Mar 8 and 9
Took two Zeros at Top of GA and decided after gimping around there my ankle felt better enough to take the 16 mile trip from Unicoi Gap where I could be dropped back off and then picked up at the end of as long as I was gentle on it.
When I arrived there were a group of the Trail Family I’d formed with that was spreading out and I got to see some of them :). The HikerYearbook bus arrived really shortly after I got in, can’t remember, but a ton of us stood while a TF member snapped photos of a bunch of us there.
Made a reservation for Friday and headed out on the 10th.
Got started around 9:30-10am or so when the shuttle dropped me at Unicoi. My ankle did pretty well, I just needed to baby it in pace and use at times. Ended up passing Tray Mountain Shelter and feeling up to keep going.
I wanted to get as much mileage under me as I could safely without feeling I was pushing myself or ankle too hard and still felt like going at that point.
Some point mid-day I decided to try and put my phone on my chest pouch and take a first-person-view video of the hiking. On watching it back I think it was pretty good so it’s part of my YouTube channel and am sharing here. You’ll note it’s mostly views of ground around 3 feet ahead of me with the occasional look upwards at the hill I’m doing. That’s accurately my view all day except when I intentionally am head-on looking at things I go by that catch my eye or I just take glances around me.
I think I commented on it in the video description on YouTube but will make note here, too: some express this may be missing something or that I’m to be focusing more around me to enjoy my hike. I disagree. This is how I hike naturally, do how my brain and body do without trying to do it anyone else’s way. I find the view I get of the ground to be beautiful and varied. Just as rich as the things I see as I look around me at other times, just as awe inspiring as (or more so often) the views from various spots available.
It may be blasphemous, but the ties and twists of roots below my feet, the sizes and shapes and colors of rocks I step on and around, the swirl or still of sediment in the mud puddles I walk through or around…. Well, they’re more and beyond and binding to the trail and to the earth than views out over mountains others seem to find amazing at point after point. While the occasional grabs me, looking down on other hills is just the same dull picture over and over to me at vista points.
Honestly, the best part of vista points, to me, is usually the ground they are on…. More often than not in patches of ground with rich brown dirt patted down from feet over time and granite patches rising through it, except for some amazing ones that have been layered and lined granite floors of great texture and colors. One especially had water running down one side of it making puddles and a small stream the full left side which was what you then had to climb down carefully.
But to each their own. I hope the vid gives anyone who doesn’t really get this at all a feel of what it is like and connects with those that are hikers and can relate. This is a snippet of a continuous 5ish hours straight each day (I don’t take breaks for meals or such).
Some pics of the day, too:
I, in a bit, got my water refilled and decided that the next established/well-fed tenting spot I came across I would settle down for the night or stealth it if I didn’t find one soon enough for me. Meanwhile, I just mosied along in lovely evening warm orange light through the trees and across the leaves, beautiful evening warm but cooling temperature, and wonderful evening warm feeling of a slow and relaxed hike.
Basically, a perfect evening warm hike time in all sorts of just-right ways. One of my best times in a long while for inner quiet and just having time alone in nature.
Was being slow and gentle for my anklets low pain at that point and just because it was so very nice walking along then.
Did I mention my feet were shshing through dead leaves on the trail in areas? Ah.
The last place I’d seen a used camp site was at the base of a Very steep hill and I wanted to get on top of that and find a spot rather than wake up and see that uphill as the first thing I see on looking at the trail to start my day.
So there I ended up in a gorgeous top of hill hike at the end of my day. Eventually didn’t find another established site so started looking for a stealth site and saw a beautiful one, moved myself back into it and started setting down things.
On more eyeing I felt I was still too close to the trail and decided on a placement further back and quite pretty, just not the eye and gut grabber spot I’d first wanted. But, I could look out my tent and see that spot and it’s landscaping that made it so nice (a gorgeous twist of brown and green low tree/high bush that would umbrella my tent and me closely) and my new spot had a similar but not as nice bushy setting it was near while also was at a point where I was over toward edge of the hill enough – though on a flat spot the right size for my tent – that I could sit behind my tent for extra surety of trail-privacy and sit and make me dinner and read while washed in sunset lighting.
I so wish, on looking back, that I’d gotten lots of pictures and video of that place and evening since my memory is probably going to lose it all and memory is rather the entire point of this lol. But I have mental snapshots right now and that’s enough it has to.
I set up tent, laid all of my things out as they should be there, put my cooking stuff, water bladder, and book behind my tent. Took off my boots and wrapped my ankle, put on camp shoes, and took my pack cover around to the back of my tent, too.
I use the inside of my pack cover as a place to sit on the ground at camp and also as an entryway floor to my tent door before bed for getting in and out to kneel on so that ideally I get my clothing carrying less dirt and fewer leaves into my tent as I move in and out at the end and starts of the day.
Plus it keeps from wet knees and hands on getting in and out of rainy days. I can get my shoes on, move my knees out onto the cover, zip up my tent behind me, and stand up using or not using my hands with only my shoes getting damp or muddy.
Anyhow, I made my sitting spot on my cover, cleared a safe space to cook on using my canister stove (and tested out a new smaller and a leeeeetle bit lighter burner I bought at Top of GA that I ended up liking better than my MSR smallest one), enjoyed the evening (read “3-4pm”) light still more, made Asian flavor ramen (only kind I can eat), and read very little. Had some tea, too.
Ankle started getting pissy after a bit, though not terrible, and night was coming on so I tidied up and went to hang my bear bag.
This was painful hilarity. Painful for me, hilarious for a third-party had there been one.
Four falls and a choice of a second tree instead later and eventually my bag was up.
Got curled up in tent, set a 5:30am alarm on my phone so I’d get an early start the next day, took meds and scared away a mouse I heard a couple of times sniffling around the right head-on of my tent.
Wind whipped up while I was reading so I dropped my tent height about 8 inches and got out to make the little bit of line tightening needed. I didn’t think I’d be having any problems as I was only getting hit by minor gusts, but it was precautionary. My choice of location had me between where wind would tend to whip around the mountain side and over the top but I’d still get those occasional milder bursts.
Sure enough, up til falling asleep I got to listen to the wind below and above me and got the rare shake. It was another really pretty part to the end of my day. Much use of that word, just fits. I had such a nice evening feeling the outdoors around me just right…
Had to get up and go pee 2X in the night. God bless the above regarding using my pack cover as an entrance rug sorta. Extra helpful when you’re climbing in and out of a tent 8 inches lower than normal. My ankle in the night was really not thrilled with going out to pee randomly and once out of the tent I was limping with headlamp very carefully and painfully once.
Woke to my alarm and got around slowly. Got hiking and took a long while for my ankle to relax enough to not be hurting each step. I took most of the day slowly and very carefully with it. As it was I had gone more than halfway the day before so I only had about 6 miles to go.
It did relax after a bit, though, and felt tender but workable while being mindful. Became less and less reliable as gone on, though. Tried to roll 3 times, first time surprised me enough that it went halfway. Next two times less each as my head was alert to it. As I was coming down from Kelly Knob it became unstable a few times to where I realized I couldn’t rely on it and was going to take another zero or two. But! It was doing well and getting me along as long as I went with it in mind. Getting over Kelly Knob as the focus of my two test days was a special strain on a newly healing ankle and considering how tiring that was on it I was pleased.
Kelly Knob. About 1K vertical in about 1 mile without switchbacks…. Just…..up. The GPS on my app was being screwy and didn’t confirm how close or if I was on the beginning of the Kelly ascent I was. After a while of just going Up I decided I was on it and this wasn’t a hill before it.
Then I decided that if this was just a hill leading up and not actually Kelly I’d be very disappointed in life. Then I decided to just be sure this was Kelly. Then I started getting close to the top of it and checked the GPS out of confirmation desperation and was told I was right. Then after a bit more I hit the top, took a few more steps and took victory video.
As it says in the clip, there were a couple of guys who had passed me not that long before and I had to consider my uptight nature and dignity and weigh it against a distinct urge… And said “fuck it” mentally and did it: I through up my arms and went “WOOHOOO!” at making it to the top finally lol.
As said, had problems with the ankle being weak on getting down and decided Zeroing again was the way to go, then decided to reserve a second after a hard landing out of the top (Top!?!) bunk I ended up in when back at the hostel due to the other bunks being called for already when I lined up my stay Friday night.
On arriving Friday the sweetheart owner, Bob, ordered me to not be seen by him as anything other than sitting and off my feet. I was to be a whiny bitch and sit and ask people for getting things he said (my wording of whiny bitch and such, his was more a caring but firm statement he wanted to see me asking people for help as I sat lol).
I spend most of the day trying to stay still but there was an event going on outside and I kept getting bored as the social things kept moving around so was using my hiking poles to just generally be cautious in helping me move.
Spent a nice evening of ordering out cheeseless pizza and took the risk due to boredom and push of curiosity of having not gone up there yet to veeerrryyy carefully with my trekking poles go up the little ways to the campfire area and relax with folks there for a while.
Moon was amazing and, of course, I couldn’t get a good picture of it. It was that line up of light just perfect where the crescent is bright with enough light still across the moon that you can see the rest of it faintly.
Woke for breakfast with a vague memory of what seemed might even been a dream of carefully getting out of my top bunk but hitting my foot wrong on getting to the floor and yelling from the sudden pain. I felt fine so couldn’t tell if dream or not…. Til guy at breakfast asked me about my yelling out in the middle of the night lol. Clearly wasn’t a dream and we laugheend
Paula comments to me at some point after breakfast that when she was walking like I was that was the end of her through-hike. I respond in a sorta mix of being sorry to hear that for her while also not giving up yet gonna be hopeful still on this for me.
When it came near 9 when bunks were being reserved and arranged and folks checking in I asked Paula if I could be moved to a lower bunk as there were slots open I could be rotated into. I asked twice but was told it was something they did not do, I couldn’t move to a lower bunk.
I spent this day mostly sitting on the couch in the main building reading, listening to headphones and drinking tea. Staying put.
Jennifer there who is also really sweet and I’d gotten some nice chats with each day I’ve been there was really nice about trying to make sure I kept an ice pack on it, even making one of a baggy of ice when the normal freezer pack one was being in use by another injured person who had hurt their knee badly.
As I’m sitting mid-day Paula comes and sits next to my outstretched foot on the couch and looks at it and then me and asks me when I’m going to make a decision. I feel uncomfortable and sorta smile and optimistically comment about how I’m not sure, gonna see how it feels, and joke I may live there a while to see.
Spent the evening discussing Veteran’s Disability ratings, living in other countries, etc. with another vet who currently lives in Latvia and has seen some places. Talked about the rating system, what various countries are like, and enjoy soaking my good foot and both his feet in little warm trays of water with marbles in the bottom that Bob arranged for us while rocking in rocking chairs on the back porch. He was a really chill guy to chat with.
At night I woke up and had to pee and, very carefully in a way I’d worked out, climbed most of the way down out of that top bunk and then something slipped and I full body fell. Thankfully my cat-like reflexes (cough) did catch what was happening and to try to protect my ankle at all costs and it did indeed do its best: I landed flat on my ass with a mental flash memory of my right leg coming down to hit my heel into the floor before my body continued the fall to take the weight away from it and I finished with a bounce of my ass settling and both legs thrown out in front of my with a thump landing straight.
So for a second my fall hit my bad leg for support as that was the one that would’ve normally caught the direction I was going down but my brain corrected and let me ass lead and legs go out in front.
I also had the physical bonus of landing on the boxes of thinks I was sorting – specifically the side of them that had my bags of pills on it – and a couple bags of chips I had down there in that corner. Oh yeah, this all happened in a corner of the room between the end of my bunk on one wall and the end of the bunk on the other wall. The pills and food shifting under me I actually felt break my ass’s landing.
And it hurt so I yelled.
So between falling crash and my yell, people in my room were jumping up and swearing, turning on the light and checking on me. I could hear people in the other rooms asking and commenting.
I was mortified and only level 6 or so pain so I faked an (embarrassed) smile and laugh and reassured folks I was okay and I was helped up and sat on my lower bunkmate’s bunk and we all talked some and he was especially nice. With watch over I got back up into my bunk and when got a moment pulled my blanket over me and cried what I hope was very quietly as I was just humiliated, in so much pain, knew my ankle was fuck ed up worse to where it’d likely now take serious healing and maybe even end my trip, and that I had just so wanted to be put in a lower bunk that morning and spent the past day and a half since arriving hurting getting into or out of my bunk and trying to not so as to avoid a fall.
And now I really, really fell.
I pull myself together and bring myself back out from under my blanket to more faking and here comes the nice owner, Bob, rushing in over concern he heard someone had fallen or something and the room tells him all about me and he keeps telling me I should’ve asked for a lower bunk, I keep telling him I did but Paula told me I couldn’t be put in one, he keeps telling me I should’ve asked to be put in a lower bunk, I keep telling him Paula said I couldn’t be, and eventually we connect and he tells me to tell him this morning and I’d be moved.
Apparently my fall had been heard in the building next door where guests with pets and Paula stay and Bob was alerted someone might even fallen or been hurt and he came running. That’s what I was told later happened.
So I not only got the horrible notice of everyone in my building but was heard next door, too.
Thankfully this was all only 1 hour before breakfast so I didn’t do this to people at an hour when they needed to try to go back to sleep for hours. It was only about 15 minutes before folks usually started taking turns getting up and using the bathroom and generally prepped for breakfast.
Went to breakfast, hung out, Bob comes benevolently storming at me with bunk roster for the day that has a couple of names in it and points out mine has been moved to number 4 (lower one) and has big parentheses and arrow at my name that says Tell Her. I tell him thank you very, very much.
I go to move my stuff later so that it’s off my old bunk so that Paula can clean it for the next person as she does the bunks and get what seems a Very unhappy shoulder from her while passing around each other by happenstance of spaces.
I spend rest of day basically on main building couch having tea and reading and listening to headphones and stuff and Jennifer is so nice with the ice again.
Could only spend one more day at the hostel as max is 3 and my ankle was clearly now so fuck ed I was gonna need a long and keeping it babied heal time so I was considering my options. Which were basically go stay with a Delta or rent local hotel room.
Listened to ankle and knew it was gonna be a real healing of a serious sprain rather than just taking light duty as before the fall was going where I might have rented a room for a week or something.
Called Grant and Roxxanne, texted too.
Grant got back to me and I told him I needed to ask about staying a minimum of two weeks, maybe as much as 4. That I had to take serious downtime. He said he’d tell Grace when she got up.
So I ordered Amtrak for that night (8pm train as only one, get there next day) and started asking about shuttles that’d take me to Gainesville for it.
Jason gave me list they have and pointed out one especially to call. As I was doing so a person who was going to pick up people there happened to be in the building and I was alerted. Turned out that if I could be ready in about 1.25hrs to go he’d take me there for $50 since he was going anyway.
I said sure and threw my stuff together, got with Jason about sending out multiple boxes of my stuff to Grant’s and left with just my backpack, change of undies, sleeping bags (because I didn’t wanna bother with another box and could carry it) and my meds/book/electronics.
Sat in empty train station for about 6 hours but ordered food and had book and electronics. About 24 hours later I was at the Emersons’.
Second train of two part trip made a short clip:
Updates coming on healing. Am taking this downtime to get some gear work done and this blog slowly up to date as while I’m out there it’s only rarely I can throw something up.