Catching Up & Dad's Birthday

Sorry it has been so long since my last post. Sadly, I don’t get much reception on my phone in the mountains. But the occasional trail town stop allows me a computer once in a while (thanks Gdei & B!).

It’s been a very exciting past couple weeks. When we left Blood Mountain Cabins (MM 31.7), it was individually. First Magic Man started out, then Feel Good. Firefly was not far behind them and then off I went. It was like that for a few days. We’d decide on an end point before hand and we’d each be off. It was always nice to know that even if we all hiked on our own, we’d still get together at the end of the day, ready to share and swap stories.

On Sunday, when I was hiking from Low Gap (MM 41.2) to Unicoi Gap (MM 52.9), I was feeling really down. I’m not entirely sure why my mood got so low. Every pointless up and down on the terrain irritated me. I think it was the cold, in retrospect. When we stopped for lunch at Blue Mountain, it was so cold that I easily ate over 1500 calories. But that night made me feel so much better.

We made camp somewhere half way to the summit of Rocky Mountain. Ryan (a section hiker we adopted as part of our squad), Tortoise, and Magic Man were already there with a great campfire going. Feel Good, Firefly, and I came in and set up our place to camp. We gathered around the fire and shared some deep experiences from the trail that day. It made any negativity I still had left over just melt away.

The following day we all hiked to Deep Gap (MM66.0), with the plan to rise early the next day so we could get to Hiawasee, GA to resupply. My crappy mood came back that morning. Now entirely sure why I was so in such a bad mood, but discovering a huge tear in my tent wall didn’t help. But sure enough, Feel Good came through and really cheered me up. By mid-afternoon, his calves had started causing some pain and it was my turn to cheer him up. So we sang old country songs like King of the Road and Folsom Prison Blues. I even sang Okie from Muskogee in honor of the recently late Merle Haggard.

The next day we all hiked out. Ryan (who offered to drive us into town!) left first. I was last, but Feel Good left just before me. So I was quite surprised when I hiked out to Dick’s Creek Gap to discover that he wasn’t there yet. Turned out he had gone south out of the shelter trail. He resummited one of the hardest peaks in Georgia twice that day, once out and once when he turned around. We saw him an hour later.

We resupplied and hung out for a night in Hiawasee. Did some laundry, took showers. When we left, Firefly and I went first. We hitchhiked out of town and were picked up by this very sweet couple, Dixie & Brad. They were only going to bring us 6 of the 11 miles we needed, since that was their turn off. Instead, the brought us all the way to the trail head!

Sitting at one of the picnic tables were a couple of guys we know from the trail, Giant (who is on his third thru-hike!) and Smoky. We hiked on, Firefly’s strong legs carrying her far ahead of me. About a mile before the GA/NC line, I met three more thru-hikers, Exterminator, Kimberley, and Wanderer. We all got to cross the GA/NC state line together and took selfies!

There’s more to share, but this post is already so long! So, here’s some highlights (and some photos).

I crossed MM 100 (of the AT) at Albert Mountain, which was an awesome accomplishment.

Last weekend I finally got to meet Gdei & B in North Carolina. They put me up for a couple days to shower, do laundry, etc. They even threw a sweet Shabbat dinner and had their friend Will over. It was a deeply moving evening, which I may share more about at another time. Key word: water.

Gdei took me to some sacred Cherokee sites, including Nikwasa and Kituwah. Kituwah is the Mother Mound of the Cherokee People. So important, it would be like the Jews hhaving Mount Sinai, Mount Zion, and Tzfat (Safed) all in one place. Gdei taught me a few things about the history the area and The People.

The last few days have been a lot of hiking. Yesterday was a 17 mile day. Today I hiked into the Nantahala Outdoor Center (MM 137.1) with Feel Good. Firefly and Tortoise are days ahead, yet. I’m with Gdei & B in Sylva tonight. Gonna resupply and shower and get back on the trail tomorrow.

Today would have been my dad’s 75th birthday. A few months ago my brother John’s partner, Rachel, brought some sand back from Half Moon Lake in NH, where my dad’s ashes were scattered. I’ve been carrying that sand with me on the entire pilgrimage. This afternoon, I went to the Tuckasegee River. I did a mikvah ceremony and gave some of the sand from Half Moon Lake to the river. It felt like a good way to honor my dad. I’m glad we’re hiking buddies, if only in spirit. Happy Birthday, Dad. May your atoms continue to live on in our ever-expanding Universe.

That’s it for now. As always, if you’d like to help with a contribution for the pilgrimage, please head over to GoFundMe. Anything helps and in is graciously appreciated.

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