I’m on a frustratingly slow computer in the Fontana Lodge and with a 25 minute time limit so I’ll have to make this fast. Due to the slowness of this computer I’ll have to skip adding photos for now. There is also no phone reception here thus making life more difficult. But, I embrace the difficulties. The trail itself has been very difficult but I’m moving along.
I think I’m probably at too fast of a pace. It is certainly faster than I ever expected I would go. (and better than I ever expected my knees would hold up) Today for example was over 17 miles. Overall, 164.6 miles in 14 days which is just under 12 a day average. I keep talking on the trail about “hiking a half-marathon” every day. That would be 13.1, so I’m just shy of that distance. However, in this section the mountains are quite difficult. Yesterday for example I climbed over 4000 ft upwards while doing 11 miles horizontally. Today I lost much of that elavation and am back in a valley.
I must write of the “Fun Patrol Plus.” There is a group of about 9 young hikers hiking together and calling themselves the “Fun Patrol Plus.” They include “Hand Me Down” – who looks like the boxer Canelo Alvarez with his red hair, “Shackleton” – an 18 year old who has been to both the North and South Poles, Bootless – who wears boots, “Borat” – who bears a striking resemblance to the Sasha Cohen character, “The Twins” – two twins girls who don’t have trail names yet, and 4 or 5 others who I don’t know two well yet. I first met the “Fun Patrol Plus” a couple days ago while filling up my water bottle at a spring. “Hand Me Down” seems to be the unofficial leader of the group and does much of the talking likely because he has experience from thru-hiking most of the trail last year. I also saw the “Fun Patrol Plus” at the NOC – The Nanatahla Outdoor Center- while hanging out with Honey Badger, Cowabunga, Indian, and Vitamin C. (The NOC is the mecca for whitewater rafting and hiking in North Carolina.) I suggested that we put together our own group and call it the “Funner Patrol Plus” which got good laughs. The suggestion of “Team America” was also welcomed, but ultimately no name was chosen as the group is not so official. I’ve frequently joined up with this group of 4 led by Cowabunga, but their erratic sometimes-day sometimes-night hiking routine and lack of planning is to exhausting to follow. Thus I’ve been mostly without an official group. If anything I’ve hiked most with Sherwin and Patchouli who tonight I believe are 5.6 miles behind me at the last shelter. Sadly, I haven’t seen Uke in a couple days as he is likely a bit behind. Uke is quite trail popular.
I also met “The Dude” who pretty much looks like Lebowski.
Today I got up at first light and hiked 12 miles to get to a shelter as we were expecting storms to start around noon. I didn’t make it to the shelter till about 1 but the storms never came. I push on another 5.6 miles to Fontana where I’ve got a room with a hiker I just met named “Unremarkable” who is a 62 year old soft-spoken guy from Texas who is having a lot of difficulties going down the trail and is taking some time off. Again tonight storms are supposed to come through and I’m glad I’m in the lodge at Fontana. This also gave me a chance to shower and get a resupply of food.
The hike down to the NOC a couple days ago was brutal as I was warned by Sal Paradise many times in the past. I made pretty good time and my knees have swelled up some. However, I’m getting stronger and my gait is no longer with a limp. Ibuprofen (Vitamin I as it is called on the trail) has been a welcome ally.
I just printed off the $20 pass to thru-hike in the Smoky Mountain National Park and will be going through their for the next 6 or 7 days. There isn’t much for resupply except a road to Gatlinburg which most hikers prefer to avoid as it is a tourist haven.
I’ve been eating as much as physically possible, often hiking in pain while still digesting. Despite the constant eating I suspect I’m down at least 10 lbs, but there haven’t been any scales around.
What else….? It’s gotten much warmer out here the last few days. Up to the high 70’s all of a sudden.
Other people I’ve met include NBC (No Big Climbs – from Germany), Yeti and Pacemaker, Hypsy Gypsy, Gumby, Flipper, and Lizzy now has a name – Snaggles. For those wondering I’m “Bonsai” which I self-chose to prevent having a terrible name. It is in reference to the Karate Kid movies. I chose the tree spelling over the war cry spelling as I wasn’t aware of the difference! I wish there were more computers, more showers, more phone reception, and more restaurants, but alas this is the wilderness!