I had a great night sleep at the Brown Fork Gap Shelter. I had set up my tent in a really quiet part of a small valley near the stream and it was a warm night. Chuck insisted on being on my sleeping bag and pad so we spooned and he rested his head on my arm. He is really getting used to being in the tent and has stopped growling if someone walks nearby.
We had a pretty easy 13 mile hike into Fontana Dam and the weather was perfect. The sun came up about 30 minutes into the hike and we caught some amazing views. As we came up over the largest climb of the day I ran into a young woman along the trail that was head in hands sobbing and crouched on a rock. Elsa a/k/a Proper is suffering a pretty painful Achilles injury and she was trying to figure out whether she could finish the hike and was on the phone with her parents. To complicate things, she is from The Netherlands and traveling home is either really difficult or impossible right now. I gave her a few words of encouragement and then hiked a few hundred yards down the trail.
I went back a few minutes later and offered for her to stay with me in Fontana and also for her to ride back to Atlanta with Bryan and stay at our house to get some medical advice and possibly a flight home if she can’t get back to the trail. Hopefully she can confirm that nothing is broken and just skip the Smokies and come back with Bryan when he brings Chuck back.
Proper made it down the mountain a few hours later and joined me for the night at a cabin I rented just outside the Smokies and is going to head back with Bryan today when he comes to pick up Chuck. I’m imposing a huge burden on Bryan but at the same time feel compelled to help Elsa. I know the feeling of being out of the country and being in a vulnerable situation without family nearby. With everything that is going on right now it just felt right to help in this way. Maybe she can get back and finish her thru-hike but if not at least she can enjoy some kindness. Plus, Taco a/k/a Chuck loves her and spent the afternoon snuggled on the couch together after his hamburger dinner at the nearby restaurant.
I am going to spend this rainy Friday in town and do some resupply and then hit the Smokies hard Saturday morning. Wishing Proper a speedy recovery and return to the trail soon.