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Friday, May 13, 2011

We're in Asheville, NC! Home of the Biltmore estate, the best beer in the country (it's official--sorry Portland) and, most importantly, the Plaehn Family! Helen, Tim, Martha, Patrick, Flannery, and Henry have been kind enough to welcome our smelly selves into their abode for a shower, laundry and a good night's sleep. We like 'em! We also like Asheville, from the very little we've seen. About half the people here look like thru-hikers anyways, so the last few hours have been an easy transition for us. We were even able to do our resupply at a natural foods store. High fives for whole grain, organic toaster pastries and vegetarian chicken noodle soup!

A blogs-worth of stuff has happened to us lately. Today happens to be our one month "hike-a-versary!" Hard to believe we've already been on the trail for 31 days. Since the last post we crossed the 300 mile mark, located near a bald called--no joke--Big Butt. We also weathered a double thunderstorm in our tent, summitted Big Bald and hiked our first 21-mile day.

Here's the day by day:

Day 26
Zero in Hot Springs, NC (0 miles-yes!)

Pretty strange to take a full day off, but our bodies definitely appreciated the rest. Hot Springs, and the Sunnybank Inn in particular, was the perfect place to kick back. After a lazy morning and a big breakfast, we decided to enter into an untold realm of relaxation by taking a dip in the mineral pools at the Hot Springs Spa. All told, the "pools" were just jacuzzi tubs with the warm spring water pumped in. The view of the French Broad River was great, however, and the atmosphere was very peaceful. After an hour of soaking we felt pretty darn soothed, if not straight up loopy. Topped off the day with a big ice cream cone and dinner with friends.

Day 27
Hot Springs, NC to Spring Mountain Shelter (11 miles)

Excellent vegetarian breakfast prepared by Elmer and the staff at Sunnybank to send us on our way: waffles, granola, strawberries, cantaloupe, coffee, soy milk, jams, syrup, etc. One more stop at the library before leaving town. Short, but uphill day today to make sure our legs could readjust after zeroing.

Day 28
Spring Mountain Shelter to Jerry Cabin (15 miles)

Hard day today, both physically and emotionally. Our mileage was moderate to hard, 15 miles, but the grade was straight up for a large portion of the morning and afternoon. Something about the way the incline and the heat/humidity combined had us dragging our leaden feet. Hoping for a flat, easy 5 miles to end the day, but--surprise!--encountered a long stretch of ridge-line bouldering instead (easier for Zack, who has long legs, than for Lara, who has shorter legs). Had a few hours of peace at camp, but were kept awake all night by some of the most intense thunderstorms we've encountered yet. Constant lightning, sheets of rain, and rolling thunder kept us awake nearly all night. Fortunately, our tent held up, keeping us bone dry (well done, REI!). Oh, and we also had two encounters with two large snakes - yikes!

Day 29
Jerry Cabin to Hogback Ridge Shelter (15 miles)

Dreary-eyed, we emerged from our sleeping bags around 9:00 and decided to give ourselves a rest-filled morning at camp. Coffee and homemade breakfast breads definitely helped. Comparatively easy terrain made for a pleasant day of hiking, and we were able to camp with our friends Avo and H.I.P. for the third consecutive night in a row. Many thru-hikers have temporarily left the trail to attend Trail Days in Damascus, VA, so the trail has been quiet.

Day 30
Hogback Ridge Shelter to No Business Knob Shelter (20.7 miles(!!))

Our biggest day yet, and a beautiful one to boot. Conquered Big Bald, which, true it's name, was big...and bald. Outstanding views, and very few bothersome bugs at the top. Started feeling mentally drained around mile 15, but were able to push through thanks to a 10 minute 'focus break' and some nice chatter with H.I.P. during the last 2 or 3 miles. Spent the night at No Business Knob where we met Cimarron, an 88-year old solo thru-hiker. He's hiking the trail for the second time, about 50 years after the first. What an inspiration.

That's all for now!

Zack (and Lara)

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