Slept a little bit better last night. There were 3 of us in the shelter with plenty of room for tossing and turning. Everyone in camp starts to stir around the same time with your usual stragglers. This morning, the rustling started around 6am. I had breakfast by the swing, ogling disco dog in his tent with his owner moss. Put together my snacks for the day and tucked them into my right left hip pocket. The right one is for all things safety related: my knife, a motivating letter, mace, hand sanitizer, and my wallet. I’ve got my morning bag packing down to a science, which is pretty easy considering the amount of stuff I have. one final check in the shelter to make sure I don’t do something stupid like leave my headlamp there and I set off on the 13.5 mile hike to toms run shelter.
The climb out of quarry gap was aggravating but I did get to cross a happy little stream before trudging up that giant ass hill.
Today was pretty dull in terms of terrain with a few highlights, such as the huckleberry bushes and rhododendron lining much of the trail, a dense patch of spruce trees we walked through (top picture is part of that section) and passing a beautiful apple tree (that smelled so good) growing next to a random chimney by a road crossing.
The burned section near dead woman’s hollow road was especially dismal. Another day of little to no shade. I had to embrace my inner frat boy/baby dyke and turn my hat sideways to cover my sad roasted ear. I also put black tape on my left index finger because it’s getting direct sunlight all day and sunscreen isn’t cutting it.
I was second or third in the group to leave quarry gap, but everyone passed me at some point. It’s frustrating to be last, especially when my feet hurt and I can’t push myself anymore than I already am. Two long days back to back wasn’t the best idea, but the shelters are also awkwardly distanced so it’s logistically a better choice. Anyway, I had to really work to let go of being “slow.” This is part of why it’s better for me to hike alone. Around 10am, I hit the cabin with a little stream and good ole disco taking a little rest in the sun.
I decided to filter more water so I could drink as much as I wanted and not worry about conserving. Then there was a little climb up to more flat bland landscape that thankfully also included a lot of pine needles, which are so soft.
The majority of the group stopped at birch run shelter for lunch. It’s right on the trail and has bunk beds and a great little stream right next to it. Then the after lunch 5 mile push to get to toms run. With about a mile to go, I heard laughter in the distance and popped out onto a road crossing where splitter, who is a friend of moss’s, brought us trail magic. Sandwich fixings, chips, beer, and soda. I have been avoiding the beer because it messes with my joints and makes me stiff, but i drank an orange Fanta and it was like a time warp back to blazing summer softball games. So good. I wasn’t hungry, but you don’t really pass up food on the trail, so I made myself a classy sandwich of turkey, American cheese, lays chips, and mustard/mayo.
The shelter here is small, so I’m tenting tonight. The wind is gusting and making my tent rattle and flap around. Bet that’s going to be fun in the middle of the night. I’m trying not to get too caught up in sticking with this group or fitting in. It’s nice to laugh and learn about people’s lives and feel connected, but I also have to keep my own timeline and priorities in mind. For the next few days we are all doing the same thing, so I will enjoy the company while it lasts and try not to let the my critical/self-monitoring voice take over. I’m going to hit 100 miles tomorrow!
Mile 1085.1 to mile 1098.7
Creature feature: a funny little olive drab bird with zebra striped chest and grubby hikers.