Spence Field Shelter [mile 182.5]
Started out early and strong today. For the first few miles I was zipping! I was probably doing a steady two miles per hour (which is pretty much my maximum pace) until about mile four, when I totally ran out of gas. I mean totally. My nose was running, my feet hurt… brutal!
The day before I’d pulled one of those long days that put me into camp exhausted and frozen. It was my first night in a shelter, and my tent routine was blown. I had neighbors close enough to kick me in my sleep (or it may have been a mouse on my sleeping bag). But the worst was that it was freezing again—30 degrees with a frigid blistery wind that tore through the shelter. I couldn’t get warm, and I didn’t sleep—and that’s what really did me in, I think.
Yesterday a ridgerunner said that the six miles after Spencer Field was very hard. I checked the elevation profile: straight up.
I just couldn’t do it. If it weren’t for this Smokies rule that you have to stay in shelters, I might have done another three or so. But not a hard six. So I stopped at Spencer Field and had a big hot lunch (mashed potatoes and bacon). I got my gear sorted and better laid out to keep me warm in this little icebox.
Not too long after I got here, two hikers showed up: Guard and Freight Train. They did exactly what I did: stayed at Mollie’s and couldn’t go on.
Freight Train’s hike ends tonight. He has Achilles tendonitis. He’s hiking out a different trail and getting a ride home. He and Guard have known each other since sixth grade. Tonight they’ll be sharing the cigars they were saving for Katahdin. Bittersweet.
The shelter isn’t packed yet. I don’t know the hikers, but we’re family: King, Snap, Sparky. I’m intending to be up and out early.
A word about the Smokies: Remember when I said it was pretty? Right after that, it got ugly. The last few miles have been muddy and desolate. It’s probably different when if’s not February.
What else? There’s a privy here!
More hikers just arrived. Full up now, I think.