It was really amazing to see AWE for the first time in two months. I have missed her so much.
But still, there was work to do. I needed to work out my shoe issues (the Salomon’s have continued to bruise underneath my ankles, and they don’t have hardly any grip on the sole), so we went to the outfitter in Blacksburg. The outfitter in Johnson City told OWL that all Salomon shoes have a 30 day no questions asked return policy…unfortunately we found out that is only true if you purchase the shoes online through salomon.com. Bummer. The local outfitter was nice, but they didn’t have any non-waterproof boots or trail runners. So we decided to go to the nearest REI, a 2.5 hr drive to Charlotte, NC.
It was weird to ride in a car for a long period of time, covering a third of the distance we have travelled so far in a matter of hours. The shoe guy at REI was pretty nice and lI think OWL & I both tried on every pair of non-waterproof mid-boots and trail runners in the store! Finally I settled on a pair of mid length (above the ankle) Keen boots that felt pretty good. OWL bought a new pair of the Salomon trail runners she was originally using. I also got a pair of thin “travel” pants – I don’t want to wear shorts during the summer (ticks!) but my current pants are thick (read: heavy) and are literally falling off because I have lost so much weight. (AWE also brought a pair of ‘too small’ thin rollup pants I had at home, but they also fell off me). Not sure how the thin pants will hold up over rock scrambles, but not too worried about it either. I have needle and floss and bandana…I can make it work.
After spending far too much time in REI, we went to Mellow Mushroom to eat dinner. What a nice treat! Then drove back to Blacksburg for the night.
The next day, we hiked the 5 miles from Trent’s Grocery to Lickskillet Hollow (the section we missed during our slackpack from Woods Hole). It was so much fun to hike with Emily! Even in the rain! OWL & AT dropped us off at Trent’s Grocery, and AWE and I started hiking SOBO. Then OWL & AT then drove to Lickskillet, parked the car, and hiked NOBO. When we met, they handed us the keys. (How smart are we?) OWL & I both had on our full packs (to test out our new shoes), and AWE & AT had daypacks loaded with fruit & snacks for other hikers. But we didn’t see a single hiker on the trail! I have been trying to figure out how AWE uses an acorn for a whistle – finally got her to show me exactly. And although I didn’t find any wintergreen berries, I did get her to try pine tips (tastes like Christmas!). The new boots feel fine – I’m wondering if maybe I should have got a half size larger – but too late for that now. As AWE’s father says, “it will either work or it won’t, guaranteed!”
We also went by the post office, where I had a care package waiting from Post! (Post is the SUPER NICE section hiker I met in the Smokies, hiking with her father). It was so nice to get her goodies, a letter, and a photo of her & her father on top of Rocky Top! Thanks, Post! I really appreciate it!
The last day of our mini vacation was bittersweet. It was still amazing to be in the same place with AWE, but I still had to do all the “regular” in-town hiking things – sort through the food box, go to the post office to mail the bounce box, update the blog – as well as sort through the things AWE brought from home. (We did manage to eat at a delicious Indian buffet for lunch – my taste buds were dancing!)
It was a tough decision trying to figure out what to send home, and what to keep. A lot of thru hikers send home their winter gear in Pearisburg (or even before), but I am nervous about sending *all* of it home because it is still early May, and it can still get cold (especially at the higher elevations).
So, I swapped out my 15 degree bag for a 45 degree bag (the stuff size difference between those two bags is amazing – my pack is not stuffed to the gills now). Other things I got from home: two synthetic tshirts; one a ‘smartcool’ fabric and the other a zippered synthetic. a pair of compression socks, a pair of (smaller) compression shorts, and a lighter sleeping pad. I sent home my extra long sleeve fleece, my worn out sock liners, my wool tshirt, and some extra socks. I am keeping my patagonia capilene baselayer and smartwool longjohns for sleeping, as well as my hat, gloves, & balaclava. I’m keeping my puffy jacket too, because it doubles as my pillow at night. My pack isn’t much lighter because I’m still keeping the cold weather clothing, but fitting everything into my pack is much easier now that my gargantuan 15 degree bag isn’t taking up half the space in my pack.
I’m a little nervous about tomorrow – we have a 19+ mile day planned (with new boots and 5 days resupply!) – but all I have to do is walk.