i was excited and nervous, plans for a 70 mile bachelor "party" had been dancing in my head....
i was mildly dreading the physical trauma of this trek, but was hopeful that my life/running experience up to this point in time would make the trauma manageable and the appreciation of the journey the lasting memory.
that my life so far has been so great, with so much opportunity and joy,
and that my future on the horizon looks to be just as joyful (even with some trauma always mixed in).
less than 2 hours in i had my only bear encounter of the trek (3rd encounter this week) - but it was the first time i've ever had a bear do anything but notice me and immediately book it in the opposite direction.he was ~100 feet away, and when we noticed each other he was 5 feet off the trail. he gave me a look, and then came slightly towards me and onto the trail. i was surprised, so i said, "hey bear," as i pulled out my camera - thinking i might get a shot of this one...
but then it pulled surprise number 2, it lifted its front paws and slammed them on the ground in my direction. in retrospect i guess he was just seeing if he could intimidate me into leaving him be....but at the time it gave me a moment of concern.
after two-point-two seconds of consideration, i raised my arms up high to look bigger, and growled back at him. he only thought about that for a second before i guess he decided it was a fight he didn't want, so he turned and took a couple steps off the trail, then looked at me again. i gave him another display of size and told him to go on....this repeated several more times, him stopping to make sure i was still coming, and me reminding him that i am big, until he was at least 40-50 feet off trail and i made my way past.
i contemplated an encounter like this happening late at night, and hoped that wouldn't occur, the sun was setting.
all night i walked over the backbone of the appalachians. the air got cold, and the clouds blew up from the valleys and diffused the light from my headlamp. at 4am i stopped to fill my water bottles for the second time, and it took long enough that i put on my long sleeve shirt and jacket. i removed the jacket quickly, but i was very happy to have the extra shirt.
as the sun got close to showing itself, i reached clingman's and i took a trip up the tower, but decided it would be a bit too long to linger in the cold blustery morning for the view to come, so i moved on. by the time i reached the mt. collins overlook the sun was fully in the sky, and i had introduced a little shuffling to my (now downhill) repertoire.
arriving at newfound gap around 10 in the morning was quite a contrast to the night. the tour buses full of people eager to take a look at the view and pee in the public restroom were a far cry from the solitude and beauty that spends all its time just a few miles from paved roads.
when i arrived at charlie's bunion i felt exhilarated and was very happy to find my body and mind in good repair. i wasn't uncomfortably sleepy anymore (there had been some discomfort between 5 and 8am), and i was getting my first real views from this absolutely spectacular ridge line. a part of me wished i'd done the trek over two days, in order to see it all in daylight....but i was content in knowing that the trail isn't going anywhere, and next time (there is usually a next time, right?) i can go in the opposite direction and see what i missed.
the above happy shot epitomizes the last third of the run. a huge grin on my face as i enjoy the experience of moving through space and time in an intrinsically motivating way. the euphoria lasted for hours.
the traverse took 25:50, which was at least a couple hours slower than i arbitrarily hoped, but really, with the first 13 hours being all walking, and my current fitness on a slow incline, i'm not surprised. i'm thankful to have finished happy and healthy and looking forward to returning (maybe for a faster run, maybe for a week's backpacking with kim, hopefully both).
the trail was rocky, and i had to sprint down from mt. cammerer to meet scott at the appointed time, but the day was fantastic, this route is absolutely inspiring, and i will be back. i indulged in something i really enjoy, and contemplated the next phase of life, with kim, that's coming up. i am so fortunate to be where i am.
what a great route/trip. just fantastic. the euphoria is still here.