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Today was probably the most beautiful day I've had yet. The highlands were just amazing. I woke up to a breathtaking sunrise where low-lying clouds made it look like there were lakes across all the mountains. I sat alone and watched the sun come up. It was so peaceful.
We started our day a little late and headed through the highlands. We split up as usual but would take breaks together. I found myself running through all the things in life I'm thankful for and felt completely at peace. Midday Sarah and I stumbled upon some Gatorade trail magic which was a nice surprise. I tried something new and called my sister, Ashley, today while hiking and it was a nice way to pass the miles. Later in the day we stopped at a waterfall and decided it was a good place to shower so we all washed up. We hiked a few more miles and got to a camp that was incredibly sketchy but was functional. It has a privy and a water source. We sat around the fire and told scary stories. I'm thankful for so much. Life is good.
I was woken up to a really strange noise and some feet running off in the distance. My best guess was a deer snorting and running off into the woods. We got out of camp pretty early but did a relatively short day. Nick, Sarah, and I hiked together and made it to Partnership Shelter around two. This shelter is famously known for being able to have pizza delivered to it. We decided to hitch into town to get some food. We stopped at a Pizza Hut and then finished off with some McFlurries. We hitched back and had a private fire away from the shelter and had some beer that we'd packed out. I've had such a nice time with Nick here. I'm really going to miss having him here.
When we were around the fire I opened up with everyone about feeling insecure about a lot of things in life. It felt kind of scary to be vulnerable like that but they helped normalize it for me. I've been wrestling with feeling toward Sarah again but at this point I'm just trying to accept that I might just feel them since we're spending so much time together. After our fire we climbed up into the packed shelter and are on the second floor with about a dozen other people. Tomorrow we're going to meet Aidan's mom and I'll get my mail drop.
I woke today feeling confused. Sarah and I cuddled in the shelter last night which just sent me some mixed signals. I spent most of the morning feeling insecure again. I really wish I could work through this a little easier. It's confusing and not something that I really want to give any energy to right now. I'd much rather just hike.
Today was a great day. We had a relatively easy hike from Partnership shelter to Atkins. We hiked past an old schoolhouse that's on the trail and found it was stocked with candy and drinks for hikers which was a welcome treat. A few miles after the trail comes out of the woods and down into Atkins before heading back through cow pastures into the woods. When we arrived in Atkins we went to the post office where I got my package from mom. It was loaded with baked goods and snacks. Aidan's parents met us there shortly after. Her mom is going to hike with us for 4 days. Her dad drove Nick back to get his car in Damascus. Nick told me that he's decided to leave his job and come back to hike the rest of the AT! I'm so excited for him!
After leaving town we headed out and camped a few miles outside of town. I decided to hand out some of the baked goods mom had sent me. I handed them out at camp then walked about 1/4 mile back where I'd seen some other hikers camped to offer them some. Brownie was there, someone I'd met via instagram before our thru-hike. Back at camp we met "Rolo". He caught a spider in his tent that he said was a Brown Recluse. He put it in a sandwich bag and tacked it to a post labelled "Brown Recluse. Found in my tent." with the intent of warning others. It was really strange.