Date- March 12, 2020
Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 1,293 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 30.1 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 315 miles
Weather/Temp- Overcast, rainy, 60s, 70s
Injuries- Raw feet
Pain level- Low
Spirits/Morale- The end is nigh!
Wildlife encounters- Turkeys x 15
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 2
Today was rough, but we killed it anyway! It was an overcast humid morning when we started hiking a little before 8 am. Starting out in the main part of town, traffic was insane – I was absolutely not feeling the road walking at all. There was so much vehicle activity, and people staring at us; I just wanted it all to stop.
The first five miles were very dense with traffic, noise, and crossing side streets. I had to keep a close eye out for where I was and where I was going. I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to skip the entire road during these first five miles. It was miserable and my patience was at zero. I came very close to calling an Uber, but managed to hold onto my sanity long enough to get out of town and into the more rural countryside… for the most part.
The saving grace of this road walk was the semi-abundance of gas stations and Dollar Generals every five to six miles, once out of the main hustle and bustle of Dalton. With intermittent rain throughout the day, it was nice to be able to stop and grab a snack or Gatorade, while ducking out of the weather.
There were a few loose dogs, but they kept their distance and didn’t pose a tangible threat all day. The most interesting thing I saw on the road today was a dead otter. I’ve seen otters while hiking on a couple different trails, but never in my life have I seen one as road kill. I always thought they were too slick to get hit, but I guess there’s exceptions to everything.
The Hunt is On
I did mess up one one thing I had planned for today, and felt pretty sour about it. Here in the south, “Hunt Brother’s Pizza” is a gas station staple food. Many people shy away from “gas-station-anything” (except gas) – but boiled peanuts and Hunt Brother’s Pizza should not be missed at any gas station that has them. As it were, I had intel that there was a Hunt Brother’s Pizza at the last gas station of the road walk – about 2.5 miles from the trailhead. So I planned to have a pizza to celebrate the conclusion of the last road walk of the trail. In anticipation of that game plan, I held out eating anything substantial until I got there.
Throughout the day, I passed two other gas stations with a Hunt Brother’s, but fastidiously kept pushing on despite my hunger and cravings. As 4 pm rolled around, I had 23 miles completed and finally reached the last gas station. I was starving! I was ready to join the Hunt family and take my place amongst the ranks of their gas station pizza army. But… as cruel fate would have it, their signature Hunt Brother’s pizza oven was broken and they hadn’t been able to make them for two days. I was crushed, and Katana was too. I’d been promising her pizza bones (the crust) all day. She had been incredibly patient and cooperative with the extended carrying, and my promises were not falling on deaf ears. “Pizza bones” is one of her buzz words. She knew what I was talking about – but now I was a liar. We settled for gas station hotdogs instead. Not the same!
When we finally hit the trailhead a couple miles later, I let her hike the next two miles straight without interference. We both needed the break, and were still making good time. We had around an hour and a half of daylight left – with three miles remaining to get to 30 miles. I couldn’t finish this trail without at least one thirty-mile day. As mentioned earlier, it’s a milestone I’ve reached at least once on every trail – and many, many times on some specific trails. I can remember only doing one day over 30+ miles on my entire AT hike, and one 30 mile day on the Florida Trail. That’s a distinct contrast against dozens of 30+ days, 40+, 50+, 60+, and one 70+ day between the PCT and CDT hikes.
When we finally hit the 30 mile mark, fortune was on our side. There was a beautiful rushing stream another tenth of a mile further, with some decent trees. It worked out perfect.
So tonight is the last night before our last full day. The eve of the eve of our final day, if you will. Tomorrow I’ll push pretty hard to try and give us the shortest final day possible. I’d really like to have less than ten miles to finish when we call it quits tomorrow evening.
As of this moment, I have no strong emotions. However, on a side note – I’m actually excited to finish and get home to dive into van life 100%. This virus spread has me pretty anxious, as I’ve heard all the stores are running out of food and basic supplies back home. I feel like I’ll be behind the curve when I get back. We’re pretty removed from all that craziness out here, but I can’t say I didn’t see it all coming. I actually cut my Australia trip short (back in January) because I saw where all this was heading, and didn’t want to get sick or stranded abroad.
When it first broke in China, I immediately started following/listening to independent/unaffiliated sources of news (not the MSM), provided by Epidemiologists. All of them had the same consensus – this is going to be big, and it’s going to be bad. All conspiracy theories aside, it seems that has become the case. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to come back to the States early, as well as take on this hike slightly earlier than planned. Everything has worked out… so far.