I am connected again! I received a new-old (used) phone from home today, special delivery from Brian's wife Ann, thanks Amy and Ann! Now it is time to update the blog from the last 11 days, I will try to keep it brief, as I am sure your daily responsibilities consist of more than just waking up, walking north, and going to sleep. That's my life on the trail!
March 17. The day we lost Brian...today we took a break at the Muskrat Creek Shelter and after our snack Brian had his pack on and said he would meander on down the trail and we'd catch him. Ryan and I got our stuff together and headed out a few minutes later. After an hour we still hadn't caught him but we kept pushing on. After 2 hours we were a little worried, maybe we missed him somewhere or maybe he was feeling good and going strong. In any event, Ryan and I sat down for lunch and started planning...should we hike faster to catch him? Should we go back to see if he had fallen off a steep side of the trail somewhere? All of a sudden Brian headed down the trail from behind us laughing. He said he left the shelter and checked out a side trail. While he was doing that we had left the shelter at a brisk pace to catch up with him. Brian strolled along slowly to let us catch up and he even sat for a long break at the trail head for the "Chunky Gal Trail" because he knew we would want to take our pictures with the sign, and we did, but we had been there before him! Brian was sure that he was still ahead of us until he passed a few hikers who told him that we were in front, way in front, so he booked it and caught up with us at lunch. After that we had one heck of a tough climb up Standing Indian Mountain, a lot of up! That night we camped at a small camp site in a gap and in the middle of the night, with no rain or wind, we all woke up to a creaking sound and then a huge crash. A tree near our tents had decided to give up and lay down. It was an intense experience and I began to wonder about the stability of the trees that I camped under! In any event, we all survived the night!
March 18. Rough start to the day, Ryan and Brian are both about down for the count. They have both been fighting a cold, last night was surround sound coughing and hacking as their tents were on either side of me. This morning Brian's eye is pretty swollen and he said last night he couldn't see out of it. Ryan's foot is hurting pretty bad, he has blisters, and his cough is really nasty. From the looks of things both of them may be paying a visit to the doctor's office in Franklin.
Albert Mountain was a very tough climb...part staircase, part rock scramble, and all burn! There was some much needed trail magic tough in the form of fresh oranges wedged in several of the trees on the way up. The view off the fire tower at the top also made the climb worth it.
I've been testing some of Brian's iodine tablets to treat my drinking water in hopes that I might be able to send home my 11 ounce water filter soon. It seems to work, the water comes out a little cloudy with some floaties in it, but still tastes like water and should be safe to drink!
March 19. We hiked a short 6 mile day and made it into Franklin. Before heading into town we took a side trail to see the second largest poplar tree in the United States. Unfortunately the tree died several years ago, but most if it is still standing and it is still big! The trail took us directly into a fenced in section of the forest with the poplar in the middle. We walked around, looked up, and took some pictures. Eventually we noticed some signs posted on trees outside the perimeter of the fence. The signs were from the forest service warning visitors that being near the tree can be dangerous as some of the dead limbs, as big as normal sized trees, can fall at any time. Hmmm, maybe our trail should have lead us to a path around the fenced in section rather than directly to the base of the tree...but I could be wrong!
When we got to the highway to Franklin we called Ron Haven to get a ride into town. Ron himself came up the mountain in a bus to pick us up, and he is a character! Great guy and he really does a lot for hikers. We drove to one of his hotels and he dropped us off. I reserved a room for myself and Ryan and Brian split a room since they were both sick. We did our laundry and showered and Brian headed over to urgent care. The synopsis for Brian ended up being an eye infection and with a prescription he'd be over it soon. Ryan did not go to the doctor but he took a nap to try feel better. I headed down to the grocery store to pick up some food and then it happened...while balancing the all important Pop Tarts, Slim Jim's, instant potatoes, and more I dropped my phone and it broke. We had dinner at a 50's diner and since the other guys were still under the weather we headed back to the hotel and I picked up a 22 ounce brown bag and spent the night with a bottle, my broken phone, and annoying infomercials on a fuzzy TV.
March 20. Let me tell you about Ron Haven's Budget Inn. It's not a dump, and it's not 5 stars. Let's just say that most of you reading this would not stay there, but for a bunch of dirty, smelly, tired hikers it looks like a Hilton! For breakfast we dined at McD's and I had an $8 breakfast! A sandwich, fruit parfait, oatmeal with fruit, OJ, and coffee...a good start to the day!
After breakfast Ryan decided it was time to go to the Urgent Care doctor to get a check up. Brian and I went to the post office and I mailed home another pound of stuff including my water filter, running tights, and the Tiffany & Co. calendar from Amy. The pack is getting lighter! So now I have no cooking stove, no pot, no fuel, no water filter, and about half of the clothes I started with. Brian mentioned that he has sent so many clothes home that his pillow is getting too small, mine too! I did keep the second pair of underwear with me, for now!
The doctor told Ryan that he had a double ear infection and gave him some meds. Between Brian and Ryan I think we have half a pharmacy. Ryan missed the shuttle from the doctor twice and we didn't get back on the trail until mid afternoon. In the meantime our frinds from Michigan, Headin' Out and Taggin' Along, made it into town and Taggin' Along gave us our first trail name when she called us "The Three Amigos" so that's how we are signing the trail logs now.
Being in town is tough on me. When I'm on the trail I am in my own little world where my goal is to get to Maine, one step at a time. When we hit town it is nice to get some rest and get cleaned up, but pretty soon I start thinking about life back in California with Amy and Pre and I start wondering what I'm doing out here. Down days in town are hard because they are like normal days at home, I'm just not at home. When I'm on the trail I'm on the way to Maine, but off the trail I'm standing still. I know it is good for me though to get some rest along the way and to really experience the people, the places, and the towns along the trail, but when Ron Haven dropped us off on the side of a highway in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a white blaze on the north and south side of the road I started to feel comfortable, ready to get back on the trail, ready to make my way towards Maine and then back home!