Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring


     Walking up and out of Frankilin, NC I felt great.  It was a beautiful day, if not a little warm.  Two small blue butterflies danced around me as I climbed my first hill of the day.  Signs of new life were slowly emerging from the forest floor.  Little white, yellow and blue, at least I think they're blue, flowers were popping up all over the place.  Green grass was sprouting through leaf litter bordering the trail.


     My brother had sent me something called kinesio tape to put on my knee in order to prevent some pain.  It was hot pink and something tells me that choice was not an accident.  I don't know how it works, but I was pain free so it must be doing something.  In fact, I was almost running up the mountain.

     Two or three hours later I was still running up the same mountain of the day.  I came to a place called Siler Bald.  A bald is a mountaintop void of trees and just a grassy meadow.  I'm not sure why or what the purpose is, but it sure was neat.  I was pushing to get to a place called Wayah Bald for lunch, so I didn't stop and take any pictures.  When I did get to Wayah Bald it was covered in trees, but there was a tower dedicated to some guy.  Surrounding the tower were about fifteen other thru hikers all eating their lunches.  Not doing well with lots of people, I kept going to a shelter I knew was nearby.

     When I arrived at the shelter it was only me and some scary looking guy setting up his tent.  I went into the shelter, sat down and started taking my meal out of my food bag.  As I was eating a wonderfully juicy pink lady apple, in walked the scary dude.  He sat down next to me, looked at my bag with three other apples in it and said,   "I'll trade ya fer an apple."

"Uh, okay." I said.

     He leaves and shortly comes back with one of those five gallon buckets you see from Home Depot.  He starts digging through his filthy buck and starts pulling out some grass looking stuff and dirt.  I asked him with suspicion  what it was, he told me with a big smile that he had just found some wild onions and leaks.  He said his name was "Animal" and he was thru hiking to Maine, but foraging as he goes.  He showed me how to peal them and what to eat.  It was probably the most interesting lunch I have ever had.  I was impressed.

     After my lunch of wild edibles and only a little dirt, I kept on heading down the trail.  Still feeling energetic, I pushed on late into the day.  So late that I caught an amazing sunset from a tower overlooking the surrounding countryside.  I rolled into the shelter area I planned to stay that night right as darkness was setting in.  I threw up my tent ate a quick meal and called it a night.  All in all I walked over twenty miles to get there.

     The next morning I set off for a place called Nantahala Outdoor Center, or just the N.O.C.  My guide book said it was seven miles away, all downhill.  It might seem like downhill would be the easiest way to go, but remember I have been battling pains since I began.  This day though, I felt pretty good.  Nice and gingerly at first to test my legs out, but slowly more confidently.  Downward I went.  I arrived at a place called the "jump off".  It signaled the steep final decent into the N.O.C.  When I say steep, I mean so steep that you have to sit on your butt in order to let your legs reach the next foot hold.  This went on for quite a while before the decent slowly got more mild.  Through the trees I was able to see the buildings and road of my destination.  Then, TWANG!  My right calf sent me a jolt of pain so hard it made my head dizzy and white spots appear in my eyes. It hurt so bad that I actually had to take all my weight off and hop a step or two.  I would walk a few dozen steps and it would shock me again.  What the hell is going on?  I limped across the road toward the gear store where I was planning to purchase a few items I was lacking.  The whole time I was thinking, how the hell am I going to go on with this new ailment?

     I made the decision to stay at the bunkhouse located there and see how I felt the next day.  I threw my backpack in the room and went to soak my feet and legs in the Nantahala River which ran through the middle of the complex.  I limped over to the rivers edge, rolled up my pant legs and in I went.  The water was gloriously numbing and the sun was bright and warming.  I sat there soaking for what seemed like an eternity until a bunch of kayakers pulled up directly where I was and lingered there until I felt awkward, so I left.

     I had dinner at a restaurant located in the complex with some other hikers who were also staying at the bunkhouses for the night.  Beer was ordered and we toasted our grand adventure.  I loved the name of my beer so I had to take a picture.  Later, I hobbled to my bed and called it a night.

     The next morning I returned to the restaurant for sweet potato pancakes that other hikers were raving about.  They were good, but in my opinion way too small.  I was expecting normal sized fluffy pancakes, but these were like a sad smaller malnourished cousin.

     After breakfast I set off to test my leg.  When coming into the N.O.C. I had to deal with seven miles of downhill, leaving, it was seven miles of uphill.  There was also an equally steep section called the "jump up".  I felt fine going up, truth be told I felt really good.  The views looked out over the river valley below and the little complex where I spent a brief moment of my life.

     The day progress on with lots of uphills and downhills and I was pleasantly surprised to find my calf didn't hurt at all.  It really is amazing how fast my body has been recovering.  I really thought that something catastrophic happened with my leg and now here I am cruising along again.

     Towards the end of the day I came to a place called "Jacobs ladder".  This was an insanely steep upward section of trail without any switchbacks.  A switchback is when a trail goes back and forth across a moutain while slowly gaining elevation.  I plugged away ,but had to stop every couple of steps to let my heart settle down it was so steep.  It also seemed never ending, whenever I thought I was at the top there always seemed to be another rise to climb.  Eventually though it did end and so did my day.  I camped high on a ridge near a shelter as a gentle rain lulled me to sleep.

     Morning came and I quickly set off.  I planned on meeting my father for a pick up at place called Fontana Dam.  It was over ten miles away and almost all of it downhill.  It wasn't too long into the day when the skies opened up and down came the rain.  I donned my rain gear and kept on moving.  The problem with a rain coat is that it doesn't allow your body heat to escape, so as I exert myself and begin to sweat the rain coat traps it against my body and I get soaked on the inside anyway.  That is the way the day went until I emerged out of the woods, tired, soaked, stinky and covered in mud.

~Frenchy















12 comments:

  1. Thank the lord above for Sex Viking brewskies. Huge congrats on your passing the first border. Keep the pictures coming! They a freaking awesome. I have been collecting them into a slide show to follow your progress via my screen saver. And keep the names of places coming so I can follow you vis google earth! Stay healthy and be careful through those smokies.

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  2. What a writer you are! So jousting and taming unruly horses, (and their dumb ass owners), just scratches the surface of your many gifts...I'm seriously impressed and grateful that you are sharing this insane adventure with us in such eloquent fashion. Wish I could give you some comforting advice for your knee... but by now you must understand that it's nerve endings you are dealing with and you need to release the pinch as often and quick as you would with my Diego holding on to his bit. Be gentle with yourself, most of all... You are young and you have plenty of time to get where you want to go. Thank you for wearing your bandana too =). Don't forget, along the way, give your Dad a big hug. You have some really first rate parents there. It's very pretty where you are, but someday you really have to do Yosemite with us. Next time ,huh? Your pics are wonderful and your story, strangly, very soothing. We here are following your every step and wishing you gentle uphill trails and warm summer winds.

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    1. Thank you so much Mary, I will try to remember all of that :)

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  3. Frenchy! Keep up the good work, dude! I'm rooting for you!

    ,Sinan

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  4. Oh Matt, what a great adventure we are having in the comfort of our home, you write so well we feel that we are with you, well we are in mind if not in body.

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    1. Be thankful you are not in my body at times, it is not pleasant.

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  5. the flowers are blue, just like your old sleeping bag!

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  6. Sex Viking, LOL great photo. Glad to hear your knee is much better. When you get to the smokey's try and get a sunrise view from clingmans, if the fog lifts could be a great view. It's the highest peak on the entire AT, I'm sure you know that or will know that when you hit that section. Keep the blog going, we all look forward to reading them.

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    1. No sunrise, but beautiful view and weather.

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