Almost?

14 Jun

We have been a bit cautious when using the word “almost”. Starting 400 miles back people kept telling us we were “almost” done. We would always smile and say “well, we know a lot can happen in (insert # here) miles”. The last few days have been a prime example of that.
We had to pick up our food drop Monday before leaving Fontana Dam. Jen lost the Rock/Paper/Scissors game and had to shuttle into the village early for the box. It was raining, of course, and we had gotten up early to get to the PO when it opened. Jen left for the shuttle and I continued to fill water and break down our camp. I had our stuff ready to go and just needed Jen to return with the food for our packs so I read while I waited, and waited. Soon I decided to heat up water for coffee and wait some more. It was pouring rain. Finally at 1145 poor Jen returned to the shelter looking like an angry drowned rat. When she arrived at the village, after waiting for a shuttle that never came and taking a ride from a random resort employee, she found that we were in resort summer hours and the PO did not open until 1145. So she waited… And waited. They were nice enough to open “early” at 1130 for her to get our package and get back to the trail. By the time she got back to the shelter neither of us were in the mood to hike out into the rain, so we took a second zero day.
The good thing about a second zero day is that you are ready to hike when the time comes. We were getting antsy and were excited to head out for a long day. The other nice part was that we headed out into a sunny day. The weather was warm and humid, but we were not complaining. Sun = Happy Hikers.
This day saw us 18.2 miles further down the trail. There were many short steep climbs, but with the sun shining we were just happy to walk. At the end of the day we set up camp in one of the many gaps, and proceeded to cook dinner. Unfortunately the wet weather has brought in lots of gnats. It wasn’t long before they set their sites on us and the dog. Poor Georgy had to fend for himself as we sought shelter in our trusty tent.
On the twelfth we walked down into the NOC. A large outdoor center on the Nantahala river that specializes in rafting and kayaking. We were very happy for we ate BBQ and drank beers. After lunch we secured our status as professional hobos outside of the outdoor retailer. We rested in their display hammocks and charged our phones in the outside outlets for about, I don’t know, three hours. It was great. Bear laid on the cool concrete near the door so he got wafts of AC as shoppers went in and out. As I said, professional hobos. Once digested we walked another 0.8 miles to the nearest shelter to sleep for the night.
We woke at our normal time, 8-8:30, and started hiking. The morning was sunny, but very windy. We snacked at an overlook and were able to get phone service. After looking at the weather it became obvious that the wind was moving a storm our way. We continued to walk and the sky changed quickly. Soon it was that sickly green you witness before a hurricane or tornado. The wind was strong and our adrenaline spiked when a tree crashed down to the right of the trail. That wood cracking was enough to quicken our pace along to the next shelter. There we decided to just stay the night and make up the miles in the morning.
June 14, up early and hiking before 8am! It was a clear, cool morning and the sun was starting to shine. We walked easily and covered the miles quickly. We met a father and son around lunchtime who shared some food with us. Jason and Jeremy were out to cover a section of the trail. When we ran into them again a few miles down the trail they offered us a ride into town! Traci and Zach, mom and son, made up the rest of this fabulous family. After not only giving us a ride to pick up our box and taking us to the hotel, they insisted on picking us up in the morning to take us back to the trailhead. Trail Angels! We are so grateful for their generosity. Once again it is hard to find the words for how thankful we are for their acts of kindness. Franklin was the kind of town where cat calls are still whooped out of windows of trucks and hitching made me nervous.
Fast forward a few days of walking and we are continuing to make great time. We are looking forward to seeing our families in less than a week! We have crossed into GA and have less than 60 miles to go. I think we are almost ready to use the word almost. However, we are still cautious. Maybe we will say “almost” when have less than a mile to go. Maybe when there are just a few steps left. It is a tricky word and our emotions and exhaustion level change by the day, sometimes hour. I can say that we are ready to see our families and our significant others and look forward to sharing this massive achievement with those who have helped make a lifelong dream a reality.

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One Response to “Almost?”

  1. Gail Gibson June 18, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    What a great hike you’ve had this time around. We’ve really enjoyed reading about all your adventures. Those of us you’ve called trail angels probably got more out of the experience than you did. We so enjoyed having you at our house and we hope someday we will meet again.

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