There have been a lot of blog posts this week! Pat yourself on the back if you've actually read them all.
On Wednesday, Beau dropped me off back on the trail in the middle of the Smokies. When it was raining. Awesome. Actually, the majority of the rain occurred while we were in town so I lucked out on that one. I hiked for a few hours in the drizzle and got into the shelter where there was a fire in the fireplace (yes, the shelters in the Smokies have fireplaces!) waiting for me. People tend to do shorter days when it's rainy, so there was already a group at the shelter when I got there around 5 that had gotten some lines rigged up to dry out wet clothes.
Thursday I did my biggest mileage day so far- 20 miles to edge of the Smokies. It was mostly downhill, but it didn't seem too bad. Friday and today I did more big mile days, 18.7 and 18 respectively. I am surprised that I'm not hurting more after all that... I think I'm starting to get my "hiker legs".
I've never thought of myself as a fast hiker. Pace is all relative- everyone feels that their pace is "normal", and anything more than that is fast and anything less is slow. Lately, I've been noticing that the hikers I'm meeting for the first time have earlier and earlier start dates. At first, everyone started around me- April 1 or 2. Then I started meeting people who started at the end of March, and recently I've met people who started mid March. I feel awkward when people say, "Wow, you must be really fast!" or "You're really covering ground!". What do I say, thanks? Usually I make some lame joke or say something awkward. I think I just don't take very many rest days.
Anyway, a couple days ago I realized I would be getting into Hot Springs, NC on Saturday night. I would like to be able to go to church when I can, so I called the bishop of the nearest ward and he was able to find a family that could take me in for the night. Trail magic at its best! This nice family picked me up in town, took me to their house, let me shower and do laundry, fed me dinner (and cookies!) and is taking me to church tomorrow. And I get internet access. This is awesome.
Last but not least, Beau just informed me today that he is coming to join me THIS Friday, not next. Hooray!!! I can't wait to have a hiking buddy. I've warned him that he better be ready to jump in full force and we are doing 20+ days EVERY DAY. Just kidding (mostly).
Next stop: Erwin, TN!