Another night of fitful sleep, but I woke up to the joyous sound of no rain and a host of chattering birds. I decided to forgo morning dishes so I let my extra coffee water cool down a bit and poured it directly into my breakfast bag. Such a small joy, and I’m sure a lot of people already do this. I’m having a problem of condensation inside my tent, which makes sense given that it’s single walled (aka no rain fly). I might start leaving both sides open. At the moment I’m just opening one side because somehow it feels safer, which is ridiculous because it’s not like that little sheet of material is going to stop anything from getting me.
Then I made my way up the rocky hill and signed the trip to register, which had a collection of dead spiders squished between the pages. Had a comfortable walk for the first hour with the sun filtering through the trees on my right. Took a short stop to check out Black Rock cliffs, which provided a stunning view of the valley below (top pic for the day) with the sun filtering through the trees on my right. I got a little burnt on my left arm yesterday afternoon because I was too tired to stop and put on sunscreen (I know, I know, I won’t do it again).
After the cliffs, I passed through your basic Maryland forest with dappled shade and annoying logs placed to reduce erosion which have a secondary use of creating giant mud pits.
Around mile 1052 I went through this boulder field in the late morning sun, taking care to keep picking flat rocks that don’t require long steps. Kept seeing beautiful white striped butterflies and the wafting smell of warm earth and these little guys again. Whatever they are I love them and they are everywhere.
Every now and then the large shadow passed over the trail and I looked up to try to spot it’s living half. I’m pretty sure I saw things that were not just buzzards, but I would have to ask Paul to be sure.
I ran into front pocket at the shelter where I stopped for lunch (pb honey, chips, and part of a snickers). After his midday hour of rest, frontpocket went about his way. As he walked up the hill he said “don’t run me over when you go by.” Turns out we camped at the same spot last night, but he saw that my tent was all closed up so he didn’t come down to say hello. Seems like we might leapfrog for a little while because we have similar paces. He gets an earlier start, but I hike just a little bit faster, which is not something I get to say very often. After lunch there was a dry rocky climb up into nice flat stretch where a breeze came through and helped cool me down from the sunny climb. There was very little shade after mid morning and I have officially gotten sun points ping on my calves. I got a little burnt on my left arm yesterday afternoon because I was too tired to stop and put on sunscreen (I know, I know). Will be sure to put sunscreen on more of tomorrow. I was so preoccupied with my arm that I didn’t consider my pasty legs.
At the lunch break shelter, someone’s brother told me that if I run into young woman with a green pack named Rosebud that I should tell her that her brother is waiting for her in the parking lot a little early. I did indeed run into Rosebud. We had a little chat and I relayed her brother’s message. She and her brother are doing a section hike and it turns out he’s an entire day early because he’s just that fast. At the end of our conversation she said are you JJ? Which took me aback, but it turns out she had stopped to talk to frontpocket who told her that I was behind him for whatever reason. This is my first taste of the way of the trail wherein word of mouth relays more information than technology.
There was a hot, flat walk through a series of fields and then a series of road crossings that involved looong downs to the road and then looong ups. With about two miles to go, I came to the rushing stream at warner gap hollow, and against better judgment, dunked my feet in the ice cold water because they were sore and it sounded like a good idea. (wet feet = potential blisters).
Turns out my feet were destined to be set anyway because I did a very poor job of crossing this stream.
After crossing the next road, there was a gut busting* climb up to Raven Rock shelter. I passed the gentleman from the stream crossing picture on the climb. As he stepped aside for me he said “but you run up hill! So strong” Then I passed frontpocket who I hadn’t seen since lunch. I have to say it felt really good to pass men. I will say that I haven’t gotten any bs comments about being a female bodied person doing this alone. Yet.
I finally reached the shelter, sweating bullets and dying to take my soggy shoes off but I forced myself to set up my tent first so that it could dry out from last nights condensation and muddy spot.
Frontpocket arrived a few minutes later and proceeded to lay out nearly all of his clothing to dry. Then he went all out and set up a clothesline between two trees. Love that guy. I pulled out my sleeping bag and laid it in the sun. Then I made the looooong walk down a steep hillside to the spring. Ran into a trail maintainer putting up a new sign. I thanked him for his work and asked the usual where are you from, what direction, etc.
Frontpocket also came down to filter water and was nice enough to capture the sheer joy of this moment.
Dear god filtering water is so tedious, but so necessary. When it gets hotter I might not hike, I might just filter water all the time to keep up with hydration. Then we trudged back to camp and had our separate phone times. I ate “leftovers” for dinner, which is to say probars with peanut butter, a third of a very melty then snickers, and the last of my Fritos. I had originally planned to beef up my supplies in boonsboro but I decided to stretch them one more day bc tomorrow I’m getting my first mail drop! and theoretically a shower. AND PIZZA. Hopefully. Now I’m in my well-ventilated tent with Jackie (from the other night) off to my left, Malink next to her (a chatty fellow who I ran into at gathlin state park), a group of bro-dudes who rolled in around 730, a gentleman whose name I didn’t catch who came from GA (started early), and frontpocket. Maybe tonight I will sleep better because of all the company. The miles today felt much harder than yesterday, but I repeated “light feet, loose arms” when I found myself clod hopping and tensing up. Here’s a bit of sunset from my tent. I hope dude bros don’t burn us all down with their stupid campfire.
Creature feature: 3 giant deer bounding away from me in the dreary log separated section, more nut hatches, and a woodpecker that made a HUGE racket but I couldn’t see it. Oh and a 4 legged friend whose name and picture I did not get because it was in the middle of the crazy climb and I was busy sweating all over myself.
* I realize that eventually today’s gut busting climb will look like a tall curb when I hit the whites, but for now I huffed my way to the top.