730 wake up call. Cloudy and rainy. I jumped out of bed knowing there is still so much to prep before we start the drive to Virginia. I’ve been in mild panic mode since Tuesday which was my last day of work on the Country Music project at Florentine films in New Hampshire. You can see it on PBS September 15. I had been working there understanding my job would end after production which would be 3 years which would have been December 2018.
However, my contract had been unexpectedly extended til February and then March and then April. In that time I finished editing dvd extras and content for the web. I also helped finish an edit of a documentary titled THRU which is about women hiking the AT. I also moved out of my house in Greenfield, MA, traveled to Nashville for a 4-day bus tour promoting the country music film and took a week long workshop lead by Warren Doyle called the Appalachian Trail Institute where I had already hiked 15 miles out of Damascus, VA. I am already tired.
Two days ago my partner Lucy and I said a tearful goodbye as I hopped in the car at 7:30 am to make the 14 hour drive to my parent’s house in North Carolina. Lucy and her house mates graciously allowed me to live with them for the last three weeks of April since I had planned to move out of my house at the end of March. Lucy did a lot to support me as I was cobbling together a 6-month backpacking trip. She listened to all my anxieties about gear and then choice of route and then about snakes and bears. I had hoped to start in April and then a few health issues turned up with my knee and toe. Since I was able to work for April I decided to move my start date to early May but would have to start 500 miles up the trail in Virginia in order to reach Maine before October.
I had one full day at my parent’s house in North Carolina tutoring my parents about how to fill resupply boxes and visiting my aging grandpa in the hospital. I had dinner with my grandma, parents, brother, and an aunt and uncle.
My plan was to start hiking today by 11 am. I had routed a 9 mile hike over White Top Mountain. My friend Cecil (trail name Singer) was going to meet me half way and take me back to his house for the night. My parents and I hit the road at 8:30 am and dropped my unneeded things at Cecil’s House in Todd, NC at about 11:30 resulting in a pack weight of about 8 pounds. We took a dirt road over Snake Mountain to Mountain City, TN where I dropped off some DVDs of a vhs I had made for Warren Doyle. We arrived in Damascus at 12:15 pm and we needed lunch. We ordered at the Wicked Chicken and I zoomed across town to buy a canister of fuel for my stove, cheese and peanut butter. By the time I got back, my parents were half way finished. We finally left the restaurant at 1:30 and started the final leg to the trail which was about 20 minutes.
We turned down a dirt road off HWY 58 to where I had finished my last section in April with Warren’s class.
My parents and I took pictures with the white blazed tree and my dad made sure to point out the poison oak along the road. I began walking at 2 o’clock as my mom called out May the forest be with you, and safety first. I’m proud of my parents for supporting my adventure even though they aren’t too keen on the idea.
I started speed hiking since it was so late in the day and this part of the trail looked less difficult. I popped open my umbrella to keep me less wet. A steady drizzle continued throughout the day. I passed a shelter about a mile in and a thru hiker came up behind me. They said, you look dry. I said, I just started.
I continued speed hiking through rhododendron thickets and across HWY 58, the road my parents took back to North Carolina. I crossed creek after creek and came to a cow pasture with a walk-through gate.
I began my ascent of White Top Mountain when I saw a hiker with a purple cape. It was Cecil. It was about 3:30. Cecil said, you made good time! We had a happy reunion and continued north to his van. I learned he had parked at the top of White Top, not at the bottom so that meant I only had a 7 mile day. I was relieved and slowed my pace. We were going to make it back in time for dinner.
Cecil kept naming off wildflowers and plants: trout lilly, mayapple, wake robins, ramps. We talked about our gear and hiking experiences. Cecil was carrying a full pack testing it out for his upcoming flip flop hike later this month.
We summited buzzard rock about 5 o’clock in the rain and fog and I said, I bet that’s a good view. We reached the van about 15 minutes later and made our way back to Cecil’s house where his wife Julie has prepared a mushroom and sausage quiche.
We had a great visit over dinner and talked about Cecil’s first AT hike 9 years ago with his son. We compared gear until it was time to go to bed. I called Lucy and my parents before I went to sleep. I’m feeling nervous about tomorrow, wondering how far my body will allow me to go and worried I’ll run into my fears of snakes and bears but I learned today that I put too much pressure on myself. Probably a good lesson for the first day.
Mile: 485.4-492.4 (7)