Day 18 – Thur 3/8/18

Day 18 Zero’d into Hiawassee.

Last night, it got down to 18 degrees, so we decided to get a ride into town to wait out the cold snap.

As we were packing up, it started snowing.

My ankle is killing me, so I’m using this time to RICE.

I am so tired of Hiawassee. I am ready to leave this town for good. I have been here too long.

We are at the Budget Inn again. Nooner is staying with us too – he came in from Dicks Creek.

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!

Day 17 – Wed 3/7/18

Day 17 went from Unicoi Gap to Cheese Factory Site – 3.7 miles.

When we got to the trailhead, it was freezing! This hike was an intense 1,000 ft ascent over 1 mile, then a 1,000 ft descent over 1 mile.

In the ascent, we passed a nice stream where we took a break. Vapor was all about a photo shoot.

We had an awesome view for lunch at Rocky Mountain.

We camped tonight at the Cheese Factory Site. I believe it got down to 18 degrees. It was pretty frigid.

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!

Day 16 – Tue 3/6/18

Day 16 Zero’d at the Budget Inn in Hiawassee with Vapor and Boss.

We actually intended to leave this morning, but Vapor and Boss really needed new puffy jackets for some cold weather that was about to hit, so we rode with Buttercup to Mountain Crossings and that took longer than expected, and we did not make it back in time for check-out so we decided to just Zero again.

Probably was for the best considering my ankle is still very injured and the weather was cold and rainy.

We did go try Daniel’s Steakhouse (AYCE), all three of us were very disappointed. We heard mixed reviews, and since we were here another day, we figured we might as well try it. For a buffet, they had no variety in their selection. They didn’t even have macaroni and cheese! For a starving hiker, I guess it would be okay, but it’s nothing impressive. Mediocre.

Vapor, Boss, and I had so many laughs today. Also, Vapor helped me pack my bag and it fits so much better! So very thankful for his help! Go figure the blind guy can pack a ruck better than a visually dependent…! 🙄😄

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!

Day 14 – Sun 3/4/18

Day 14 went from Blue Mountain Shelter to Unicoi Gap – 2.4 miles.

This morning, I had a spectacular view of the sun rising over the mountains.

I had originally planned to keep going to Dicks Creek Gap, but my ankle was not having any more hiking.

This section was a 1,000 ft descent over 1 mile. That’s insanely steep.

It was very brutal on my ankle. Thankfully at Unicoi Gap, though, Trail Magic was going on! They made us hamburgers! Also while there, I talked to one of the young ladies putting on the Trail Magic would has the same ankle problems that I do, and she suggested a more supportive brace that really locks the ankle into place. So, I decided I would pick one up while in town!

I didn’t take any pictures today because my ankle was really killing me and I was just focused on getting to the Gap.

Okay, there was this one bad part to the day that I want to share with you because a lot of people don’t realize how serious an issue this is on the trail.

As I was leaving camp, two male section hikers happened to intersect me at the trail. I said hello and all to be nice. He told me his name was Hobbit. Hobbit asked me when I had begun the trail, and I answered honestly that I began February 18th. He did the math and said, “Oh, taking it really slow. That’s okay, some people need to do that.” Irritated, I said, “Yes, well, I have a bad ankle injury that I’m trying to recover, so that is a big hindrance.” Then, he said, “Well, can I offer you some advice?” At this point, your female hiker radar guard should be shouting ‘RED ALERT! RED ALERT! ABORT MISSION! GET OUT OF THERE ASAP SOLDIER!’ which it definitely was, but I had never turned down advice before, so instead of saying ‘no’ like I know I should have, I did the polite thing and said, “Sure.” He said, “You really need to lower your base weight. Especially with that ankle. I’m guessing your pack is around 50 lbs. That’s a lot of stress on your ankle. You should really aim for around 12 lbs.” Okay, now there is a good number of things I could say about this man and his advice, but that would be a lot of opinion type HYOH talk. I’m going to go this route:

Hypothetically, let’s say my pack does weigh 50 lbs and let’s say his weighs 12 lbs.

Elizabeth/ Dragon:

Weight – 146 lbs

Paxley – 50 lbs

Total weight on ankle – 196 lbs

Hobbit:

Weight – probably 280 lbs

Pack – 12 lbs

Total weight on ankle – 292 lbs

My ankle is still receiving 96 lbs LESS than Hobbit’s ankle, even though, my pack is 50 lbs… Have I made my point yet?

It doesn’t matter what your base weight is when you are still carrying an extra 75 lbs in body fat!

Okay, anyway…

Boss, Vapor, Nooner, and I got a room at the Budget Inn in Hiawassee.

That night, we went to Monte Alban for Nooner’s 35th birthday!

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!

Day 13 – Sat 3/3/18

Day 13 went from Low Gap Shelter to Blue Mountain Shelter – 7.3 miles.

Holy cow, this was one of the best days, but one of the hardest so far!

I got up later this morning since I got no sleep the night before, but I’m so glad I did because I was able to meet to of the most beautiful people!

As I was packing up and cooking breakfast, a couple came down from their tent site. I was pretty sure I knew who it was as they were walking down, but I wasn’t sure if he would have appreciated being identified as I had heard from rumor the night before.

They were about to head back up to their campsite when the female hiker took a phone call which stalled them in front of the shelter before crossing the stream.

The male hiker knew I was there, so he turned to initiate a conversation with me:

Male Hiker: Have I met you before?

Me: We haven’t met before. I’m Dragon.

He continued on to introduce himself as Vapor and his wife Boss. To my surprise, but to my delight, he just put it out there… “We’ve actually become quite a big deal on the trail. I’m blind, so my wife helps me to navigate the trail.”

Vapor is completely blind due to a stroke he suffered. He and Boss have been married about a year and a half – she’s the only person (out of all of Vapor’s family and friends) that was willing to take him out and adventure!

They have a Facebook page that you can join to follow their journey thru-hiking the AT. Login in to Facebook and search Appalachian Trail Journey.

They are truly two of the most magnificent people I have had the opportunity to meet. Following some of our chatting, Vapor said, “Well, I hope we get to meet again, but we have to go slow and I’m sure you’ll be going faster than us.”

But little did he and Boss know!

Since starting the trail, Vapor and Boss have gotten used to being passed by all the “Sighty’s” or “Visually Dependent’s” (as Vapor calls them haha!) which made me sad to hear because after all my foot problems, I remember how demoralizing it was to have everyone pass me. Obviously I know their pace is for his safety and his abilities, but sometimes it really gets to you having all your friends pass you.

But yesterday, Vapor could officially say that he kept pace with a Sighty! We hiked all those 7.3 miles together. It was truly an incredible experience for me.

Since telling my tramily that they needed to push on without me since I didn’t want to hold them back from hiking their own hike, it has been hard. I miss them so much – Life Alert, Michelin, and Whisperer! I didn’t have anyone to watch for me at the shelter anymore, hoping that I was going to make it in. Or seeing familiar faces. Or knowing someone could boil your water while you make camp. It’s been really lonely.

But as much as I miss them and wish I could catch up to them and keep up with them, without my foot and ankle problem, I would have never gotten to meet Vapor and Boss and make the memories I’ve had with them.

When we were making it up those last 2 miles yesterday (which were rocky and steep!) Boss kept talking about positives – and this is my positive. It stinks that my ankle is slowing me down, but had I not made all those tough decisions and been willing to feel the pain and loneliness I knew would hit, I wouldn’t have had to slow down enough to be here with Vapor and Boss. I would have missed out on THIS! It really would have been tragic if I had given this opportunity up.

Okay, I think you get the drift and I’ll stop rambling. Haha.

So, we hiked on yesterday, didn’t really get any “views”, but that’s only because we had views all day! It was great. We got some great photos of cascades though!

When I saw the icicles, I turned and told Boss and Vapor, “You won’t believe this! Come look!”

Boss was like wow! And she started to describe the icicles to Vapor. Well, I went and broke one off and took it to him so he could “see” the huge icicles too! 🙂

Amazing time.

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!

Day 12 – Fri 3/2/18

Day 12 went from Hogpen Gap to Low Gap Shelter – 4.6 miles.

It was very windy today! The wind gusts were up to 35 mph.

This morning, Suches gave Tomato and me a ride to the trailhead. He dropped Tomato off at Woody Gap on our way to Hogpen Gap.

When I got out of his FJ Cruiser, it was freezing! I had to put my rain pants on to act as a wind breaker. This was a pretty easy hike (I wanted to take it very light since this was my first day hiking with a full pack since my ankle injury).

I ended up getting to camp around 11:30 am since I got started so early (8:30 am). I considered to keep going to the next shelter, but decided I really shouldn’t push it.

It was so cold this night! I got absolutely no sleep.

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!

Day 11 – Thur 3/1/18

Day 11 went from Gooch Gap to Woody Gap – 3.3 miles.

I was able to slackpack today thanks to Duffy! My ankle held up, and tomorrow I should be able to continue north.

This has been my favorite hike so far even though it rained and rained and rained. It might have had something to do with knowing I had a dry place tonight, but it was a great hike!

I definitely didn’t get any views, but I enjoyed the hike.

I’m not sure if you are aware, but rain gear is equally competent at keeping rain out as it is at keeping sweat in!

So, this photo is looking straight out from the mountain… it was essentially straight down.

I’m pretty sure these were supposed to be my views… but if I was going to hike in the rain, this was the best place to do it!

We were completely socked in!

But I made it!

And as soon as I got to Duffy at Woody, the fog started clearing up for a beautiful view!

Tonight, I’m staying at Barefoot Hills Inn (which is the old Hiker Hostel) in the bunk room with another thru-hiker Tomato.

Ahh, this is the life!

The only “complaint” I have is that there is no HBO on demand… I may or may not have been wanting to binge watch Game of Thrones from Season 1 since I got my miles done so early (aka almost normal hiker speed)… 🤷🏼‍♀️😆

Also… it is 5:30 pm est, and I just looked out the window to see THIS!…

A break in the clouds!

Tomorrow is going to be a good day!

Thanks for joining me on Expedition Elizabeth!