The Smoky Mountains were amazing and as beautiful as everyone said they would be. The higher elevation meant tough climbs and fantastic views, but also a wide range of weather. We had hot and sunny days followed by cold, wet, hail-filled days. It was all manageable though and made for some good laughs and stories when we huddled in shelters.
I haven't seen many animals out here. I think having Rooney with us makes it less likely. So far I've seen 4 snakes, 5 deer, 2 salamanders (they make us think of our friend Ryland!) and countless bugs. Oh, and one mouse fell from the roof of a shelter on to my neck while I was packing my food bag one morning. So gross! Ticks haven't been a big issue, thankfully.They were around early on, but we haven't seen them much in NC or TN.
My appetite is finally starting to kick in. I track everything I eat and how many hours I hike each day, just out of curiousity, and so far I've been eating about 2,000-2,500 calories a day and burning about 3,000-4,000 on the trail, depending on how many miles we do. In towns I house food and can easily eat 1,000 calories in one meal without batting an eye. I weighed myself on a scale that was pretty unreliable, but I would guess I've lost about 7-8 lbs. I'm losing fat, but gaining muscle so the scale isn't that different, but my body is definitely changing. It's going to be crazy when my appetite really kicks in...I know this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Rooney is still doing really well. We boarded him at The Standing Bear hostel while we were in the Smokies and it's nice to have him back again. I'll admit there was a part of me that liked not having the additional responsibility of caring for a dog, especially in towns, but by the end of the week I was really missing my (not so) little blue pupper. I really feel for the hikers who can't see their dogs for 5-6 months.
Socially, the trail is really interesting. There are so many different people out here from all over the world. I'm actually hiking with a few others from Chicago and one from Downers Grove...small world. Thru-hikers, section-hikers and day-hikers all add to the social dynamic, but what makes it really fun is seeing familiar faces along the way. There are about 20-25 hikers that we see regularly and its nice. Like a little hiker family out here.
Serial and I have settled in to a hiking routine that works well for us. Usually we start the day together and eventually Serial picks up his pace and we hike separately for several hours. We meet up for lunch about 2/3 of the way into our day and take a break. Then we either hike together to camp or hike slightly apart to camp, depending on the terrain and how fast I'm going. Some couples out here hike all of their miles together, and we do that some days, but our paces and styles are too different to do that consistently. This just works better for us and allows us to spend some time together and some doing our own thing.
Which reminds me...I finally got a trail name! Serial and I both keep a decent pace and we pass a handful of hikers each day and for the first week everyone was always saying, "you just missed Serial, he's 10 minutes up ahead!". Early on the trail there were a lot of hikers out there and I was hearing "10 minutes" a bunch of times every day. So...my trail name became Ten Minutes. Eventually Serial kicked it into high gear and it was more like 30 minutes ha. So my name was shortened and now it's just "Minutes".
That's it for now. Gotta get my pack situated and get ready for the trail. Much love to everyone following along and supporting us!
Minutes, Serial and Rooney