Last night was not my best night of sleep and definitely not the worst. I felt like I was going to roll out of the side of my tent every time I turned over onto my left side, so I slept either on my right or on my back trying not to move. It did indeed smell like privy most of the night and a hiker came through around 11:30pm with his headlamp bobbing around casting a weird light on my tent. I Woke up for good around 6am when my watch alarm went off. I Changed into my hiking clothes and made my way to the privy, which was thankfully not as fly-ridden as it had been the evening before. I Kept my red light on to be visible to oncomers. Then I went back to my site and packed up everything except my tent before getting my food and toiletry bag down. The cables are squeaky and I was trying to be polite for the shelter sleepers who didn’t seem to be stirring yet.
I Put in my contacts and packed up the last few things before heading down to the shelter area to eat breakfast and fix my feet. It was a Pretty quiet breakfast crowd and I did my best to avoid getting into conversation with creepy dude. There’s something off about him that I can’t place, which makes me feel bad because he probably seems like a polite upstanding guy to everyone around me.
Around 7:20, I said goodbye to northstar as she sat in the vestibule of her tent and walked into the misty woods. I passed several great tent sites as I left the campsite and cursed myself for being so myopic last night. I could have had softer ground with more privacy and no privy smell if I’d just walked 40 yards down the trail instead of circling back and forth being out of sorts.
This morning started with a gradual climb up to big butt (not kidding). The footing was soft with the occasional switchback as droplets of moisture fell from the trees in a strong breeze. I worried that it was going to start raining but it didn’t seem to be new precipitation. I Realized about a half mile in that I forgot to sign the shelter log, again. I had intended to leave a note for dizzy and brownie since it’s fun to see one’s name in the shelter log.
I Cursed the wet grass as it slid against my shins and soaked the tops of my perfectly dry shoes. I Came to a foggy field.
A Small Bunny erupted out of the tall grass and bounded ahead of me. Thick Berry patches lined either side of the trail. I Heard a shrill call and looked up to see an indigo bunting on a tall briar. It flew off in a flash of blue and landed a few yards up on the other side of the trail. While I stood to watch it, I also saw a cedar waxwing. The waxwing flew right behind me and sat on a briar for a minute before dashing up to a tree limb. Sadly I couldn’t get its picture before it was on the move. I can still remember the first time I saw one of those on bald pate mountain in Maine. A hummingbird zoomed by as I stood making notes about the birds. As soon as I started walking again, I ran into an older man sitting in an open tent with a small black and white dog. I had been standing about 20 feet from him without even knowing it.
I searched the field for more birds as I made my way up the trail. I was Sad to go back into the woods as the trail took a turn. I walked over slick rocks and thought about how exciting it was to see the bunting. My right foot slid off the side a small rock and my ankle rolled to the outside with a quick pop and a sharp pain. My heart raced and I immediately starting talking myself down from freaking out about it. I kept slowly moving and tried to assess the damage. There was a sharp sensation in the tendons in front of my outside ankle bone. I decided to stop to do a stirrup taping to give it some support. When I stood up and put weight on it, I could tell it wasn’t going to be enough of a fix. The pain was still sharp.
Silverback came along as I stood up from taping my ankle. I told him what happened and he brushed it off saying he had sprained his ankle so many times that he just walks through it. I agreed while also thinking to myself that I felt a pain that probably wouldn’t appreciate being walked on for very long. I asked him to remind me where he planned to exit the trail that day because I had heard him say something about making a stop today. He said he planned to go to devils fork to stay at nature’s inn hostel. I checked my map and was crestfallen at the 7.5 miles before the road he’d mentioned. Counting the half mile i’d already gone that would be about 8 miles on a mildly sprained ankle.
The trail of course devolved into a rock pile for the next couple hundred yards. I made my through it trying not to take any precarious steps that relied heavily on my right foot while also trying to walk as normally as I could. As I crossed another field, silverback stopped ahead of me and said “you know I have an ace bandage. Do you want it?” I immediately said yes and watched sheepishly as he dismantled his entire pack to get to the ace bandage in the bottom of the bag. I stopped a few minutes later and sat on a wrapped ankle. My ankle immediately felt more stable.
As I walked slowly down trail, I called Oakland. She expressed sympathy and helped keep things in perspective. I had already started thinking about the people I’ve known in the past who had to slow down for an injury. Specifically, halfway came to mind. He had terrible shin pain heading into Delaware water gap and I think he might have stayed there for 2-3 extra days to give his legs some rest. He ended up finishing his through hike. I kept him in mind as Oakland mentioned other people she’d read about from my 2017 trip and how this isn’t necessarily a hike ending event. I’ve had a couple of activity ending injuries in the last two years that it’s difficult to not go down the worst case scenario rabbit hole.
I’d been walking about 4 miles and couldn’t find anywhere to sit so I made do with a log that acted as an erosion barrier. I ate a snack and put my foot up. Then I kept moving. The pain in my ankle was noticeable but not awful. I made sure to take careful steps and the trail was very forgiving. I went downhill through rhododendrons and then back up. The sweat poured down my face despite the slowness of my pace. I kept Oakland on the phone on and off for about an hour because the company was reassuring.
Northstar finally passed me and I informed her of my new development. I told her to keep the reservation at uncle johnny’s for herself. She offered to walk with me but I declined but I know myself and I will feel pressured to walk too fast if I have company. I saw her again at the shelter where she shared chocolate and expressed a bit of homesickness she’d had earlier in the day.
I sat at the picnic table with my foot up and ate a couple of squares of chocolate. Then it was back to it with 2.7 miles to the road. There were a few stressful Rocky sections interspersed with calm rhododendron tunnels.
I Could periodically hear dogs barking far away in the distance. The trail was a bit of a roller coaster with a slight predominance of downhill. My ankle did not enjoy the flat stretches but the ups and downs seemed to agree with it well enough.
I came to a set of log steps that I hoped would lead me up to a parking lot, but it sadly dumped me onto just another stretch of trail.
I made it to the road around 12:45 and saw an older man sitting on the ground with his phone. A car pulled up and he hopped to his feet. In the event that the car happened to be the hostel shuttle, I picked up my pace ever so slightly. When I saw him get in the front seat I assumed he was getting picked up by family, but I asked them if they were from hostel just in case. He said no and I asked if he had phone service because I happened to look at my phone and see 1 bar of 1x service. Not even close to enough to make a call. He said no to the service and asked if everything was okay. I mentioned needing to get picked up to go to a hostel because I had rolled my ankle. He and his partner kindly offered to take me or help me find it, saying that they’d seen one nearby but I knew that the hostel I wanted was not the one closest to that intersection. Right as I was about to look up the address in guthook, I noticed 1 bar of LTE service. I jumped on my phone to see if I could place a call before the signal decided to vanish.
A man picked up and when I identified myself as a hiker who had no reservation but had a turned ankle with the hopes
of staying there tonight, he said “oh yeah. We can come get you. Someone’ll come by in a few minutes.” He confirmed my location (they pick up from 3 intersections) and that was that. The couple in their car wished me well and drove away. I sat on the ground, put my foot up on my pack and waited for my ride.
Sara, one of two owners, picked me up about 15 minutes later. She drove up with her windows down and when she turned the car off she said, “hey sweetie, I heard you have a bum ankle. Let’s get you out of here.” And she was just as friendly and warm the entire ride there. Her accent brought me back to NC in a way that doesn’t always happen (she’s originally from Asheville) and the vibrant green countryside was beautiful.
When we got to nature’s inn, Sara laid out the sleeping options of the bunk house or or king room. They also have adorable little cabins with screened porches, but none of them were available.
I Checked out the bunkhouse (not pictures) and decided to spring for the king, partially because of the distance over the uneven grass and partially because the bunkhouse was small and stuffy. I Asked about ice before we left the main building. Sara gave me a gallon sized ziplock and directed me to get ice in the freezer at the rental house. I Took my pack over to the “main house” which has 3 rooms, a kitchen, living room and porch.
I Went back over to buy a soda to go with lunch. Then I Made myself a peanut butter wrap and took it outside with ice bag. I Wrapped the ace bandage around the ice, put my foot up in chair and called Oakland. I Whined to her (AGAIN) and she was supportive. I Texted all of my parents to let them know about the incident and my plan to slowdown. Then I Went inside and put my foot up on a pillow. I Phone zombied for a little while and Nearly fell asleep.
Around 5, I walked over to see about dinner food. There were section hikers eating pork sandwiches. I had a black bean burger, microwave velveeta shells and cheese, and an entire bag of microwaveable Brussels sprouts. They were Mushy and there were far too many of them, but I ate them anyway. Then I had an ice cream drum stick and was thoroughly stuffed. I Spoke to Taft about shuttling and slack packing. For those of you who have no idea what that means, it’s basically day hiking where you carry water and food, get dropped off at one point and walk to a second point where you get picked up and go back to your hostel for the night. You can also have the shuttle drop your main pack off at your destination and keep going from there. Taft Explained the system and the prices to me. In theory I could slack pack my way to Erwin in 3 distinct sections. That would mean 4 nights at nature’s inn, which is a pricey prospect in my current luxurious digs.
At dinner, Opa (one of the section hikers I met at Jerry’s cabin shelter) offered me biofreeze. Everyone expressed Sympathy for the ankle and wished me well as they mowed through their pork sandwiches. After dinner, I Walked back to my room and iced again. Took more meds. Then I Sat on back porch to get some outside time. I always want to be outside and backpacking makes walls feel even more suffocating than usual. Then I went back Inside to ice again. I took advantage of the extra time and phone signal and Called my mom. Then I Called Oakland and went to bed. All the while trying to be optimistic while having no clue if I have done damage that won’t work itself out with moderate rest and continued activity.
I’m Finishing this to the sound of AC, the slight rush of the creek outside because I opened my windows, and a buzzing that could be in my ears or it could be the lamp.
Mile 301.8 to mile 311.1 (9.3)
Total miles: 319.4
Creature feature: the indigo bunting, cedar waxwing, and 2 bunnies.