On Easter Sunday (April 16) Grateful 2 was staying at Standing Bear Hostel, just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The hike through the GSMNP is always a highlight for thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail and making it through this section is a hiker’s badge in and of itself. He had hiked over 240 miles of the AT and was pleased with his progress.
Grateful 2’s last journal entry was on May 21 and he has made it to Pearisburg, VA, about 630 miles into his thru-hike adventure. During this month on the trail two things have changed his approach and his progress: a truck and a fall.
“We are on our way now to Chattanooga for a zero day at my house where we will retrofit the truck bed for a sleeping station for the trail. We are going to try a thing called a “key swap”. Every day one of us starts out on the day’s trail section from the south. The other one drives to the north end of the section, parks the car at the trailhead, and starts walking south. We meet in the middle, “swap keys”, and when the northbound hiker gets to the truck he returns to pick up the other hiker. The beauty of this plan is threefold. First, we don’t have to carry heavy packs (5 pounds versus 30 pounds). Second, we have a truck to use in the evenings to go out to eat or run errands. Finally, we have a dry place to sleep with a comfortable bed.”
Six days of the key swap seemed to provide a more comfortable pace for the two hikers. But then, on April 30, the second change occurred, “At 13 miles in I had a fall. I caught my toe on a root while going downhill and face planted. I lacerated my forehead and nose, and broke my nose. Blood everywhere; on my arms and legs, on my clothes and pack, all over the ground. The first hiker to come by stopped and asked me if I was ok. Haha. Several hikers stopped to help, and we got the bleeding under control. CTscans showed no broken facial bones except for my nose. They glued and taped my forehead back together and sent me back to the Hostel. Michael and Rikki have been so caring; I don’t know what I would have done without them. Don’t know what this injury means to my hike. I know I won’t be hiking tomorrow.”
Seven days later, Grateful 2 returned to the trail to continue his adventure. He maintained his “key swap” technique but this time with another partner, Chip. The hike progressed well until Thursday, May 18th when the truck began to suffer mechanical problems. “…I realized that my truck has transmission problems. It almost stranded us on the highway, and now we are in a motel in Wytheville near a transmission shop. Looks like I will have to have a new transmission. Big bucks! I won’t know until tomorrow how long it will take either.”
It took several days to repair his vehicle but his entry on May 21 indicated that the “key swap” will continue on the 22nd with another new partner, Peter Pan. There has been no update since. I am anxiously awaiting word on their progress.