About the Author: Pat-Rice Z is a Jersey girl who has relocated to the DC area. She is a 2019 AT Thru-Hike hopeful who is considering going NOBO or leapfrogging, however the adventure unfolds. You can find her on Instagram @halfway_to_the_sky.

To see all of Patrice’s posts, click her name above!

Week 5: April 30 – May 6

We touched down in Erwin on “May the fourth be with you” to discover a Hiker Festival in downtown! As soon as we stopped at the hostel on the edge of town a free shuttle from the First Baptist Church swung by and brought us the three miles to the party. First Baptist Church also gave us free snacks and watched our bags for four hours! There were free pancakes and coffee, free foot soaks with free medical advice (I hurt please help me), free sodas and more! I got a delicious honey pizza and watched kids play in corn and pet various farm animals including a Wallaby. We then got another free shuttle to the Super 8 where we missed a torrential down pour. What a perfect last day of being 25. 

This week again has been good to me. Erwin has perfect reception so that I can call my family and a Mexican restaurant with margaritas which I believe is the only proper way to turn 26 when your birthday falls on Cinco de Mayo every year. 

Though I iced my left foot in Hot Springs, the swelling and pain continued in my left ankle. One of my fellow hikers from Luxembourg asked me why I was taking pain medication, “because I’m in pain” I told her. She asked me why I wouldn’t just hike differently instead and that got me thinking, why not? So for the last three days I haven’t been masking my ankle pain with Ibuprofen and just hiking at a pace that feels right and by golly it works. By actually listening to my body, my ankle has not been bothering me as much by just slowing down. Though my pace has slowed down, I still was able to accomplish my first 20 mile day! We are still on track for Trail Days in Damascus and I am so excited. 

I have been more homesick lately. Sometimes I wake up and wonder how nice it would be to go to work (weird, right?) but usually these feelings pop up when my stomach is upset. Norovirus? No, I don’t think so, however every time I go into town and eat the big greasy meals or the giant salads which are pure fiber, it definitely bothers my stomach because now I am used to a Pop Tart in the morning, tuna tortilla for lunch, and potatoes for dinner. It is easier to feel sick in a more familiar setting. 

I was looking at a map in Virginia and deciding when I could possibly see my boyfriend who lives in DC. Virginia is a big state and I most likely will be walking it for a month. But bigger miles means less time between now and seeing him.

I like looking back at my pictures and posts from the first weeks on trail, it helps you see why you came out on the trail in the first place and it reminds you of the excitement you had working towards a lifetime goal. I also decided to pick up a better battery pack at Walmart and allowing myself to listen to music and podcasts when the hiking gets boring. For now I listen to the birds and the wind and I often hike with other people. The AT is accessible to most of the east coast however surprisingly I can find myself hiking alone without seeing another soul for up to 7 hours! This is a great time to appreciate the serenity of nature but by hour 5, I usually am a little sick of the same four songs playing in my head.

I probably will leave Erwin with the heaviest pack yet but I do plan on sending cold weather gear home in Damascus.

I’m thankful for being on my two feet. Happy Trails!