Mtn Moma's was filled with thru-hikers that I didn't know. Mike, Tonia, and Micah arrived right around 2. It was so good to see Micah again and I was so grateful to Mike and Tonia for having taken him in for the week. I know he enjoyed their home much more than a kennel.
We all enjoyed on e last Mountain Moma's cheeseburger and caught up on things. Mike and Tonia had some great pictures from their recent trip to Canada. They had spent a week in Banff skiing and even tried dog sledding.
I didn't get on the trail until almost 4 and just as I saw Brent's car disappearing down the road, I realized I had left my pack cover in the back of his car. I guess I just have to hope that it doesn't rain any more over the next few days until I can get another. Maybe Brent will discover the cover tonight and be able to mail it to me, but I guess I need to figure out an alternative plan in the mean time.
I wasn't much in the mood to hike. My ankle's feeling much better, but I just wanted nothing more than to find a quiet tent site and do some reading. Once again the trail came through for me. In less than an hour I found a beautiful little clearing alongside a creek and I decided to call it home.
I had plenty of daylight left and just wanted to get reacquainted with Micah. I dropped my pack, grabbed my wildflower ID book and Micah and I went off to play in the woods for an hour. It was great and I had a lot of fun flower spotting. In less than 1/4 mile, I found 14 different wildflowers. My list included the lemon scented Yellow Trillium, Sweet White Violet, Wooly Blue Violets, Star Chickweed, Wood and Rue Anemones, Foamflowers, Hairy Solomon's Seal, Cut-leaved Toothwort, Sweet White Trillium, Jack in the Pulpit, Halberd-leaved Violets, Wild Geraniums, and my favorite, Showy Orchis.
I met several new hikers today: Pedro from Burlington, NC; Shades from Richmond, VA who just graduated from my alma mater, Georgia Tech; Wizard from Quebec City, Canada; Shuteye; and Eggman. Eggman got his name because he bought one single, precious egg at Neels Gap and lovingly carried it for 8 miles so he could make some brownies in camp.
Saw the first tick of the season last night. I've got a treatment of Top Spot for Micah waiting for me in Hot Springs. It looks like my timing was just right.
I'm camped just a little beyond Max Patch in a more sheltered campsite. It's supposed to get pretty cold tonight and the wind is roaring up on the exposed bald of Max Patch. I probably would be fine, but I know Micah will be more comfortable down here. I plan to go back up to the summit to watch the sunset through.
Wildflower report for the day: Wild Stonecreep, Bishop's Cap, Pussy Toes, lots of Bloodroot and Spring Beauties, Fire Pinks, Bellwort, Yellow Star Grass, Robin's Plantain, Star Chickweed, Cut-leaved Toothwort, Early Yellow Violets, and Dwarf Cinquefoil.
"Earth Laughs in Flowers" - Ralph Waldo Emerson
While at Max Patch last night, I met a few new faces: Grey Bear and Long Pig from Devon, England; Tom and Sarah from Connecticut. Long Pig had written me on the interner a while back. His real name is Ian Cole and he was an AT-L newsgroup subscriber.
Lately I've gotten in the habit of enjoyed a nice, extended lunch break. I think it's a combination of the time change (which allows me to stroll into camp at 4 or 5 and not feel rushed to beat the sunset), and my longer mileage days. When I'm hiking for 7 or 8 hours a day, my feet really appreciate an hour or so of "nakedness". I'll usually stop around 1 or 2, heat up some soup, feed Micah, stretch a bit, and maybe even read a little. It feels so luxurious, especially on these beautiful, sunny days.
Lately I've missed the presence ofthe dark-eyed juncos. These little birds are so bold and inquisitive, and I always felt like they were a kind of protective woodland spirit. For the first 230 miles, I could always count on their presence. Since the end of the Smokies they've been much rarer and I'm lucky if I see a couple a day. They truly are my favorite bird when I am hiking and a brief sighting or the sound of their sweet trill always cheered me.
Wildflower report: Squirrel Corn, Wood Betony, Pussy Toes, the distinctive foliage of False Hellebore, Carolina Vetch, Dwarf Cinquefoil, Mountain Bellwort, Squaw Root, Bird's Foot Violet, Crested Dwarf Iris, and Trailing Arbutus.
Tomorrow it's in to Hot Springs briefly to pick up mail, resupply, and get my hands on another rain cover for my pack. No bed and breakfast or bubble baths this time around.
I arrived in town a little after 8 and waited for some of the stores to open up. I talked to "Crazy Dan" over at Bluff Mtn Outfitters and he gave me a phone number for a local masseuse.
I had 3 packages and a letter from Ralph M. waiting for me at the P.O. One of the packages was my long lost pack cover from Brent!
I got a wonderful breakfast at the cafe, did the regular town chores of laundry, postcards, etc., made some phonecalls, and got a room at the Creekside Cottages. This was the first time so far on the trail that I would have a room to myself, and I was looking forward to it.
Pat, the masseuse, arrived at my room a little after 7. She had brought the table, blankets, oils, etc. What a wonderful person she was to talk to, and the next hour and a half was a slice of heaven. This was my first professional massage and it was exquisite. Arms, neck, back, hands, legs, feet, ankles, and even my scalp were all given attention. My whole body was just tingling and pulsating afterwards. I swear I could feel my pulse down to my toes by the time she was done.
Yest indeed, life on the trail is rough.
A few tables over sat Buzzard. Now here is a great trail personality. Buzzard looks like a very thin member of ZZ Top. He'd never been backpacking before hitting the AT and he smokes a couple of packs of cigarettes a day. In fact, the story goes that he got his Marlboro sleeping bag by having his "old lady" save up Marlboro cigarette cartons. Buzzard hikes in jeans and roams the trail looking for likely places to score cigarettes, beer, and pizza. He's got an extremely colorful vocabulary and has some very entertaining stories to tell. I like Buzzard.
I finally reached the critical speed needed to break away from Hot Springs' gravitational pull at around 10:30. I was in a great mood and the weather was absolutely perfect once again. There was one particular area of the trail today that really caught my fancy. I believe it's called Mill Ridge. Here the trail runs through some small rolling hills that are covered with sweet smelling grasses and punctuated by little groupings of flowering trees. I took my lunch on one of these open hillsides overlooking a small pond. This area was once used as a tobacco farm but has since been maintained as a habitat for grouse and turkey.
A stomach illness seems to be making its way through the hiker community. I came upon a tent set up right next to the trail and was surprised to see Sarah and Tom, a young couple I met at Max Patch. They had left Hot Springs yesterday and were camped only 7 miles from town. I asked if they were alright and soon found out that Sarah was terribly ill. I left my entire stash of Immodium AD and Tom assured me that if her stomach wasn't feeling better by tomorrow, they'd go back to town.
At the shelter I was equally surprised to see 4 hikers who should have been long gone by now. It turns out that Wizard, Grey Bear, and another hiker called The Count are all feeling ill as well, and they were all laying over with hopes of a quick recovery. Long Pig was there to keep Grey Bear company.
Whatever it is, I hope I don't get it. Being sick on the trail is no fun.
I'm tenting tonight with Sandman, Eggman, Shuteye, and a section hiker called Blue Sky who's already known for his snoring, and this is only his second night on the trail! I've got my earplugs ready.
I did a stupid thing today that I'm sure was a contributing factor - I didn't carry enough water. The first 4 miles of the trail today were covered with little creeks and springs every mile or so, so I didn't even think to check the data book for additional sources further up. Micah and I began the climb up Camp Creek Bald in warm and sunny conditions with less than 2/3 of a quart of water. We had 4.8 miles to go to the shelter and 1500 feet of elevation to gain. Again, it was a dumb move on my part. I shared the remaining water with Micah and we were both exhausted when we finally reached the Little Laurel Shelter and a spring.
I made myself drink 2 quarts of water with my lunch and I rested for about and hour and a half. We finally left the shelter at 2:45 and still had 6.7 miles to go to the next one. I felt tired as soon as we started hiking again and the next 1.3 miles were torture. I had almost 1000 more feet of elevation to climb and my legs just had nothing in them. I felt like each step was only moving me maybe 6 more inches up the mountain.
Finally, we reached the top and there I found Grey Bear and Long Pig. I still had over 5 miles to go and I hoped I could just follow behind Grey Bear and get through them. I find that when I'm really exhausted, it helps me to follow someone who is hiking at my normal pace. It gives me something to focus on other than my misery and it boosts my morale if I can keep up with them.
I finally spotted that beautiful gray roof that all hikers love at the end of the day. I set up camp, got water, washed up a little, heated up some soup, and promptly went to bed by 7:30.
I laid in my sleeping bag until 9. I could hear the others breaking camp and heading off in the rain. Eggman was nigh enough to check on me this morning since no one had seen me stirring for over 14 hours.
Most of my thoughts this morning focused on the decision to hike today. I had really wanted to make it to Erwin on Monday, but to do that meant a pretty challenging schedule for me. If I rested today, there was no way I'd make it. I'm hoping to get my boots resoled in Erwin and that will also require me to take the day off as well. In addition, I had wanted to participate in PATH's maintenance trip next weekend, but I would need to cover some serious miles by April 18 in order to be able to do that.
All those thoughts were going round and round and I just continued to berate myself for not just getting up and hiking today. Another part of me, and I'm hoping it's the wiser part, says listen to your body. I need this body to carry me 2100+ miles through the mountains with 35-40 extra pounds strapped on to it. If it needs some TLC every now and then, let it have it.
Well, I'm going to eat some soup and take a nap. if I feel great after that, maybe I'll do 6 or 7 miles today.
5 hours later: It looks like lethargy (or should I say "wisdom") won out. It's still drizzling, it's 3pm, and I'm not going anywhere. In my favor, I did get some sewing repairs done, I patched a gaping hole in my platypus water bottle, and I walked a whole tenth of a mile to the spring to get a few more gallons of water. So it was a productive day if you look at it from a different angle.
Clueless, Bad Knee Limping, and Achilles stopped in for a late lunch. They told me that Sandman was going to be laying over another day at the Little Laurel Shelter. he had really pushed himself to do a 20 miler into Hot Springs last Tuesday and he's still paying the price. I've heard this story pretty often. No 20 milers for me until my body is absolutely begging me to do one. The after effects of pushing yourself too hard out here can really linger.
They also told me that my beloved Buzzard has left the trail! He evidently developed a sudden kidney infection and had to go home. I hope he'll be back. He's got quite a cheering section out here.