Day 13 - ZERO!

Today I’m taking my first “zero” day, which is where you don’t do any hiking on the AT at all. I didn’t think I’d want to take a zero day, but I was feeling pretty worn down and worn out, probably due to lack of proper nutrition. I’ve been eating a lot of processed foods and not getting many vitamins at all. My body is very tired. It felt good to sleep in my own bed last night, even though I said “Who is in my tent?!” when David came to bed :) Anyway, since I’m taking a zero day today, I’ll let you know what’s on my agenda. First, I did laundry and washed out my sleeping bag. I also dried out my tent and went grocery shopping for more food, enough to get me through the Smokies. I’ll just be relaxing today and hanging out with my kitties and my dog.

Now, I’d like to delve into what I’m calling “Reflections of a Zero Day” and let you know some random thoughts I’ve had since coming home.

1) When I got into the car yesterday and we drove the two hours home from Fontana Dam, it was the longest I’ve sat down in nearly two weeks. It was bizarre and made my body ache in places I didn’t know could ache.

2) When we got home, everything was blowing my mind! Strangely, nothing had changed in Knoxville. It’s almost like the whole world is still going through the motions while I’ve been away. When we got home, all the grass was vibrant green and trees all had leaves! It didn’t look like it did two weeks ago and I felt like I hadn’t been home in months.

3) When I was sitting down watching actual television last night, around 9 p.m., I was still awake. At that point I realized it felt like months since I’d been on the trail at all.

And now, some random things that I think on the trail:

1) If you think you’re at the top of the mountain, know you have at least three more switchbacks before you’re ACTUALLY at the top of the mountain.

2) If you see the word “gap” or “road” on your profile for the day, know that this means giant, hard, relentless climb immediately following your descent to said gap or road. Also know that as you climb, the wind will always be blowing in your face and you will want to scream :)

3) If you can see a hill on the horizon, the trail will go over that hill. You will never, ever go around it. The downhill is always a lie ;) I spend most of my days walkin up a hill!

4) I never knew it was possible to take a shower and still be dirty.

5a) There are so many awesome, nice, truly generous people still left in this world. I’ve been given extra food when I’m hungry, had people offer to carry my stuff, had people genuinely ask me how I was feeling today and actually cared about my response. I’ve never in my life met so many people in one place that would honestly do anything for you, which leads me into…

5b) Half of the trail magic I’ve received has been from church groups. I was leery of this at first, as I’m used to preachy and pushy Christians. It’s been a huge eye-opener for me that these people at trail magic not only DON’T preach, they don’t push either. They’re fine with any of your religious beliefs and have honest, educated discussions with you. They truly want to help you on your spiritual journey on the trail. They honestly just want to help and “lead by example” so to speak, instead of trying to convert and conquer. I’m not knocking anyone’s religious beliefs, but I think a good number of Christian people I’ve met in my lifetime could take an example from these wonderful people.

This blog post has gotten a lot longer than I intended. So far, I’ve walked more than 167 miles in 11 days. I’ve ached in places I didn’t know could ache, I’ve been mentally exhausted every day, I’ve experienced truly being hungry, dehydration, and sunburns with terrible tan lines. I’ve never felt more fulfilled and happy in my entire life and I’m so looking forward to the next 2000 miles.