Unfortunately right now, this post is the only thing that will be heading your way from Hot Springs, as I am going to be stuck here for at least the rest of the day. But more on that later.
I believe my last update was from Damascus. I was excited to have less than 500 miles to go; now I have less than 300 to go, and my feelings are much more mixed. My desire to be done and home is well beyond excitement, and yet it is sad to think that this adventure is getting close to an end. I stayed a night in Erwin, TN, about a week ago, but after getting some food and drying off I was actually really looking forward to heading out into the woods and setting up camp at the next shelter. I’m not sure what the draw to that is now that I’ve been doing it for 4 months straight. You would think that the magic would have worn off after 1800 miles. Maybe it was the fun of camping, the peace of being out in the woods, the feeling of being that much closer to Springer, or maybe that I just function better eating ramen and sleeping in a bag in a mouse-infested lean-to than I do in society now. Regardless, when I am hiking I long for a break, but when I’m sitting in town it doesn’t take long for me to refuel and want to be back out on the trail.
While we were waiting for his ride to Roanoke, before he left, Dad mentioned something about me being able to finish this task. “Task?!” I said, hoping that was not all that this had become. He amended his statement using the word journey, probably just to appease me. But I have reached that point where I’m beginning to see it as a task as well. The last week didn’t help, either. The weather was much the same as was back home, I believe – gloomy and foggy and rainy every day. I think 2 of the last 11 or 12 days since Damascus were sunny, which meant I haven’t seen much of anything from the cloud-encircled mountaintops.
The last day of decent weather saw me ascending up into the Roan Highlands, which are one of the highlights of the southern quarter. Late in the afternoon, with a 360 degree view from the meadow atop Hump Mountain, I thought for a moment that with such beautiful views and trail, the weight of the “task” was gone. It sounds a little cliche, but with scenery like that, I stop thinking about how long I’ve walked that day, or how far I have left to walk, or how late I’ll get to camp. Even the steep climbs and heavy pack seem to fade from my mind. I wish every day could be like that, but unfortunately, it isn’t.
That’s why I’m stuck here in Hot Springs today. Whatever storms are brewing down in the Gulf and sending all this rain across the Southeast have put a flash flood watch on the area, with feet of rain being predicted over the weekend. I’m torn between wanting to get home so badly, and not wanting to hike through the Smokies soaking wet, cold, and miserable. The hostel where I’m staying may have some work-for-stay opportunities, so that at least could keep me occupied, but I may just get bored tonight and decide to make a sprint for Gatlinburg starting tomorrow. But the Smokies are the last big thing on the trail, and I’d hate to run up to the top of Clingman’s Dome, see nothing but gray, and have to run down to the next shelter to dry off and warm up. We’ll see what happens.
In any case, I am 275 miles and about 2 weeks from finishing. I’ll see you all soon, and this time I’ll actually put the pictures up like I said I would (although my camera has been in my pack for most of the past week to keep it dry). Thanks for reading.