This morning was hard. I felt lonely and tired and frankly, bored. Had my first serious thoughts about wondering what the point of this is even though I know there are points. I’m learning things, feeling strong (even though my ear may fall off because of the sun) and meeting people every so often. I talked to myself as my support people would have responded to such thoughts and continued putting one foot in front of the other. Today was my first day without coffee. It was also my 7th day hiking. It was also a 16 mile day with a pack full of food. I know, not the best combination of choices. However, pushing the extra miles put me back in the company of frontpocket. I’ve also caught up with part of the flip flop bubble and met a few amusing people. AND A DOG. His name is disco and I’m in love (picture when I have a better signal).
As for the actual hiking, the morning started off moderate. I ran into a troop of Boy Scouts and the kid in the lead asked “are you a thru hiker??” When I said yes, he made a motion to his followers and they stepped aside for me to pass. 3 large men in yellow shirts brought up the rear and they all asked me in unison if I needed food. This happened right after I had been daydreaming about trail magic. Sadly I had too much food in my pack, so I had to decline the offer.
The climb out of tumble run shelter was brutal. Maybe they call it that because when you come down that hill you’re nearly falling on your face. The middle part of my day is a blur of dull but fragrant pine forests with the sound of revving car engines. Chimney rock was the only overlook of note. I stopped there and had a snack but I had to keep moving because the gnats were aggravating. There were also bogus trail markers that creeped me out. I’ve heard about trail vandalism, but hadn’t witnessed it before the day.
I toploaded my morning and did 10 miles before lunch. I had planned to stop at rocky run shelter to get out of the sun and sit in the shade for a long lunch, but I got there and saw the mileage was .3 to get to the shelter. Three people were standing there deliberating the same choice. We all decided against the extra walking. Instead, we plopped down and ate lunch at a set of rocks down the trail. They showed up right at a time when I felt lonely and dejected. After lunch, we walked together in some form or another until we hit Caledonia state park where I found frontpocket! I told him I had a surprise for him and when I reached for my food bag, he said “it’s a bag of Fritos.” Aaaand he would be right. I sat at the picnic table and zombied out after having walked 13 miles thus far. I did, however, have the energy to step into the river for a little ice bath.
The climb out of Caledonia was hot and rocky, but it was followed by a milder climb through a rhododendron tunnel that lead to the door of quarry gap shelter (top picture for the day). This place is fully equipped. There’s a swing, a fire pit, well kept shelters. I’m taking a second night in a shelter because the tent pads are wooden and I don’t have the patience to deal with figuring THAT out. There were smores and a random Mennonite couple approached the shelter barefoot, sat by the spring to make out and then walked back into the rhododendron tunnel from whence they came.
Frontpocket and the group of people I’m with are on the same basic schedule for the next few days, which feels like it will be good for my morale if I can keep from getting too far in my head. Now I’m going to hope for some decent sleep while I listen to a whiporwhil in the distance.
Mile 1069.3 to mile 1085.1
Creature feature: a pileated woodpecker flew across the trail about 20 yards in front of me