Day 12
Franklin, NC
0 miles

This zero day has been awesome.  We got plenty of time to run errands and started trying to find a ride for Missy from Fontana Dam, NC to my parent's cabin in Cosby, TN, near the Northern border of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  Because we got behind on our schedule, our friends who were going to watch the dogs, can't do it on the days we would have hiked through the park.  Although we haven't found a ride yet for Missy, one of the calls was to our friend, Rich.  We thought he lived in Asheville, NC, but were more than stoked to find out he lived not even 30 minutes from our hotel in Franklin, NC.  He planned to drive over, and hang out for awhile, after he was done with work.  It was awesome to see you again, Rich.  Glad things are going well out here and hope we can meet up again this summer.  Maybe in New York?  After hanging out with Rich, we had a few more things to do before being able to relax and get ready for hopping back on the trail tomorrow.  The next time I update may not be for awhile, but Missy just got an iphone, and I will try to do some short updates as I can.  Until then, enjoy yourselves and take it easy.

Day 11
Carter Gap Shelter - Winding Stair Gap
15.9 miles

We broke the 15-mile barrier today, and it felt so good.  Not only that, but we completed the first 100 miles of the trail, not even halfway through the day!  We planned on another 12-mile day, and when we got to the planned shelter, it was only 2:30PM.  We took a break and didn't really like the shelter, so we decided to keep heading into town and take a zero day the next day.  We threw our packs back on and headed down the trail, to climb one more mountain and end the day.  When we got to the road, it took us about 25 minutes to hitch a ride, and we were in a hotel room by 6PM.  All I can say is that this day felt so good.  The trail was mellow and the miles flew by.  It felt good!

Day 10 
Muskrat Creek Shelter - Carter Gap Shelter
12.5 miles

Well, the day was pretty mellow, but Missy's foot was acting up, so it made the day seem much longer.  We stopped for lunch on top of Standing Indian Mountain, and met a very friendly retired school teacher.  We had a good conversation about the trail, and our experiences so far.  I hope the rest of your hike that day was a good one, Eileen!  The view from the top was good, but there were so many bugs, we couldn't enjoy lunch, or the view, for very long.  After lunch was the worst for Missy's foot.  A long, downhill grade and high heat, combined to tire out both of our feet; Missy's in particular.  So we stopped at a creek to let Missy soak her bruised foot.  The break was good, Missy's foot felt better, and we continued on.  As we were heading back to the AT from the blue-blazed water trail, I remembered that we wanted to take a picture of a unique rock on the trail behind us.  I told Missy to keep going, and when I got back from the creek to the AT, all I saw was Molly, sitting all alone, whining, and staring the wrong direction down the trail.  Molly is usually pretty good about letting me know where people are, so needless to say, I got a little worried.  I ran down the trail, calling Missy's name, with no response.  I didn't think she could have gotten that far ahead of me, so I turned around and ran North, calling her name, with no response.  The reason I got worried was that with Missy moving slower, because of her bruised foot, I felt she shouldn't have been that far ahead of me.  But the soak was good, and her foot was refreshed, so she was moving quickly down the trail.  Thankfully, I kept heading North, shouting both Missy and Tess's names, and Tess came shooting out from a bend in the trail; Missy was following Tess.  I was so happy to see Missy, that I didn't even mind the hike for the rest of that day.  When we finally did get to camp, we didn't hang out much with the camp crowd.  The day had worn us out in different ways, and we were both ready for bed soon after dinner.

Day 9
Dick's Creek Gap - Muskrat Creek Shelter
11.8 miles

We had lots of energy to start the day, after relaxing in town.  Of course, those Georgia mountains didn't want to give up, and we got tired out quickly before the border.  Once we got to the border, after one of the harder climbs of the trail, we were so excited, our energy picked up just in time for the worst climb of the trail.  As someone wrote in the log book, at the shelter we stayed at for the night, "North Carolina meets you with a kick in the crotch."  Everybody at the shelter that night felt this was an accurate way to describe the climb we had just experienced.  After the climb, we were so glad to be at the shelter, hanging out with some good folks.  What up Guinness and Ryan?  We had a fire and are getting ready for some mellower mountains.  Can't wait for Tuesday, and the first 100 miles of the trail!  Something else exciting happened today, as well...Missy got her trail name!  I named her Two-Step, which relates to the fact that every step I take, she takes two.  (In her own words, "Imagine how hard I must be working, just to keep up with Will's casual pace!")

Janis Ahern
5/15/2012

I'm your Granny's neighbor in MI although I retired from the Airline in August 2011 so at home now full time in NH! Husband, Bruce, who also loves "Rosie" still flying out of JFK instead of DTW. I've hiked the Camino once and intend to hike it again in Sept. I want you to know that when you get into NH, please call me and I'll come to where you guys are and scoop you up for a day or two (or however long you want) of R & R. I read where Missy hopes to have a farm one day so it would be a good place for you to stay. We raise red deer and do all the hay for them. We'll do your laundry and let you just veg for a while. I will look forward to seeing you Will and Meeting your wonderful fiance. :) <3 Take care. Love Jan Ahern

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Will
5/23/2012

Oh man! thank you so much for that kind offer! I don't think 2-Step would let me turn that one down. I'm glad to here that things are going well. How did you get into raising red deer? I'm sure 2-Step will have lots of questions for you when she gets to meet you. Thank you so much again! We've met so many wonderful and helpful people along the way. It's been so nice to see the kindness that people have for others and to hear about other stories of generosity from fellow hikers on the trail. Much love and happy trails!

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