His trail name was True North and he had been living in Jacksonville, FL, just before starting the trail. I told him that I had also been living in Florida, which prompted him to ask if I was the missing hiker from south Florida others had been searching for. I laughed and told him I wasn't, then continued my hike. As I descended down the mountain, I tried to remember if I had met any hikers from south Florida. I had met a few from Florida, but I didn't recall anyone specifically from south Florida.
Fast forward to my arrival to Hot Springs the following weekend...
It was Mother's Day, and luckily I had a wifi signal at the Laughing Heart Hostel, so I decided to Skype my mom. We spoke for about an hour and caught up on my experiences on the trail. During the call I thought about my encounter with True North a few days earlier. I also remembered how happy my mom had been to hear from me after going about a week and a half without contact, due to the non-existent cell service leading up to and throughout the Smokies. So, I asked her if she had contacted anyone to locate me on the trail. She paused for a moment, then said, 'Well, I did call a few hostels because I was worried about you.' That's right, I was the missing hiker!
I caught back up with True North a few days after leaving Hot Springs and told him that I was the missing hiker he had asked about. He went on to tell me that he had stayed at Standing Bear Hostel and the owner was asking everyone that came through the door if they had seen me. Moreover, it was my sister that had called to locate me, so there was apparently a small search party attempting to locate me as I unknowingly hiked the trail!
Although it was slightly embarrassing, I am grateful to everyone that was concerned for my safety and took part in the search. I really do have a great family and some thoughtful friends!