Day 28 – Erwin to Unaka Mountain

13.8 miles, 35,778 steps, 526 stories climbed

365.5 miles, 1,006,264 steps, 10,020 stories climbed
Trail Magic Moments: 18
We just keep seem to pushing those miles even when we don’t plan on it.  Not Yet and I were both up pretty late uploading pictures and updating our blogs etc., and so we both planned in hitting the trail a bit later and doing a pretty short mile day, maybe 7-10 miles.
We started off keeping to that plan. Packed out stuff, hit the free hotel breakfast and got out shuttle back to the trail around 10:30am.  We probably actually got to the trail and started hiking around 11am.  Which is hiker afternoon.
I am not quite sure what was with me today but I was flying.  Maybe it was all the sugar from drinking that 1.75 liter bottle of simply lemonade (or liquid crack like Maria and I call it) or maybe it was the 3 glazed donuts at breakfast…it could have also been the news that the legendary Fresh Grounds was about 8 miles down the trail waiting to feed hungry, weary hikers.  It was probably the latter but whatever the reason was, I was flying. Normally Not Yet will catch me, Stretch, and Silver and just can’t keep pace with everyone but today I just vanished.  It not only feels really good to just keep walking now but it has become almost a necessity for my body.  Every morning my body itches to just get on that trail.
The weather was good. It was raining early on in the day but stopped before we hit the trail and its a bit warmer today. It’s so nice being able to feel all of my limbs.  Ahh, the little things.
My mind was a bit all over the place, thinking about music one minute and dissecting movies the next but it was jumping around about as fast as I was moving, and I just let it be.  It was pretty much an uphill climb all day long.
That moment eventually arrived where I came across Fresh Grounds.  He was just hanging out talking to hikers around a fire while two of his buddies cooked all the food.
I was lucky enough to learn a bit about Fresh today.  He is a former thru-hiker who has been doing trail magic for about 3 years now.  He does get donations from both current and former thru-hikers and announces his whereabouts on his Facebook page as well.  After he did his thru-hike he came to the conclusion that the pursuit of material things no longer made him happy.  He lives a very simple life in a small house in the woods that has very little in it.  No cable, little furniture, and a nice fireplace with minimal bills is more than enough to keep him happy.  While he isn’t feeding hungry hikers he works as an electrician but takes most of March and April off to be with us in the woods living the simple and happy life.  This is what makes him the happiest and you can feel the happiness radiate from his body.  It’s so great to see people who are so intentional about their lives.
After my conversation with him (and 4 hot dogs with fries and of course kool-aid) I was ready to hit the trail again.  I made it a whole tenth of a mile when I ran into BT.  He was sitting behind his truck in a camp chair with a number of camp chairs around him talking to another hiker.  He asked me if I wanted any food.  He had brownies, banana bread, bananas, apples, coffee and sweet tea (which is HUGE in the south).  I didn’t really have room but what the hell. I grabbed a brownie for later and sat down with some sweet tea.
Silver came down moments later and we all ended up talking about our lives in the military, having all been Marines.  BT was very interested in, and surprised by the number of Marines that are out here hiking the trail.
We thanked BT for the trail magic and he thanked us for our service and the three of us moved on.  In our travels we came across a lonely hiker snowman who was melting a way, so of course we had to get pictures.
Silver and I reached our destination for the day while the other Marine, whose name I believe was Barley but not sure, hiked on.  As Silver and I tried to find where the best locations for our tents, Not Yet and Stretch came along looking to go a bit further.
Not Yet had heard there was a better spot 1.5 miles away in a beautiful forest. The problem was there was no water source there and it was all uphill and steep. So we all grabbed extra water (I loaded up with 4 liters!) and started the climb.  I realized that with all the trail magic I somehow had more food at that moment then when I started the day.  Between all the food and extra water my pack was probably around as heavy as it was on day 1.
We eventually manage to get ourselves and our heavy packs to the mountaintop which is cover with a dense forest of evergreens that is just gorgeous.  It was definitely worth the extra mileage.  The four of us ate our meals together and discussed all the incredible trail magic. According to Silver, who hiked the AT back in ’09 & ’10, he has already received more trail magic on this time through the trail than both of those thru-hikes combined.  I wonder what caused the increase of magic?  Does anybody know?
Making friends with snowmanI know I’ve talked a lot about trail magic on the blog, but it just simply fascinates me.  The concept of complete strangers wanting others to succeed so much that they’re willing to use their own time and financial resources just boggles my mind! Maria and I have discussed doing something near New York when we come back.  She loves to cook and is really good at it.  Man, I miss her and her cooking!
I’ve also noticed just how much more I’m doing in a day now that I have my hiker legs beneath me. It had been a tale of two hikes with Gatlinburg being the divider line.  Before Gatlinburg I was averaging around 11.4 miles a day over 19 days. In the 9 days since I left Gatlinburg I have been averaging around 16.6 and the days are getting longer and the trail is getting flatter soon.  I’m curious to see what my pace will be in a few weeks.

3 thoughts on “Day 28 – Erwin to Unaka Mountain

  1. Trail magic is likely increased simply due to awareness. Social media, etc., and people want to jump on the bandwagon. It made me want to be in Maine near the end of the trail, greeting the hikers. It sounds like fun!

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