There have been some long, tough miles this week, but we have been suitably buoyed by the passing of two early milestones…

Firstly, we crossed our first State line! Oh yes, we’ve completed the whole of Georgia  and are now in North Carolina.  We got so excited about this that we recorded the moment for posterity.

(Note: Not a dramatic reconstruction)

And secondly we passed the 100 mile mark. Hurray! 22 more of those and we’ll be there! Some thoughtful souls had marked the exact spot with some stones – we wondered how long it took them to find the long one.

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Coming, as it did, straight after an epic climb to the top of Albert Mountain (that was not a path, it was a pile of rocks) and its vertigo-inducing fire tower, it was a welcome celebratory moment.

Generally though, North Carolina is much more undulating and less punishingly rugged than Georgia, which is wonderful, and means we’re starting to manage more miles every day.  Either that or we’re developing thighs of steel.  I like to think both.

The wildlife continues to amaze me, varieties of neon yellow rave butterflies (we have no idea what these species are, and no internet in the woods to find out, so we just name them), purple floof butterflies, red punk birds,  birds with poor night vision that fly into the side of the tent at night causing us to have minor heart attacks, small rodenty creatures that have been leaving half eaten acorns in Pan’s boots at night (chipmunk hotel?), woodpeckers that are heard but not seen, (or are the red punk birds woodpeckers?), a snake that I nearly trod on, but no bears yet.  My longing to see a bear waxes and wanes in proportion to the amount of daylight. Broad daylight? Desperate to see a bear. Preferably at a little distance, when the GoPro is handy.  Dark and have to head down the now creepy woodland path to the shelter privy? Terrified there may be a bear, and jumping at every suspicious tree stump.

The trail continues to entice and enchant.  It’s amazing how, despite the stark fact that you’re in the wilderness, and days of walking away from civilisation, that narrow trail leading you onwards and the white blazes that mark the way make you feel perfectly… what is the feeling? Safe isn’t quite right, for there are certainly dangers, but ‘held’ is perhaps the best way to express it.  The blazes will lead you through the wilderness.

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The night before last we had huge thunderstorms for the second night, and the not-quite-dry tent couldn’t quite cope. And so it was two drowned rats with totally soaking everything that hiked the 4 miles to Winding Stair Gap yesterday to get a shuttle into Franklin.  Finally tonight we’ve dried everything out and have passed the time in ruthlessly culling our pack contents of the damn heavy stuff we thought we’d need but now, having dragged it up a few mountains, are much less attached to.

So it’s back out onto the trail in the morning, and one more week  should see us at the threshold of the Great Smokey Mountains. How very exciting!

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Pup and Pan

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