Woke up at a decent time in the room we had stayed in. Lots of loud cars driving in front of the place. Got moving and went to grab some coffee and chocolate milk. After realizing in Gatlinburg that I have not been drinking milk much lately, I started buying chocolate milk whenever we are in town. Loving it more than ever now too! Brian saw Froot Loop, Maine-iac, and Blue getting into town, so we got to see them for a bit (and let them grab some showers at our place's community bathroom) before we headed out. Just before we left, Chris found out he had another care package at the outfitter. (WHAT!?!?!). Baked goods and a few other goodies. Finally left town about 11am or so and hit the trail. It was great walking along the French Broad River before we had some serious climbing back up to higher elevations. Felt great today, and had some good conversations about the time we were having, what we are looking for in future endeavors, and about living healthy lifestyles. A lot of uphill today getting out of town. Kinda typical. Load up the packs with food and water and get back into it. Pack weighed in fully loaded at 35.1 pounds. Not bad. Will have that down lower as soon as I swap out for warmer weather gear.
Hiked about 12 miles or so, climbed up to a fire tower, then finally got to the first shelter outside of Hot Springs. Ran into August, and a guy we haven't seen since Beech Gap probably about a week and a half or two weeks ago. Was pumped to get to use my new water filter! (get the joke? Haha. Pumped to filter. Pumping water to filter it...) Went down to the creek and started pumping. Water flowed nice for a liter or so, then slowed down. I unscrewed the top and put it back together, and made sure the pre-filter wasn't clogged. Started pumping well again, but quickly slowed. I pumped slower to allow the filter to catch up. Almost stopped working, I heard a hissing noise, turned it over to look at it, and the bottom intake hose fell right off, taking the hard plastic nipple from the filter with it! SERIOUSLY?!?!?!?!?! First time using the new thing and it broke!!! How am I supposed to be able to rely on something to safely filter my water for 5 more months?!?! I was so furious.
I went back up and told Chris and Brian what happened. Of course they laughed but were shocked as well. We hiked on to find a camping spot and let me burn some steam off. Finally got to a flat spot about and hour later. I was really hungry but made a call to MSR (maker of my water filter), as I conveniently had service. I got customer service rep Nathan on the phone and explained my issue. He said he wasn't sure what would cause that to happen. I mentioned that I am out on the AT and need a reliable water filtration system. At first Nathan was helpful (although it sounded painful for him to have to help someone with an issue), and he said he would see if the outfitter we would reach in 4 days or so has a new filter they could give me, and MSR would send them another one to sell. If they don't have one, he said he would have to ship it there and it would take about 3 days, mentioning that doesn't include weekends. Being that we may get into town (Erwin) either Saturday or Sunday, the 3 day shipping may show up after we are gone, which would mean I would be another 5 or 6 days without a replacement pump. I told him that would be an issue, as I not only need this soon, but also for the next 5 months or so on the trip. He followed this up by saying that if he had to expedite shipping, that would be more expensive and I would have to cover some of that cost. I told him I understand it isn't his fault personally that the filter broke (again), but that I would not be paying for the shipping to get me a replacement for another faulty piece of equipment that should not have broken after its first use.
This next part blew my mind...
Nathan from MSR - Mountain Safety Research, (just mentioning the name of the person and company I am dealing with in case any of you out there are looking into gear from different companies and need some help choosing who to go or not go with), said "Well it's not my fault you're on the trail in the middle of nowhere".
I had speaker phone on and looked over at Chris who mentioned something about that is not what you say in this situation. I about let go on this guy and told him where he could put this piece of crap water filter, but I took the high road and only responded by asking him to call and or email me letting me know what he finds out when he calls the outfitter in Erwin to try and work something out for me. Had I let him have it on the phone right then, which I wanted to (and still want to), I probably had no shot at seeing a filter there in 4 days and I'll be buying one for sure. We will see if I hear back tomorrow from Nathan or anyone else at MSR tomorrow. If I don't hear back, a manager there will be getting a call soon to try and get this worked out. If they are able to get a replacement to me, I will still be calling (after the filter is in my backpack and I'm out the outfitter's door) to politely speak with a manager there about the "Customer Service Rep of the Year" candidate that I spoke with today. I'm really hoping I can update y'all with a few positive things about MSR when this ordeal is said and done, but the ball is in their court now.
I also may be looking into wanting or needing to buy a new (different brand) filter. If anyone had any suggestions, drop me a line. I've heard good things about the SteriPen Adventurer, but really need to know before making that investment. Hiker on a budget here.
Maybe I should be collecting the rain that's coming down now as I type this.
Here's to hoping for a drier, better day tomorrow. However, it was a great day of hiking today for sure! Gotta be thankful for what works!