There were a bunch of other hikers at the motel and I got to meet Aquaholic, Puff, and the Swiss Family. FireBall was thrilled with the new packs we were switching to and we soon loaded up our gear and had Gus drop us at the trail by noon.
The previous day there had been torrential rains in the area. The trail was in surprisingly good condition and it looked like it would rain any minute, but it held off long enough for us to hike 6 miles and set up camp.
Both FireBall and I had packed in goodies for our first day back on the trail. FireBall packed in a bottle of wine and homemade brownies. I had brought a half dozen bagels and two strawberry-cheese danishes.
We decided to set up camp early. My left leg was really bothering me and FireBall was breaking in some new boots and his feet were bothering him. We got our water at the spring and had our tents set up when a truck pulled up on the adjacent forest road. It was Aubrey Taylor, a well-known trail angel. He brought us some Pepsis and we spent some time talking. He's been doing trail magic for years and he also maintains the camping area at Hog Camp Gap (which means a lot of mowing).
Just after Aubrey left, the weather broke and the rains began again. This time there was thunder and lightening to add to the show. I love being snug and dry in my tent during rainstorms.
My left leg is really bothering me now. The last few miles of the day were very painful and tiring. I'm back to taking Ibuprofen every few hours. I have the radio going or play my flute to get my mind off the pain and that seems to help. It hurts most on downhills, so tomorrow should be a real test with a 3000 foot descent to the Tye River. I'm just going to go to bed early, take my time hiking, and hope for the best.
5 of us in the shelter tonight and two latecomers are tenting. Pockets, Walkie Talkie, and a section-hiker are sharing the shelter with FireBall and me.
It's raining again, but reports are calling for it to began to clear by tomorrow afternoon and for temps to rise into the 60's tomorrow.
Flowers today: Speckled Wood Lily, Southern Meadow Parsnip, Yellow Lady's Slipper, Jack in the Pulpit, and lots of Sweet Cicely.
Since I got back on the trail after my trip to Florida, I've really been wandering if I'm going to be able to finish. I had 3 full days off and a very low mileage week before that, and yet my leg is no better. It is really starting to concern me.
At one point today I stopped at a shelter for a break and just sat for an hour hunched over with my head on my knees and my arms wrapped around myself. I just didn't know if I could continue, and it took me that long to work up the strength to just stand up and start putting one foot in front of the other again.
An hour later I reached a beautiful overlook by Chimney Rocks. I sat out on a stone outcrop and a wonderful thing happened - the sun broke through the clouds and touched my cold, wet skin with her warmth. It was like an embrace of strength, and I sat out on that rock for as long as the sun shown through the clouds, just drinking in the sun through ever pore of my skin. As the clouds closed back in, I shouldered my pack once again, but this time with a lighter heart and deeper resolve to complete my journey.
I don't know exactly how or why, but the next hour of hiking was pure joy - very little discomfort at all! I completed my day's hike beaming, for even though the pain returned, I had been given a brief reminder of why I hike and what the trail can hold for me if I can persevere through the bad times.
I made really good time today since I wanted to try and get to the Waynesboro post office before it closed at 5. We hit the road to town by 3:30 and were able to get a ride within about 20 minutes. I got my maildrop, some letters, and then checked in at the Comfort Inn. We raced through showers, laundry, and dinner so that we could partake of some very non-trail-related entertainment: FireBall and I went to the 7 o'clock showing of Lost World at the local theater. It was fun to "veg" out for a while, but T-Rex definitely did not have to eat the dog! If you've seen the movie, you know what I mean.
Here's a little poem to leave you with. It was written by JZero, another thru-hiker, after some of the Trail Days festivities had ended. The subject of the poem is Dancing Fool, a hiker from Maine who likes to hike in a kilt. It's the story of what happened in the annual hiker parade down the main street of Damascus.
There once was a fool who was dancing
In his skirt, he went spinning and prancing,
Then along came the wind,
And the cops hauled him in,
For wearing his skirt without panties!
We had a great breakfast with some really good fresh-squeezed orange juice. That can be pretty hard to come by out here on the trail. I also stopped by a vet's office to get a weight check on Micah. I was happy to find that he'd gained back 2 of the 4 pounds he'd lost and he's weighing in at a healthy 61 pounds.
We managed to get a ride back to the trail from a guy I approached at the Kroger parking lot. He said he had to run an errand or two first but that he'd come back for us and before dropping us off, he even asked how our money situation was and said he had $20 he could give us if we needed it. We very thankfully declined his offer and told him to save it for someone that might really need it. What a nice gesture it was of him!
It was an easy 7 to the shelter. The hardest part of the hike was filling out the self-registration forms and trying to understand all the rules and regulations they have printed everywhere for Shenandoah Natl Park. Micah will have to be on a leash at all times this week. That will be a first for both of us, but I'm sure we'll manage.
My left felt better today. The low mileage probably had a lot to do with it, but I'm hoping that it's finally getting better. It sure would be nice to hike pain-free again.
The shelter we're at is supposed to have a resident rat, not just mice, but a full size rat. The register is filled with dire reports of its size and aggressiveness. I'll be keeping Micah as close as possible all night. The others are on their own. Seeker and Sage Sister opted to tent rather than face the beast. FireBall, Spider, me, Micah and a section-hiker named Jonathan are all going to fight the good fight. We're hoping the rat goes for the weakest one, wich would be Uncle Charlie, who is passed out from imbibing a quart of some god-awful Vodka/lemonade concoction that he packed in from town. :^)
Flowers: Bittersweet Nightshade and Yellow Goatsbeard on the descent from Bear's Den Mtn.
There are TWO thru-hikers in this shelter and maybe it's my own insecurity, but this kind of stuff eats me up! I haven't shown FireBall everything he knows about backpacking by a longshot, but I've definitely shown him a lot about gear, and I think it says a lot that in the past month he's gone out and switched most of his gear to the same exact make and model as mine. And yet, every single question about gear is directed at him! I know this is petty, but this was one of the reasons I wanted to hike alone. It seems that any time a woman is perceived as part of a male/female team, she becomes the minor part, almost an invisible non-entity. I've been told in the past that I'm overly sensitive to this stuff, but I can't help it!
On a brighter note, my leg felt great today for the first time in weeks; I saw 3 deer, a turtle, and a snake today; the trail through the Shenandoah's is wonderfully maintained; and 2 day-hikers gave me some fresh fruit salad.