13th-Painter Branch Campsite 242.9 to Max Patch Summit 254.1 11.2 miles 14th-Max Patch Summit 254.1 to Hot Springs 273.9 19.8 miles 15th- Hot Springs 0 miles
The last few days have been mostly a nightmare. On the 13th we packed up and started off to Max Patch, supposedly an easy 11 mile day. I had done 20.5 the day before so I expected it to be nothing. It was the worst day yet, entirely because of my blisters. I now have 14 blisters, 5 of them hurting enough that I limped half of the day on Sunday and almost all 20 miles on Monday. I’ve come to realize blisters are a combination of individual feet and luck. One guy I’m hiking with wears a pair of $50 running shoes and one pair of wool socks and has had one blister. I am on my third pair of $140 shoes, have 4 sock liners, 5 pairs of socks, an entire medical kit for my feet including moleskin, new skin, tincture of benzoin, athletic tape, 3 types of blister pads, foot powder, and bodyglide, I spend about an hour and a half a day tending to my feet, I change my socks 2-3 times a day, and I have the most blisters out of anyone I’ve met on the trail. Most people look at my feet and are just surprised I’m still hiking. The blister on my right pinkie toe is now about the size of my actual toe and is starting to form over the toenail. I have another blood blister about the size of my thumb on the outside of my right heel. Those two are by far the most painful and make every step feel like I’ve had all the skin on my foot shaved off. The last 30 miles of the hike have been some of the most painful 16 hours of my life.
On the bright side, we camped out on Max Patch Sunday night, which was by far the best night on the trail. Max Patch is a mountain in NC that had been cleared for grazing and is now kept a “bald’, or just a grassy summit. At the top you see nothing but mountains for miles and miles. We got up there late afternoon, laid out our sleeping bags, and just hung out for the night. Yote even got his friends to drive the hour and a half from Knoxville to bring us pizza and beer. We spent the night eating Little Caesars and drinking PBR while watching the sun set over the mountains. Then we just cowboy camped under the stars on top of the bald. It was very windy, but being cool, dry, bug free and without a tent made it ideal camping.
On Max Patch I met one of the most interesting hikers I’ve talked to on the trail, Forester Gump. He works for a private forestry agency in conjunction with the Forest Service in upper Michigan. He’s a former Marine pilot and had some great stories to tell. We spent much of the evening talking everything from military to life in Michigan to forest infestations. He even let me borrow a thick pair of socks to try to relieve some pain in my feet. Overall great night on Max Patch.
Monday was just a 20 mile painful shuffle in the rain to Hot Springs. Mentally I’m done with this whole hiking thing. Hiking 8-10 hours a day sucks. This trip isn’t “fun”. To be fair it hasn’t been “fun” since day 1, you just have to learn to enjoy the moments in between hiking and count the rest as a challenge. Now though my feet are ruined and the hiking is infinitely worse. All I’ve thought about the past 3 days is how much longer until I get to go home, how many more miles until Damascus. I just want to go home for a couple weeks, let my feet heal, get a pair of shoes that won’t cause blisters, and then hike pain free. The rest of my body wants to bang out 20-25 miles a day. The only thing that is holding me back is my feet. And it freaking sucks.
Today I’m zeroing in Hot Springs. I’ve just done laundry, spent an hour at the outfitter trying to get advice on how to stop the blisters, and now I’m at the library updating the blog. Soon I’m going to grab a bite to eat with some of the guys and do a 5 day resupply at the Dollar General. Heading out tomorrow morning. Dreading putting on my boots more that anything. Hoping to make it to Erwin, TN for Easter Sunday.
15 days, 7 hours, and 10 minutes from now I’ll be on a bus and my feet will have a couple weeks to recover. All I need to do is walk another 193 miles to Damascus, where I can shuttle to the bus station. Only 193 more miles.