I woke up around 7 this morning. Better than usual for trail time, but I had hoped to sleep until 8 because I’m only going about 9.5 miles today. There’s no reason to rush, but once I’m up, I’m up. I walked over to the office to check out the breakfast, which was a pitiful display of muffins and fruit. I grabbed a mediocre banana and two muffins that were bigger than my fist. I sat outside my room in the sun and ate one of the muffins with peanut butter. I packed the other one out for my lunch. Boy was that a bad idea. Too much muffin. I felt so sluggish all afternoon. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I went back inside and finished writing yesterday’s post. On average, they take about an hour to write, then I add pictures and fuss with editing (although clearly not that much because I can’t always be bothered to deal with punctuation. Typing on a phone is TEDIOUS. Forgive me. I know I’m missing commas and quotation marks). After writing, I went about putting my pack back together and retaping my feet. I iced them again this morning and massaged them. My left foot feels noticeably better, but my right foot has an unfortunate blocky painful feeling under my second toe, as if someone shoved a piece of wood in my foot.
I left the hotel and was back on trail around 10am. The terrain was dismal today. Thick forest that felt like it was closing in on me with no views to speak of. Exposed roots filled long stretches around several bogs and ponds. Roots are almost as bad as the shit kicker rocks in PA because they make it impossible to get a flat step. On the upside, the temperature was perfect for hiking and the bugs were at half force relative to recent days. I felt lonely this morning and missed the company of buzzcut. She would never have agreed to those long days! Maybe I should use her as a barometer for how long to hike until my feet feel better. WWBD. I also felt fear of injury creeping in one moment and certainty that things would be fine the next. The emotional ping pong continues.
I took tiny breaks about every hour to rest my feet. Stopped on a nice long rock for lunch and ate the other muffin with peanut butter, which I regretted as soon as I started walking. So heavy. The trail around finerty pond was very overgrown with what I think are raspberries. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.
I also saw patches of lady fingers around a beaver bog, which I wasn’t expecting. Around 230, I ran into intrepid on one of my many breaks near the overmountain shelter. She also has plans to stay at the cookie lady house (i will explain later). She was so confused to see me because she forgot that I had taken most of yesterday off. She said wait are you still going north?? I laughed and assured her I was. When I passed the shelter, I had a little over two miles left before the cookie lady intersection. My feet were starting to get really sore, which made me frustrated. I slowed down even more and tried to walk with my core engaged, which somehow seems to take pressure off of my lower legs. Maybe I use bigger muscles that way? I also continued to try to pick up my legs at my hips instead of focusing on pushing off with my feet. Sounds like so much effort just to walk. But I suppose I take interest in these things and I like to monkey with imagery and muscles to see how the effort changes. I wasn’t too preoccupied to miss this new little flower:
I heard my exit road long before I saw it because the trail runs adjacent to it for about a half mile. I met a woman named peregrina at the intersection who also intended to stay in the yard at cookie lady’s house. The property is about 100 yards east of the trail and houses a blueberry farm, chickens, a dilapidated building full of bicycles, doors, and various lawn equipment, and the main house where an elderly couple, Mr. Wiley and Marilyn, live. They sell Klondike bars, fresh eggs (raw or hard boiled), sodas, and they give out cookies. I’m not certain you have to work to get a free cookie, but it seems that way. They also let hikers tent on their lawn. In return, they ask that people help in some small way around the property. Today’s tasks involved mowing the lawn and filling water buckets for flushing the hiker toilet in the dilapidated house. I mowed for about 10 minutes. Intrepid did an even larger section around the side yard.
Mr. Wiley, who seems to be in his eighties, was patient with the slow trickle of requests to buy snacks and he showed interest in where we were all from. They have a hiker register and a list of the 50 states for people to check off their home state. It was fun to look at the list of international locations written in at the end. Peregrina let me borrow a dollar because I only have large bills at the moment, and I was dying for a hard boiled egg (price: 40 cents). The energy this afternoon was so communal and grateful. I finally met an older woman named Snow White, whom I’ve heard of by name. Hippo is here. He helped Mr. Wiley fix a spigot on the side of the house.
When Mr. Wiley tried to rise from the ground, hippo picked him up the rest of the way. Later Mr. Wiley sailed by on a riding lawn mower, and I caught a glimpse of what he must have looked like 20 years ago because you couldn’t see the way his left hand shakes or his bad eye.
As we all sat around the picnic table (horrible candid that I did not warn anyone about), a NOBO named sweet spot arrived. She seemed dejected and frustrated by having to stop earlier than she planned, but she also seemed intent on getting better at listening to her body. Fearless and I had just been talking about how bad we are at taking breaks throughout the day and how difficult it is to moderate ourselves. In comes sweet spot with the same thing on her mind. We talked about her foot pain and I shared mine as well. She said she didn’t understand why she was so sore after a flat 9.5 miles. I said yes, it was flat, but it was full of heinous roots that made the footing difficult. She conceded the impact that had on our bodies. I’d rather walk straight up for 3 days than deal with roots for an afternoon.
There was a rotating cast of hikers at the picnic table eating dinner. Ramen and mashed potatoes played a prominent role. I made a Mary Janes lentil chili meal (verdict: good) and ate a hard boiled egg while I waited for my food to cook. I finally got smart and started setting the stopwatch for my rehydration time instead of always forgetting what I time I put my food on. Fearless gave me a couple of payday snack size bars when I whined about not having anything sweet. And then came the cookies! I had given up on the idea of cookies after hearing that Marilyn, the infamous cookie lady, wasn’t home. They were oatmeal chocolate chip, so it was basically meant to be because that’s my favorite kind of cookie.
After dinner, I went exploring for the toilet. When I walked into the crumbling house, a wave of grease and machine oil reminded me of my grandfather who worked for a farm supply store. Fearless and I wandered around the falling down house filled with dozens of bicycles, remnants of a motorbike, a car hood, stacks of doors and windows, and no less than 3 chainsaws sitting next to the toilet in the bathroom.
Now I’m tented in soft grass underneath a pine tree listening to hikers shoot the shit at the picnic table, intrepid coughing and yawning loudly in her tent next to me, an insistent bird that reminds me of the alarm for the roof door at my old apartment, and the flaps of my tent rustling as the wind picks up. It sprinkled a few minutes ago. I hope Cotton and I don’t end up soggy all weekend.
Mile 1549.7 to mile 1559.2 (9.5)
Total miles: 556
Creature feature: I saw a new bird that was a dark slate gray with white (or light gray?) underside and a long tail. It reminded me of a cat bird but different colors. I also saw another black and white warbler with a different proportion of white to black, which makes me wonder if it’s a female or if it’s a different kind of warbler. Last but not least, here’s one of the Wiley chickens.