Forest fire devastation. 

Forest fire devastation. 

Miles Today: 12.3

Mile Marker: 121.8 Licklog Gap

Last night our team dominated trivia at the Lazy Hiker Brewery.  We then headed to a bar called Mulligans where things got rowdy until about 11:00 P.M.  That's the equivalent of 4:00 A.M. on a school night.  Our work in Franklin being done, it was time to return to the trail.

The older crowd rallied and hit the trail at 9 this morning. The younger crowd made the 11:00 run.  They may be able recover from hangovers faster, but I believe they went harder than us.  I caught up with Fireball (Tom, still testing the name) and Cosmonaut, but missed Head First.  I pushed on past our initial planned spot after realizing I need to bump up my average to make it to see Mom and Rick in April. I forgot to leave him a message in the shelter log, but I'll text him.  Ultimately there is a ton of ebb and flow on the trail so you never know who you'll see.  The storm highlighted this by driving all of the hikers to Franklin.  I saw people I haven't seen since day one and people who were doing bigger miles who are now tied with me.  Zero days are the great equalizer.  One zero squashes three to four days of bigger miles and brings most everyone's average in line.

The hiking was more of the usual snowy affair.  Tomorrow should bring a thaw, but then we're just hiking in mud.  There are certainly parts of the day that feel like work to get through, but recently it has really started to sink in more and more how amazing this is.  I periodically geek out and just smile uncontrollably for about five minutes while going down the trail.  

Today I stopped at the top of a beautiful ridge line and found a dry, sunny place to have lunch.  While I was eating a father and son walked up and said they were going to fly a drone for a bit. It was incredibly cool watching them set up and then fly that little thing out of eyesight and back.  Tonight I am camped in this muddy field, but these two section hikers built a roaring fire and handed out their extra food before they finish tomorrow.  Completely changed the tone of everyone here.  We all pushed to this spot because everywhere else was snowed in. Literally no one here wanted to be here.  The little things can turn it all around though. Then when I was walking back to my tent and looked up and saw the most brilliant clear sky with stars I haven't seen in years.  I can't wait for the first solid view of the Milky Way. It has been much too long.

I recognize I'm still in the honeymoon phase, but this experience is absolutely incredible, and I'm just now starting to fully appreciate it.