Thankfully there were no heavy duty snorers at the tea horse hostel last night. Today started off with me waking up around 530 and not being able to go back to sleep. I had visions of making it 16 miles to rocky run shelter today, so I think I was preoccupied with getting an early start. I gave up around 545 and made my breakfast amongst the other early birds. Someone at Blackburn the other night said “enjoy stuffing big things in the little things” because that’s basically all hikers do when they’re not hiking or eating everything in sight. There was a constant rustle of cuben fiber and sil-nylon as I ate my bowl of granola. Another hiker built like a German rugby player ate burrito the size of my forearm and Steve aka frontpocket was talking to his wife on the phone. The hulking man hadn’t said a single word since it came in last night. I couldn’t take the salad, so I finally asked him what his name was. He replied, “Jerry Springer,” which is laughable considering how silent he was. As it turns out, his name has nothing to do with the talkshow host. He just decided to combine Jerry Garcia and Springer Mountain.
Getting back to the trail involved and mildly annoying road walk made better by an explosion of spring with dogwood, lilacs, and all other usual suspects in full bloom. The trail from the Shenandoah side of harpers ferry over to the railroad towpath involved hugging the edge of an overgrown hill and picking my way across slick rocks. Most people probably don’t think twice about them, but I’m paranoid about falling and reinjuring my tailbone. I met this little guy while I was still waking up and feeling whiny about the wet rocks.
The walk across the river bridge and alongside the Shenandoah River was peaceful and beautiful.
The river moved swiftly on my right and a stagnant stream covered in duckweed sat to my left.
I had this view for about two hours, and I amused myself by taking dozens of flower pictures and watching birds flit across the path. There was a pretty steady racket from crows with the occasional streaking cardinal and what I imagine were migrating warblers. Also caught a glimpse of a couple of woodpeckers. Wish I knew more bird names. I relished the flat surface adter all of the rocks from yesterday, but flat is hard on my body in a different way because of the pounding. When I wasn’t taking pictures of flowers, I pretended that my hiking poles were oars pulling me forward along the flat path.
After what seemed like forever, I crossed the railroad tracks and began the climb up to weverton cliffs. It was slow going and humid, but manageable. About halfway up, I passed an older gentleman who looked haggard. I gave the usual “how are you?” greeting and he said, “miserable.” Not so often you get an honest answer to that question. I said I hoped that it would get better for him, and he muttered to himself as he continued in the opposite direction. When I got to the cliffs, the sun started to come out, so I put on sunscreen for the first time this week and took another map picture.
The next couple of hours for were somewhat unremarkable. There was an annoying rocky steady climb from Weverton. Things finally leveled off into a softer path saturated from two days of rain. My pack felt heavy today and my legs, while not sore, were tired. I set a goal to eat lunch around the 8 mile mark, but I caved around mile seven because it didn’t make sense to hike hungry when I could just stop and eat. So I pulled off at a little rock outcropping and took off my shoes to soothe them on a cold rock. They were getting that mid-marathon hamburger feeling, which was disappointing because I had plans for so many more miles today. I also noticed that the pinching I’d been feeling on my big toe of my left foot was the beginning of a blister. This is a trouble spot when I run as well, but I’ve never gotten a blister there. So I pulled out my knife and popped it and put some duct tape on it. I also massage my arches. My feet felt a little bit better after the break, but I knew that going 16 would be a questionable idea. Could I do it? Yes. Would it make tomorrow miserable? Yes. After lunch, I put on music and tried to focus on landing softly without hunching, which I tend to do when I get tired. I ran into Jerry Springer and we leapfrogged each other for a couple of hours. I felt my feet getting hot and thought about dealing with them later, but one of the things I’m learning is that waiting just makes things worse. So I sat on a rock and took off my socks, reapplied body glide, stretched my calves, and massaged my arches again.
I reached gathland state park around two. In theory I had another 5 miles to go, but I knew from the feeling in my feet that it would be a bad idea. I couldn’t bring myself to make the choice, so I texted Charrow, and she gave me permission to stop. Well, she actually ordered me to stop. So I filled up on water, used the bathroom and laid on a park bench for about 20 minutes until a fellow named Malink came by asking me how to find the northbound trail.
I finally collected myself and trudged up a rocky hill, which leveled off to a nice walk through these sweet smelling flowers covering the forest floor.
I hung a right down to Crampton Shelter. The shelter is tucked far down a rocky path with a little stream right before you get to it. Thankfully there’s a bear pole, so I still haven’t had to throw a bear bag. I decided to camp at one of the tent sites up the hill instead of in the shelter alone. Somehow my tent felt safer. So I hung my food bag and set up my tent. Then, since it was the late hour at 5 PM, I decided to make myself dinner. I walked down to the shelter with what I thought were the things I needed to do so. As it turns out, I had forgotten my stove fuel. So I walked back up the hill and as I was grabbing it, I heard frontpocket ask me where the shelter was. We walked down together, and I went about making my dinner. Or I would have, if I had not also forgotten my stove. So I walked back up the hill to get it. When I got back, Steve asked incredulously why I hadn’t just asked to borrow his. It would never have occurred to me to ask that question.
A woman in her 20s showed up little while later, and we all had a relatively silent dinner together. front bucket and I talked about his kids and books. Then I gathered my dinner items and headed back up the hill to get my water filter so I could get that out of the way and not have to fuss with it in the morning. As I was going back down the hill for I don’t even know how many times, Steve’s was climbing up to make camp and asked what I had forgotten. I told him I was just going to filter water and he said, why didn’t you just ask to borrow my water filter? Again, I responded with a befuddled I don’t know. He said, “just ask. It gets easier the more you do it.”
So there you have it. Two of my important lessons in the same day. We will see how long it takes me to really learn them. Now I’m tucked away in my trusty duplex tent Should be another beautiful day tomorrow.
Mile 1023.1 to mile 1034.1
Creature feature: birds! And wizened Maryland hikers