Well, I woke up in my first Walmart parking lot in Boone, NC. I can’t say that I disliked it. There was a bit of noise throughout the night, but not enough to keep me awake at all. No ticket, my car didn’t get towed, and I didn’t get the dreaded window knock in the middle of the night. Overall it worked out perfectly! I even had easy access to a bathroom once I managed to get myself out of bed. I only got a couple of strange looks from people as I made my way into Walmart at 7:00am in sweatpants, messy hair, and a change of clothes. I was officially a person of Walmart.
After getting ready for the day, I made my way to Howard’s Knob so that I could watch the sunrise (and yes, if you’re not familiar with the mountains in the fall/winter, the sun doesn’t rise until around 7:45am which seemed really late to me at first.) Unfortunately, however, once I made it to the park, there was a sign foiling my plans that said the park had been closed for the season. I was pretty bummed. I still managed to catch a pretty spectacular view while I was making my way down off the mountain, though.
About the time that I made it back to downtown it was just a little after 8:00am which was when the Watauga County Farmer’s Market opened. In a parking lot right next to a lovely wildflower garden there were rows of tents and food trucks lined up. Vendors were still setting up as the first few people began to make their way through the market. Locally grown apples, freshly made goat cheese, hand-crafted jewelry, and warm bread right out of the oven are just a few of the fantastic goods that filled all of the tables. As I strolled through the rows of tents I was offered samples of cheeses, pesto, smoked trout, honey, and even given an apple to take with me. I was definitely a kid in a candy store. I also just managed to luck out because they’re only open on Saturdays from 8am-12pm, and I was only in town for the one day.
Once I had explored the farmer’s market to my hearts content, I made my way to the local park to cook up some breakfast. Luckily it was empty, so I had free reign to spend as long as I needed. I lugged all of my cooking ware and ingredients out of my car and up to the pavilion and began setting up. I decided while I was at it I should go ahead and cook my dinner, so I cooked up a bulk batch of couscous, fried sweet potatoes, green peas, and my breakfast of the day: oatmeal. (Tip: couscous is the easiest thing when cooking like this. You literally just add boiling water and then let it sit for about five minutes. It was perfect to have that sitting while I cooked my other food.) Since I was cooking so much food, I was at the park for quite a while, and several people drove past as I was doing my thing. Needless to say I got several strange looks from people as I was chopping up sweet potatoes at a picnic table.
Breakfast was eaten and dinner was cooked. I was ready to move on. I decided to take a hike on Profile Trail in the Grandfather State park just up the road. It seemed like a pretty popular hike, so I figured it would be pretty simple. Boy was I wrong. First off, the trail map says that it’s 3.6 miles in and 3.6 miles out which totals to be 7.2 miles. Yeah, no. I knew once I had hiked over 4 miles one way and still hadn’t made it to Conway Overlook that something was off. I was on the correct trail, but the mileage wasn’t quite right. The first 1.5 miles was pretty easy going. The leaves were beautiful and the hike went right along a stunning mountain stream. Around mile 2, though, things were all uphill…literally. I’m talking the switchbacks, rocks, burning quads, red face, and panting kinda uphill. It had been a rainy evening the night before, and they were expecting rain again that evening, so as I got further up the mountain the fog began to set in. I didn’t mind it, though, because I like fog. However, with the lack of sunlight to dry the ground the path became progressively more muddy…and more, and more. By the time I started nearing the top of the trail I was doing my best not to fall or splash mud all over myself. I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful for hiking boots.
I finally made it to what I thought was the top after about 4.5 miles, but then I passed some locals that told me no, in fact, I had about another .5 a mile one way. I figured I had come this far, so I might as well continue on. Well, this was no regular trail. It was an old river bed that consisted of large boulders straight up. So this was more like climbing than hiking, and mind you, it was very wet up there, so these rocks were slick. Well, I made it to a fork in the trail, and there was a sign pointing to the ending overlook that was 1 mile away. At this point, I was done. There was rain coming in, and you could feel it in the air. The wind was whipping, and there was the occasional rain drop, and I knew I was going to have to hike back down everything I had just come up. I wasn’t willing to hike another two miles round-trip for a view that I wouldn’t even be able to see because of the fog and risk getting caught in a downpour, so I decided to make my way back.
As I made my way back down the trail I had to take things very, very slowly. My ankle and knees were very unhappy with me, so I was having to be very strategic about where I stepped. Once I made it back to the dirt (mud) trail, I was having to watch every step I made so that I didn’t fall and bust my ass. Finally, as I made it most of the way back the trail began to dry, so I was able to pick up the pace a bit. However, if you’ll remember that the first 1 ½ miles of the trail was pretty easy, that was because it was downhill. So that means that it was uphill on the way out. I was beyond ready to make it back to my car, and finally I saw the light of salvation: the welcome building. Yeah, so much for 7.2 miles. I had trekked right over 9 miles, and I believe it was one of the, if not the, hardest hikes I have ever done. I’m sure the weather conditions played a big role in that, but I was beyond tired.
Since it was later in the evening at this point, I decided to make it to the town I was going to stay in that night: Kingsport, TN. I made it there right after dark, and it was a great little town with theaters, coffee shops, and bars that were very well populated. I made my way into a coffee shop called Hibbert-Davis Urban Brews to do some writing and use their Wi-Fi. The blueberry rooibos tea was fantastic. Luckily there was also a Planet Fitness in the area, so after enjoying my tea I decided to go get in an upper body workout, because clearly I needed more exercise after that hike. Needless to say I was pretty beat by the end of the day, so after a workout and shower I figured it was time for bed. Guess where I stayed that night…Walmart.