Currently laying in my tent...
My brain was up and humming early this morning, preventing me from sleeping in at all. I took this as a sign that today should be productive. I heated up the variety of microwavable breakfast foods that I had picked up at the grocery store yesterday. Not bad, I concluded. Kinda wish I had figured out this whole microwave scene sooner! I walked to the edge of town and stuck out my thumb as I backpedaled a little bit. Soon enough, a guy in a pickup truck pulled over. This time, I got to sit in the cab. Surprisingly enough, he was a former college professor and molecular virologist. Not someone you expect to pick you up in "Deliverance Country", as they sometimes call it. He was great, going out of his way to get me to the trailhead. This trail is still magical, that's for sure. No surprise, I was met with a climb away from the road. My legs were fresh from yesterday so these piddly ups and downs were alright with me.
A couple thousand-foot climbs and drops brought me to Unicoi Gap, out of which I made my last real climb of the day. The next seven or so miles seemed to fly by, and I was at Low Gap Shelter, my intended endpoint, waaaay too early. I didn't want to just sit around and think about how excited I was, so it was a no-brainer to push on after a break and a water refill. Again, I put in headphones to drown out my own thoughts. A little excitement is fun and healthy, but I crossed that line a while ago. I think the same thoughts over and over: I'll be there so soon! Tonight I sleep out here somewhere, then tomorrow it's Neel Gap for resupply and sleeping at Gooch Mountain Shelter, then the next day it's Springer! Wait, that's not that soon. How can I wait that long? It's so long! AHHH!!! I attempted to stop the cycle with a few tunes. They helped for a while, but soon I found myself getting more and more excited, to the point of having physical symptoms. If I stopped walking I would rub my hair crazily. I guess excitement isn't exactly the right description. To tell the truth, there is no way to describe what I'm feeling. It sometimes feels incredibly sad, and other times it feels jubilant. It's like one emotion that looks different when the light hits it from different angles. My brain is having trouble processing this monumental achievement on the horizon, and it's short-circuiting. Towards the end of the day, I felt like I was going to burst. I was just hiking along on a typical, smooth section of trail, when all of a sudden I slowed down. I felt like I was being overtaken by it, but I didn't know what was happening. I found myself dropping to one knee, sniffling then sobbing. But what for? I couldn't figure it out. I kept hiking while blubbering (I am all about efficiency) for a couple minutes until I stopped the waterworks. I felt much better after the outburst. Still don't really know what that was all about.
Pretty exhausted from a long day and from my recent episode, I was ready to turn in. The next shelter I came to was 1.2 miles off the trail. I decided that the extra mileage defeated the convenience of a shelter, so I started looking for a place to pitch my tent. I didn't have to look long before I found a great spot on top of Wildcat Mountain. For some reason the quiet up here doesn't bother me like it usually does when I tent. Who knows, maybe I like the evening bugs all singing to me. I'm not complaining, man.