This past week has been so crazy for us that it almost feels surreal.
As a lot of you know, winter has finally decided to make its appearance and boy has it been a journey. When weather systems move in, we have quite the list of people that let us know, so we were well aware that a really cold system was moving in with snow as its accomplice. However, we weren’t aware of just how cold that front was going to be.
Before we left Hot Springs, we had a conversation about really getting serious about the mileage we were putting in each day. We had been bouncing around between tens to twelves with the occasional fourteenish up until Hot Springs and we just simply weren’t making the progress that we had hoped to be making. Not only that, but we were leaving one camp way too late in the morning and still getting to camp with two to three hours of sunlight left in the day, so we knew there was some adjusting to be done. Needless to say, we have pulled two sixteens and a seventeen since and it felt strangely good! Don’t get me wrong, it hurt our bodies like no other, but we finally could feel like we made significant progress in a day once we arrived to the shelters.
BUT. Not everyday since Hot Springs has been so successful. The day we left town, in fact, was a short eleven mile day as we didn’t actually leave town until around 10:00 that morning and we took two hour long breaks on the way to camp. We are SO bad about taking super long lunch breaks and then dragging the rest of the day out from there, I’d say it’s our biggest weakness! We kind of felt like we deserved to take a short day since it was so dang hard leaving the awesome town of Hot Springs, NC and the next day we pulled a solid sixteen miler to even it out.
Then…the snow storm happened. We weren’t sure how much snow we would be getting, since we had been given mixed reports of anywhere from three to eight inches, so we decided to only hike ten miles into a hostel so we (and all of our gear) wouldn’t freeze. Well the “hostel”, AKA Mountain Tim’s Tool Shed, ended up being a few sheets of plywood with six bunks, a microwave, a refrigerator, and a shower in it. The floor boards weren’t touching each other and if you needed to use the restroom, you could use the “privy”, rather, the tiny shed Tim relocated all of his tools to when he decided to open a hostel in his shed. But, that’s a story we could probably write a whole book about – so at least we were in a four-walled structure out of the snow.
The next morning we woke up to a fresh blanket of snow and set out for another sixteen mile day. Little did we know, the one inch of snow at the hostel would continually develop into close to four inches as we trudged our way up two really tough 1500 foot climbs that day. Y’all. Walking through snow with boots and a thirty pound backpack is harder than running barefoot on the beach through soft sand. WE. WERE. MISERABLE. Thankfully that day just so happened to be daylight savings as well or we literally would have been hiking in the dark for about two hours. After slipping and falling on ice and thick mud all day, we finally made it to a shelter where all of our belongings froze during the night.
Monday morning we laced up our frozen solid boots, packed away about ten pounds of ice into our packs and set out for a seventeen mile day trying to get to a hostel in Erwin, TN. Luckily, we arrived to Uncle Johnny’s ten minutes before the dinner shuttle left for town and got the news that our Momma G had called ahead of us to book a room for two nights. We felt like a million bucks setting our gear in a warm room and eating about twenty pounds of delicious, cheap Mexican food that night, but we were still a little uneasy about taking an unexpected zero day the next day.
You see, one of our plans that we made in Hot Springs was to only take a zero every one hundred miles, so this felt like a punch in the stomach. After talking to all of our trail family here and our families back home, though, we realized it’d be best to wait out the cold spell. However, that one zero day ended up turning into two because the lows on the trail were showing a crippling -13 degrees with the wind chill and there’s no way our gear could keep us warm in that. Before we started, two zeros in a row sounded like a dream come true, but now we’re finally in a groove and it stinks to be thrown off by this much time. But again, we are trying to do everything we know to do in order to ensure our finish in Katahdin, so this sacrifice seemed necessary.
If that were all of the battles we had to fight this past week, it might have been ok. But we also had to deal with Mother Nature’s delivery of a menstrual cycle which introduced a lot of other struggles to our days. I know this isn’t a subject many people would like to read about, but I researched it for so long before we left and guess what – the girls who say stuff like “having your period in the woods is no different than having it at home” or “you probably won’t even recognize you’re having a period” are LYING. Not just tiny white lies, but big juicy fat lies. You most definitely WILL know what is happening and it is so incredibly different in the backcountry than at home that I feel like it’s my first one every time!!! My body just completely shuts down. I have to fight major mood swings, terrible nausea, feeling extra fatigued, etc. on top of the every day struggles my body already goes through out here on a daily basis. And all of this means that Logan also has to deal with me complaining and taking more breaks than usual, so “bless his heart”.
But you know what? We’ve decided to look at it this way:
This past week we pulled our longest mileage days of the trip so far, we crossed the 300 mile mark, we got to hike through a new weather condition, we got to see some really REALLY incredible views, we made a ton of new friends that we’re now staying in a super cool hostel with, and we have even more stories to tell for years to come.
It’s all part of the journey, right?
For more insight into our journey, check out our Youtube channel by watching the video below! Like, subscribe, and comment so you never miss an update from us!