After work on Friday April 12th, I drove an hour and a half to the Appalachian Trail north of Hot Springs to find Josh Garrison on his thru-hike attempt (his hiking partner had to bail near NOC due to an ankle injury). We successfully met up and hiked on to camp for his 8th night along the trail. The next morning, I hiked with him over Camp Creek Bald and Blackstack Cliffs before wishing him well and turning back for home.
It was a lot of fun hiking with and getting to know Josh. He's a humble and honest athlete with a strong climbing background. I knew there were others curious to learn more about this young gun attempting a sub 60 day self-supported AT hike, so I spent a good part of my time playing paparazzi as shown in the video below:
On Friday evening, I observed that Josh was hurting from an Achilles injury, but he was moving well on Saturday. Given his relentless pace, I knew things could easily take a turn for the worse. Regardless, I left with a strong sense that Josh would be be able to pull through. On my hike out, I saw dozens of bloodroot blooms, which had not yet emerged when Josh and I passed through just a couple hours earlier!
Later in the week, I was surprised and saddened to read that Josh's Achilles injury had worsened and he had to cut his hike short- a sobering reminder of the difficulty of these attempts. This resonated in the back of my mind this weekend while I upped my training with a clockwise PEAL. Uwharrie and I enjoyed two sunny days in Pisgah, punctuated by a couple of chilly nights. Meanwhile, Lily flew up to DC to visit with Liz and Reevi.
A few notes from our inaugural trek, which will be rePEALed a couple weeks from now: Uwharrie and I left at 5 PM in the chilly drizzle and arrived to Butter Gap Shelter by 7:30 PM where we spent Friday night. We were hiking by 7 AM Saturday morning and made it to the balds by 11 AM where the icy trails and wind chased us down into Greasy Cove. After fording East Fork, we rejoined the MST and made it to Pisgah Inn by 5:30 PM. The dinner rendezvous with James, Lauren, Carl and Kim was somewhat successful. Afterwards, Uwharrie and I descended Laurel Mountain and arrived to Yellow Gap after dark, a 40 mile day. Sunday, we were hiking by 7 AM into the labyrinth of South Mills and endured several early morning fords before regaining the ridge and more familiar turf. After 32 miles, we arrived home by 3:30 PM. This is a great route.