2019-Day 35: trial run edition

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*REAL TIME UPDATE: the next batch of posts will be brought to you by a 3-day weekend in Damascus. Oakland arrives tomorrow! I’m currently holed up in the fancy public library. Sadly it’s closed on Sundays, so tiny screen work tomorrow and back to the luxury of the library on Monday. Tuesday, we hike!*

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I did not sleep all that well. I woke up around 6am with the birds and made an early trip to the bathroom. Soul mama was in bathhouse prepping for her 20 mile day of slackpacking. She very kindly left the bathroom and continued her prep outside so I could have my morning times alone. Then I went back to my cabin, and I managed to sort of fall back asleep until about 8:15. I had breakfast at the picnic table while Unc had his food splayed out in resupply mode. I grabbed my wallet and bought a weird “icee” to put on my ankle with a rubber band while. It worked quite well as an ice pack (today’s top picture). While I “iced,” I talked to Oakland during her early breakfast. Then I packed up my bag and vacated the room. Brownie had her eye on my cabin, so I confirmed with the front desk that it was available for the night. Brownie and dizzy are taking a zero at uncle johnny’s so they moved into my room after the staff changed the linens. 

Then I put on my pack and walked up the little gravel walkway to the front of the hostel to test out the weight on my ankle. I felt an ache in the front of my ankle but no pain. With that cursory information, I Decided to go for the 4.4 mile walk to the shelter later in the afternoon. 

After my assessment, I went to work finishing the edits for day 30. It was hard to focus with constant interruptions. Around mid-morning, Brownie and dizzy went on the hostel shuttle into town and were kind enough to buy me the donut holes I asked for from Dunkin’ Donuts. Very unfortunately they also kept interrupting me while i was trying to write and order a new pee cloth online. They are kind and interesting people, but I realized very quickly that if I was going to make it to my goal of getting days 30-32 posted, I would have to hide.  I grabbed a seat in the shade near this sleepy hiker pup:

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I finally managed to get the post updated with complete sentences and pictures around 12:15. Days 31 & 32 had already been drafted and populated with pictures, so I published those days with a few taps of the screen. Then I had lunch sitting with nickels and John Wayne, a young international kid who confuses me and wears a giant cowboy-ish hat. Nickels has a checklist tattoo! Yes, it does say “fireball” on her list.

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I had a pb wrap, chips and donut holes for lunch and promptly felt sick after eating so much sugar. I took my stack of postcards up to the picnic tables near the front of the hostel to charge my phone and write some messages to family and friends. Then I had a phone call with Oakland before she headed into an afternoon of work obligations (classes have ended but the work continues). 

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I decided to dunk my feet in the river one more time before departing so I walked across the street and had a short but useful soak while watching a kayaker navigate the small rapids in front of me. I returned to the front picnic tables to let my phone charge and fully dry my feet in the sun before I put body glide on them for the hike. I also rolled some TP onto my existing TP because I feared that I didn’t have quite enough. Should I get my period earlier than expected, I definitely wouldn’t have enough. 

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I dallied out front, not wanting to leave the land of familiar faces and phone signal and not wanting to test my ankle for fear of hurting myself. I Sat out front and made notes for the day while Unc ate through part of his food stash and silverback pontificated about the elevation changes between the AT/PCT/CDT. Silverback stayed at the super 8 yesterday but he decided to move over to uncle johnny’s for better access to shuttles. He’s on his second zero day and I think he’s going to continue slackpacking. I was very tempted to do the same but this 4.4 mile hike is kind of the perfect way to test my ankle with pack weight. 

Around 3:30, i Said goodbye and walked across the bridge. The Trail took a slight right and went into the woods where it ran just below the railroad tracks for a few hundred yards before crossing over the tracks. I looked at the chunky loose gravel in front of me with a large sigh and slowly walked across the tracks.

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The footing on the other side was much milder. I heard voices and turned at the powerlines to see a Doublewide trailer just up the way to the left. It was cooler in the shady woods than it was at the hostel. As I walked, a fly bit me in a place that I have at least two other bites. Every step felt like a test, which is not necessarily productive hyper-vigilance, so I tried to distract myself from over analyzing the sensations in my body.

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The trail started to climb and became rockier. I found my eyes glued to the ground, hardly noticing anything around me until I heard a small bird in the rhododendron tree nearest to me. I looked up to see a small brown wood thrush with white eye liner. 

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Then came more rocks. I Felt like I’d lost a fair amount of confidence in terms of foot placement. The trail was Hot and narrow with dry flies buzzing and the river rushing far below. snack pack passed me heading sobo and then a few minutes later freckles did the same. They did an 8ish mile slackpack today. Freckles asked how I was doing. I replied anxious but good enough. She said she was ready to be done. I will likely see her tomorrow based on how the mileage works out. 

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The Footing eased up a bit from roots and rocks to hiking in the pine needles and leaf duff as the rhododendrons crept into the mix of trees around me. I Crossed a small stream over a nice footbridge, which was followed by more rocks and another footbridge. I walked alongside a pretty stream, trying to focus on the beauty of the scene rather than the fear of every step.

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The trail devolved back into a rock pile for quite awhile. I got dejected and exhausted. i had to keep reminding myself that i was afraid and annoyed but I wasn’t actually in pain. I decided to listen to my meditation once through and then I switched to my old standby comfort music (indigo girls). I didn’t feel all that hot, but I sweated buckets as I made my way up the mostly rocky climb. I stopped at one point to make a note and checked my mileage. 0.8 miles to go. The footing eventually eased up and switched over to pine needles and roots. A small somewhat stagnant flow of water sat alongside the right of the trail. Not long after I noticed the water, I saw the empty shelter ahead of me in a frame of rhododendron trees The picture didn’t come out well, but here’s the shelter from a different angle:

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I put my pack down and looked at the tenting options thoroughly. Well as thoroughly as I could without having to walk up a hill out of sight of the shelter. I found a spot that would fit my tent and leave me with one side of flat-ish sleeping and one sloped side that I could lay my pack on. When Oakland gets here we’ll have to try harder to find two flat sides. For now I decided it was good enough. I ate a few almonds and set up my tent.

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Then I grabbed my water supplies and filtered water from the small pooling spring that was the source of the trickle I had seen on the trail. I tried to use the tiny flow of water from a propped rhododendron leaf but it provided me with a leaf filled cup. On the second round of that I got frustrated and tossed the water out, but my cup slipped out of my hand and flew into the mud. I said aloud to no one “oh COME ON.” I gave up on the moving water and dipped my cup into the small pool, figuring that the clear pool was created by the moving water so it’s probably just as safe. 

Then I decided to undertake my least favorite task: throwing my bear line. I found a decent tree but after 10 botched throws, I moved to a lower branch on a tree a little farther up the hill. I had seen it first but it looked like a limb that I would say to sunny “I don’t think my bag is high enough.” After missing the other branch so many times, I settled for the less ideal option and got it on the second try. Then I prepped my food and laid in the shelter writing notes with my feet propped over my head against the shelter wall. My nerves are a bit shot, but my ankle never went above a solid ache on the hike from uncle johnny’s, so we’ll call today’s experiment a success.

I sat at the picnic table and ate dinner (chili mac) alone. There wasn’t any phone signal, so I read Oakland’s letters to keep myself from feeling too lonely. After dinner, I washed my pot and ate dessert before brushing my teeth. I didn’t want to hang my food right away in case I had company because my bear line is right over the trail, but around 7:45 I decided to go ahead and hang it. Unc showed up while I was struggling to get my bag up the in the air on a limb that wasn’t quite strong enough to handle the weight of 4.5 days of food. He greeted me kindly and asked if i needed help. I said I probably did need help but I was going to decline at the moment. He deemed my limb too low and told me it would be grabbed. I didn’t have the patience to throw another line, and his exacting tone irritated me. I did re-throw it to a slightly thicker part of the same branch, which helped me get the bag up in the air. My new problem was that the bag was too heavy for me to keep the tension on the stick to switch sides for the clove hitch. After struggling for over 5 minutes I finally managed to get the knot in place. Unc is probably right, it’s low but it will have to do. My next worry was being able to get the clove hitch back out in the morning because of the weight of the bag. To be continued…

Unc and i were alone at the table for about 3 minutes when 6 pack showed up. 6pack is the man at jerry cabin shelter whose name I didn’t get. He’s kind of a hot mess because he tends to be high or drunk, but he’s nice enough. He’s yet another military vet (Air Force). Unc had a mind to build a fire so he set about that task and 6 pack leafed through a newspaper that had been left in a gigantic ziplock bag.

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Unc declared the news a flaming shit pile (those weren’t his exact words but he said something of the sort). I went off to my tent and set up my bed. Then I laid in the shelter with my feet up while the dynamic duo went about their evening routine. Unc set up his tarp and fumbled with his newly acquired bug netting while 6pack rifled through his food in the waning light. I went into the woods for what I hoped would be my final pee and, Against my better judgment, I sat at the fire with unc and 6pack for about 15 minutes. An howl hooted far off in the distance. Unc thought it was human but I insisted that it was an owl. Right as I made that declaration, I saw two beams of light bobbing through the woods towards me. They were coming from the opposite direction of the hoot, but the timing was was impeccable. The hikers turned out to be a couple that I had seen at Uncle Johnny’s but I didn’t get their names. I declared goodnight to everyone and went to my tent in the dusky light, hoping not to make a misstep on the pine roots. I switched into my camp shorts which I should really do sooner but I always forget or I remember and don’t want to expose more of my legs to the bugs during my dinner routine. I dutifully removed my bra even though I hate putting it back on in the morning and switched my shirt. Then I massaged my ankle and feet for a few minutes. I’m finishing this to the sound of the fire crackling, the latecomers settling into the shelter, 6pack asking unc when this will get easier, bugs popping against the sides of my tent, and the occasional train whistle. My lopsided spot is pretty comfortable and I’m happy to have the privacy of my tent. 

Mile 344.1 to mile 348.5 (4.4) 

Total miles: 356.8 

Creature feature: a chipmunk, the cute dogs at johnny’s, the hooting owl sounds, and a pileated woodpecker cackling right as Unc started to make the fire. 

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