into my eyes and reminding me how salt and sunscreen sting. I pulled it out of my pack and chatted with Annalise in the mean time.

She mentioned being low on water and a spring up ahead. With the spring only a few miles ahead, I offered her some of my water. I had plenty. She accepted and that’s less weight for me, more water for her: win, win.

snake on the Appalachian trail
The heat brought the snakes out again. I knocked two of these off the path, today! — Look closely and you an see his mouth is open.

Tropic Thunder

Yes, just before we reached the spring, the hot temperatures dropped and the rain didn’t hold out any longer. We both rushed to get water and filter it. About the time we both finished and were finishing pulling on our rain gear, the wind picked up and the thunder started rolling. It didn’t give us a distant hint, it simply started in right on top of us. The subtropical storm was whipping up a batch of tropic thunder and we were a captive audience.

Before Annalise could hook Indy’s leash back on her pack, the wind gusted hard and knocked a limb out of the tree and it fell on Indy! The branch was around three inches thick, but was only a few feet long so he seemed surprised but unharmed overall. Annalise checked and consoled the dog and we both gave each other a look that said “that was close.”

The sketchy weather put some pep in our step and we decided we would stay within eye sight of one another while this thunder was rocking and rolling. We pushed on until it eventually let up after about a half hour of heavy, patchy thunder. This exactly the kind of weather I would prefer to avoid in the future. We eventually enjoyed a view on the climb and it seemed so pleasant that it was second only to yesterday’s views.

 

I promised myself I would use some advice about taking photos of the people I meet on trail and saving those memories. Until now, I’ve done a fairly crappy job but it dawned on me while we enjoyed the view and my two companions agreed to pose for a photo.

Annalise and Indy
Annalise and Indy

Rose

The climb felt like forever but was just over 7 miles, my shortest day. I arrived at the shelter and met two new hikers: Rose and DJ. At this point, it probably won’t shock you find out that Rose is another late season thru-hiker. I still can’t believe it. Is this the “start the AT late” class of 2018 or what?

My Favorite Meal

Pretty much everyone went into food mode and meals were in progress. I know I was ready to eat a hot meal since it cooled off after the storm and stayed colder. I ate one of my favorite meals: the BigUn Burrito from Pack-It Gourmet. About the same as having a Chipotle in the shelter.

Bear bagging was less frustrating tonight for some reason. Not sure why other than I fought less with cordage tonight. When I got ready for bed I realized that for the first night on the trail, my feet wouldn’t warm up. I was so excited I had clean, dry socks to wear to bed.

It’s the simple things out here. As my feet warm up, I drift off to sleep.

#HikeWithHeart

Day 13 | 6.7 Miles
NOC to Sassafras Gap Shelter

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