*my phone signal is too erratic to load pictures right now, and I need to conserve battery so will have to upload media later. You’re stuck with just my words for now*
I woke up bleary eyed to the sound of my alarm going off at 3am. I listened for activity from the others and heard silence. I rechecked my weather app, which said the rain wouldn’t start until 9am. I tried to be sneaky and reset my alarm for 5 (to catch the sunrise), but then I heard the hiss of Buzzcut’s sleeping pad. I called out to her that the rain was delayed, but both she and chrissy had already deflated their pads. I conceded the sleep and agreed to break camp. We got on the trail with our headlamps shining around 4am. I thought it would be harder and creepier to hike at night, but it just requires going slower (something I’m good at).
Not long after starting, we reached a fire tower clearing, where I spotted the glowing eyes of some creature. Turns out they were rabbits that were very unhappy about our alien intrusion. They bounded in frantic circles to get away from us. Around 5am, we hit a little stream and decided to top off our water supply. I felt stressed out about catching the sun, but I tried not to be rigid about it. At least not openly. Not sure how successful I was at that. I finished filtering first and walked ahead of the others. The trail skirted a beaver pond and then ascended onto a ridge that led us to power lines where I had hoped to catch the sun.
Today was more of a cloud rise than a sunrise. Oh well. The next several hours are a blur. I stopped on a giant flat rock around 7 for second breakfast (first breakfast was a probar eaten in the dark) and to give my ankle a break. It felt stiff and achy for the first few hours. Thankfully the trail was very forgiving for the first half of the day, with a several mile stretch that looked like this: (picture soon)
I had hoped to catch up with buzzcut for some quiet company because I felt lonely and sad this morning, but I didn’t see her until I got to the shelter. At one point, I could feel myself rushing, but it felt different than trying to catch up with my usual group. With them, it feels competitive. Today, I just wanted to be around someone in silence. Instead, I listened to music that made me cry and then eventually switched to music that makes me happy and/or wistful.
The sky threatened to rain all morning, but the end result was a misty drizzle with the occasional burst of drops that never culminated in a steady rain. The temperature finally climbed high enough for me to take off my wool layer underneath my raincoat around 10. I’m trying to make this interesting, but to be honest it was a business mode kind of day once the excitement of walking in the dark wore off. Oh! With one exception. I had just crossed a road and entered a rocky section that was making me a little crazy when I saw a flash of red out of the corner of my eye. I chalked it up to a cardinal, but then I saw the bird land, and I realized it was a scarlet tanager. I stopped in my tracks (not hard to do given my pace at the moment) and watched it fly to a neighboring tree even closer to me. And then it was gone.
I made it to the shelter around 11. My brain said it was too soon to stop for the day, but my stiff ankle said otherwise. Buzzcut was already in her long johns and had her sleeping bag set up on the bench in the shelter. I fixed myself a tuna wrap (Fritos instead of kale today. so different) and tried not to eat everything in my food bag. I had that bottomless cold, tired hunger the rest of the afternoon. I set up my pad and sleeping bag in the floor and pulled on my hot pink smart wool pants and my wuzzy socks. Chrissy arrived about an hour later.
The rain never did get heavy, but it was steady enough and cold enough that i felt good about the choice to stay. People slowly started arriving as the day wore on and now there are 6 of us in this little shelter with a really nice porch and a well kept moldering privy (aka composting privy). Supposedly there are a lot of bears in the area so let’s hope we don’t have that kind of excitement tonight because there is a couple with a 3 month old baby in a giant hammock out front. Yes. A 3 month old. hiking from VA to MA. And no, I don’t know what they were thinking.
The afternoon involved a lot of laughing, some pointed remarks to lost & found when he made a comment about “you ladies” always calling things cute. I dropped the f bomb on him and said he didn’t need to make it about gender. I also tried to map out the next few days to figure out food supply, which made me miss Halfway because he’s my planning buddy. Buzzcut and I will likely do similar mileage and resupply so maybe we can keep each other company until I get off trail next week. I’m heading to duck, nc for the weekend to celebrate my dads 60th birthday! I’m sad to see what it does in terms of getting behind people I enjoy, but I’m also excited to see family. My posts over the next few days might not include many pictures because in need to conserve battery. I will go back and add them when I have guaranteed juice. For now I’m going to go to sleep while it’s still light out to the sound of squeaking sleeping pads, birds chirping, and the fellow in the family hammock talking annoyingly loudly.
Mile 1305.8 to mile 1318.4 (12.6)
Total miles: 315.2
Creature feature: just the tanager. And scads of teenagers backpacking in groups of about 10.