I am beginning a FKT on the Mountains to Sea Trail on September 1st 2020. Due to Covid my plans to thru hike were changed when I realized to stay away from people I would need to form my own support crew with support vehicles. From there I realized I could try my trail legs and endurance at a FKT.
I want to be as transparent as possible. I have a SPOT Tracker that will ping me every 10 minutes. I realized it doesn’t track my every movement that is why I am also pairing it with my Suunto watch connected to my STRAVA account. Additionally I want to let you know my SPOT tracker is old and doesn’t work too well in the thick woods. That is why I will also be manually tracking my days through social media and on a Google document. I am attempting to set the new record on the new MST (was 930 miles when Van Deren set the record, is currently 1175 miles) in 30 days.
Day 1 / 39.2 miles / start: Clingmans Dome /end: Mile High Campground The day started at 3am as we awoke at Smokemont Campsite in the GSMNP. We got to Clingmans Dome around 4:50am and that’s when I began my journey. The first 26.6 miles flew by but my pace slowed down greatly once I hit the Blue Ridge Parkway. As I ascended up to Mile High Campground I felt anxious for some reason. It was all justified because when I got to the campsite and expected to see Ryan (my support guy) and the support car wasn’t there. Instead a nice caretaker informed me that our car had broken down. Her husband was headed down to meet Ryan and get some things so I could camp. While I freaked out Ryan and my parents made a plan to get a new vehicle out to us the next day. The caretakers invited me to use a cabin instead of camping and then a nearby camp offered me fish tacos and lovely conversation. The night ended well but it was surely an eventful first day on trail.
Day2 /43.6 miles / start: mile high campground / end: Haywood Gap Since my dad and Ryan were out all day fixing the car I had to pack a full days worth of supplies for the 43 miles. Instantly as I started running my knee and shin were aching. It was a long and lonely day. But once I got to the gap my dad and Ryan were there to provide me with company, comfort and conversation. I’m thankful for my support team
Day 3 / 40.9 miles / start: Haywood gap / end: Sleepy Gap The morning of day 3 was spent navigating the difficult Middle Prong Wilderness in the dark. Since it isn’t blazed I had a lot of trouble finding my way through it. But with the help of All Trails I made it out (thanks @twoonthetrail). My pace continued to slow as my knee hurt and my shin/ankle swelled. Half was through the day I prayed and pleaded to God to please heal my knee and then my husband called me. I told him my symptoms and he casually said I’ve had that several times just do this stretch. I did it and I was all good! Thank you Jesus! My ankle and toes are another issue. Day 3 was all good otherwise.
Day 4 / 42 miles / start: sleepy gap / end: Walker knob Day four was really tough. Though it started out flat And easy the terrain became really rocky and steep which ruined my knees and ankles. This is the first day where I feel an amount of pain. Jim from Friends of the MST hiked with me for 16 miles and then my dad finished the day out with 7. Ryan surprised me a pizza which made the night. It’s getting tough but I’m going to keep pushing forward.
Day 5 / 35.6miles / start: Walker Knob / end: Woodlawn Work Center It was the hardest day so far and my birthday. I cried more times than I’d like to admit. The pain in my toes (by the way on day 4 Ryan removed two toenails on infected toes), pain in my knees and shin caused me to fall to a 1.5 mph pace. I sped up as I ascended and descended Mt. Mitchell. Ryan and I missed each other at two restock points and by the time I saw him around 1230 pm I was in bad shape. He took care of my pains with pain killers and biofreeze and I was off. As I talked with my husband @jonathandower on the phone I cried as sharp pains targeted my knees and shin. I still had 12 miles to go. The rest of the day was a series of ups and downs. Then as the pain in my shin was becoming too hard to handle I ran into my dad and friend Lexie on trail! They came to finish up the day with me. It was rough but once we got to the end they surprised me with candy, balloons and a birthday song. They then took me to the camp they found and had everything set up for a wonderful camp bday party. I iced my legs for several hour and sat in the nearby stream. Lexie made Baked Ziti and a bday cake. Ryan supplied a bunch of Medical items needed to continue my journey as well much need medical care which has become our nightly routine. My dad brought the fun conversation and familiar comfort. The night ended very well and in the morning I know I’d feel more prepared to take on another day on trail.
Day 6 / 24.7 miles / start: Woodlawn Work Center / end: Table Rock Parking It was difficult to get started today. My feet being so swollen and toes bandaged, it was difficult to hike efficiently. I only did 24 miles which would prove to be good for my body the next day. Linville was very exposed and rocky but also beautiful.
Day 7 / 43.9 miles / start: Table Rock Parking / end: Price Lake Campground My pace was all over today, from beginning at a 2mph pace and ending with 4mph. Also today was my longest day of hiking and first night hike. I hiked .. I mean swam through Harpers Creek. I lost count but there were soooo many creek crossings. I hiked under and around linn cove viaduct and up Rough Ridge. The end of the day was beautiful. Also @reesie_pop got me new Lone Peaks and they have saved my feet and legs. I’m finally hiking again with little pain.
Day 8 / 40 miles / start: Price Pond/ end: Jefferson Overlook I kept up a steady 3 mph pace as I hiked near Blowing Rock and Boone today. I got lost near Moses Cone but eventually found my way. Tomorrow it calls for rain.. for 5 days .. ugh.. ok let’s get it! But if anyone here has fast tips on how to keep the feet dry that’d be great. I’m most worried about my feet staying wet because you can cause some problems with my already formed blisters. Additionally I think I have minor trench foot 🤢 Still hiking with a lot of pain but we are getting ahead of it with painkillers and starting earlier so I have more time to hike. Additionally we were able to stay at my friend and trail angel @janpstan place last night. It was very nice because I were able to finally take a shower, soak my feet, jump in the hot tub (quite literally that is the first thing I did, clothes and all I just jumped right into the hot tub.) and eat black bean burgers. thanks Jan it was truly magical and amazing. Side note: some of my Strava posts have not been uploading correctly. They seem to be lost but you can always check my SPOT tracker for accuracy and honesty of my FKT attempt. I knew something like this might happen that is why I have two forms of tracking.
Day 9 / 37 miles / start: Jefferson Overlook / end: Devils Garden Overlook FINISHED THE MOUNTAINS!! Today was one of my shorter days. I felt pretty good all day as I anticipated the rain to come at any moment. Luckily it held off for quite a while until around midday. I battled some serious anxiety on trail today and it was hard to combat it. Eventually I found some peace and enjoyed talking with my parents, grandma, and in laws on the phone. I found a lot of happiness in my podcast and audiobooks too (thanks @biancafernandezbrown for the recommendations).
Day 10 / 44 miles / start: Devils Garden Overlook / end: Some Vineyard First day in the Piedmont region was ... interesting. Stone Mountain was very cool! Ryan and I kept missing each other but finally linked back up around mile 17. I begin my first day of road walking and that was hard. When I began my walking on the road people hollered at me and one guy literally stopped in the middle of the road to ask if I was European....??? My knees and ankles felt the pain and I was nervous of getting hit by car. It was all jokes until after Elkin when the road became very narrow and I had trouble walking with the amount of cars that sped through. I was so afraid by the end of the night I trembled in fear for the next day. I wondered “ is it worth it?” That may sound dramatic but I was so close to being hit by a lady in a vehicle that it made me wonder what was important in my life. At this point I’m taking it day by day and evaluating these risks. Tomorrow I have 25 miles of road so let’s see how I do with that.
Day 11 / 33 miles / start: Vineyard / end: Pinnacle Hotel Rd. Near Pilot Mtn 25 miles on the road was extremely difficult. It was getting hot pretty quick because we started at 8am so I’d feel safe in the daylight. Typically I’ve been starting hours before sun up. I mostly stayed on country roads that weren’t too busy so that was comforting. However by 3 or 4 I called up my husband and I was hysterical. It was so hot so he looked up the weather in my area and found it to be 88 but felt like 95 degrees. I soon entered the woods on the Pilot Mtn. Corridor trail and a wild Rascal (@meganjoy94)ran up. We caught up and laughed but I mostly ranted about my bad day on the roads. I struggled to tell her that I felt like this was too difficult for me and I wanted to quit... yes I wanted it to be done. But she and Ryan pushed another 3 miles out of me and we ended at a park where we slept in our cars as rain poured. Tomorrow’s another day... Pilot Mtn and Hanging Rock.
Day 12 / 42.6 miles / start: Pinnacle Hotel Rd. Near Pilot Mtn/ end: Hemlock Golf Club Today began with hiking with Rascal up Pilot mountain. The night before we slept in her car together and Ryan slept in mine. I had trouble falling asleep because of how hot it was that night. Around 1030 I finally dozed. I woke up barely awake and it took awhile getting ready. As Rascal and I hiked up pilot at 4am it was difficult to find our way on the detours provided by Friends of the MST. We left Pilot and continued through Sauratown. She left me and I pondered the probability of getting hit by a car in next road section. This scared me and once again I wondered “ is it worth it?” My mind and body has been tired and I try not to make rash decisions though. I know I n we to just push through and see for myself. I felt a little more encouraged as I met up with Rascal again and she hiked up Hanging Rock with me. It’s been so nice to have company out there... even though she farts a lot 😉 We departed Hanging Rock and my mom who came earlier in the day gave me new @Altra running shoes. We entered a road section and I was able to complete 13.1 more mile relatively quickly. Mom followed in her car making sure we were okay on the roads and that was a huge comfort. Having my mom and Rascal around has been a huge encouragement. Ryan and I are both tired and needed some new blood around to spice things up. We ended the day at a campground/trailer park. Another roller coaster of a day. 🤷♀️
Day 13 / 45 miles / start: Hemlock Golf Club/ end: Church St at Townsend Trail We woke up after a restful nights sleep at 3am. Rascal and I were off by 4:45am. We began my 30 miles road stretch and my mom followed closely behind. It was dark and stressful to be on the roads at an early hour. As the sun came up I fell into a panic, I stopped at a gas station and told Rascal, my mom and Ryan I couldn’t do it. The roads were too much for me. My mom knows exactly what to say to push me forward, she showed me all id done so far and told me to reevaluate my desires for the hike after Falls Lake in 3 days. I have noticed a trend in my attitude, morning are difficult to get going and encouraged but by 10am I am working my tail off to make those miles. I know I’m giving everyone whiplash but all that matters is I’m still out here making the miles. I stopped for a long lunch Oakridge, met Jeremy who produces the MST podcast, and then took a 10 min snooze because the sun was becoming so harsh. I pulled out my sun umbrella and happily hiked through Summerfield at a 3mph pace. Rascal met up with me at the Yadkin/Atlantic Greenway where we ran under a shade canopy. However I burst into tears after seeing a nice couple on a evening stroll and instantly missed @jonathandower and missed not pushing my body to its max everyday. Rascal and I both knew all I needed was food and after the crying stopped we both laughed at how ridiculous I was being. I finished the last 3.5 miles alone and happy, Letting my body wind down and not push the pace. Said goodbye to my mom today as she went back home, it was amazing having her part of the crew❤️❤️. We are staying at a hotel near Greensboro and it’s pretttty gross!! But a good nights sleep is ahead.
Day 14 / 48 miles / start: Church St at Townsend / end: Lake Michael near Mebane MY LONGEST DAY! 48 miles wahooooo!!! However it was met with challenges. We began with 6 miles of trail which was refreshing. Then by the time I left the woods there was Greensboro Monday morning traffic around. I stayed brave and calmly moved through traffic making sure I took my time. Next were a series of beautiful country roads followed by the Haw River trail which went around a golf course and then followed the ...Haw River lol. Rascal then informed me she replanned my day to do 48 miles instead of 45ish. That was what I needed in order to fulfill one of my goals of pushing my limits. However I also knew my friend @p0udrier and @mrspoudrier were expecting us for dinner and the night. I decided I needed to speed up to have an evening with them and get the miles in. Rascal and I found ourselves around some evening traffic which made us both nervous. She then left me to get her car and I was fast walking up a road when a work truck of men were driving by. I always wave at people in order to tell them thank you for moving over as these men did at the time. However in the middle of waving to them the driver faked like he was going to hit me and swerved back. He then waved back and they all laughed. That really disturbed and upset me. My biggest concern has been the roads and to know people think it’s funny to joke like they would hit me with their vehicle is not okay. I have seen people texting and driving, people have barked at me from their cars, some people speed up going past me and barely move over but I’m trying to look past that and focus on the good. For instance I got my feet caught in a discarded bike tire and my entire body smacked the pavement hard. A man stopped to pick me up and make sure I was okay. I’ve had people slow all the way down to pass me as well as encourage me on with thumbs up. I will focus on those people and try to forget about the non desirable moments in order to continue to push forward on this journey. By the way BIG THANK YOU to Ryan and Rachel who are amazing trail angels. I ❤️ y’all and appreciate your hospitality.
Day 15 / 44.6 miles / start: Lake Michael near Mebane / end: East Greer St. Simple day of hiking/running on roads, through Hillsborough, into Eno River State Park and entered the Falls Lake Area. We stayed with @tarheelhiker who was soooo generous. She made us dinner, I soaked in Epsom Salt bath and just simply hung out.