April 9, 2021
As per usual, we woke around 4:30am and started getting ready as quietly as possible so Bass could get more sleep. It was so cold last night. There was frozen condensation all over the inside of my tent and on my quilt.
We hiked about 4 miles, stopping briefly at the Blue Ridge Campground along the trail to dump trash in the dumpster there before heading to the crossing at Hwy 87. It’s too bad we didn’t look ahead and see this campground on the map, or we might have pushed on and camped here. While we were hiking toward the highway, Ghosthiker suggested we hitch back into Pine for pizza since we’re ahead of schedule anyway and the pizza place was closed the whole time we were there. Everyone on Guthooks raves about the pizza place, so we felt bad completely missing out on all the hype. We agreed we’d try to hitch once we got to the road, but only for about 20 minutes. If no one offered us a ride in that time, we could at least say we tried and continue on our way.
At Hwy 87, we got picked up within 10 minutes by Mimi and Holly, a pair of ladies out adventuring around the US. Mimi is planning to hike the AT this summer SOBO. They were the best hitch I think I’ve ever experienced, just so much fun to chat with, dog lovers, and they weren’t originally going to Pine but were going to take us as far as the highway turnoff. After a little ways, though, they decided to take us all the way there! They even insisted we stop in Strawberry, AZ at the Pie Bar for empanadas! They were so great! And I’d never had empanadas before, so I was pretty excited about that.
Eventually, they dropped us off at the laundry mat in Pine and Ghosthiker and Mimi exchanged contact info for Mimi’s upcoming AT hike.
After we hand-washed a few things in the sink there and charged our phones a bit, we walked to the Pine Creek Fudge and Espresso shop for lattes while we waited for the pizza place to open. It was still fairly early in the day, after all! Like I said, both the espresso shop and the pizza place had been closed while we were staying here, so we were pretty excited to get to experience both before we left Pine behind us for good to keep heading north.
It was still too early when we finished our lattes, so we walked over to THAT Brewery to check the hiker box there for a phone charger Ghosthiker had accidentally left there. It was pretty picked clean, and no phone charger, which was quite a bummer. That’s okay, though. I have the same charging cord, so we can share.
We headed over to get pizza and ended up spending the whole time chatting with a middle-aged couple at the table across from us. The husband had hiked sections of the AT before and they were getting ready to move to TN from Payson, so of course after a great conversation Ghosthiker exchanged contact info with them as well. She makes friends so easily!
After that, we walked down to the community center and hung out there for a bit, laying out our wet tents and quilts to dry after all the frost this morning. Spent time chatting with some other hikers who were hanging around charging their various gadgets. There was yet another hiker box here, which I dug through and exchanged a few things. Since I knew I couldn’t be cooking half the meals I had in my food bag, I traded some stuff with the other hikers (Batman and Alaska Panther). My meals are condensed into Ziploc bags, so leaving them in a hiker box un-labeled usually just means they’ll either only get used by someone really desperate of they’ll eventually be thrown away. But since I was there to explain what the meal was, the other hikers were happy to take them off my hands in exchange for meal bars and snacks. It worked out pretty well, in the end.
After that, we packed up our stuff and stood out by the road (in the heat of the day, now) to try and hitch back to the trail. It’s a long hitch, about 25 miles total, and it took a while for someone to stop and offer us a ride as far as Strawberry, just 3 miles up the road. Thinking we’d have a better chance hitching to the trailhead from there anyway, we accepted, and in no time, we were back at the Pie Bar getting lemon empanadas and using the bathroom one more time before we went back out to the road and stuck out our thumbs.
It took a little while, but eventually an elderly man in a very small truck pulled over and asked why we were still in Pine. It was Jim, a local we’d met day hiking back in the Four Peaks Wilderness with his dog and son! Such a crazy world! Of course, he offered us a ride to the trailhead, bless him!
It was a tight squeeze, with Ghosthiker sitting half in my lap, but he drove us all the way to the Blue Ridge Trailhead in his tiny pickup truck that struggled to get up the climbs, and he wouldn’t even let us pay him!
With pizza and empanadas both in our bellies and in our food bags, we set off, planning to hike the 10.3 miles or so to the next water source, but we only made it about 6 before calling it a night. The pizza we had for lunch was absolutely divine, but really greasy, so it didn’t pack out well. Ghosthiker ate hers during our first break about 4 miles in, and I ate mine for dinner. It felt a little risky eating such flavorful food inside my tent because bears, but it couldn’t be helped. I was too lazy to go eat somewhere far away from my tent, and I’d packed out a Cutwater cocktail to go with my dinner, so by the time I finished it I wasn’t too worried about bears, haha!
A couple other hikers came later in the evening and setup their tent by us. I didn’t catch their names but they were pretty friendly. I always worry less about bears when there are more hikers around, so I was glad for their company.
300 miles to go! Plus Ultra, baby!!