Icewater Spring Shelter [mile 209.8]
Elevation: 5939 feet
You knew it had to come: After all the misery, the snow, and the whining, today turnednout to be…
THE BEST DAY EVER on the trail, so far.
Best day ever. I have a friend who says, ‘Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle.’ Last Thursday I was wondering if I ought to quit. Today? Best day yet. Now that’s a miracle!
Today was Clingman’s Dome—highest point on the AT. We got a late start because of the shuttle, so I didn’t climb the tower. I wanted to get right to the hiking.
First of all, SBS, BOH, and I did the half mile from he parking lot up to the tower, along with dozens of weekend sightseers. It’s been so long since I was climbing with people who aren’t hiking every day that I was flabbergasted to realize that I was passing them. My lungs and conditioning were demonstrably improved! there was a ten-year-old kid who stopped the same number of times as I did. I count that as a victory!
The terrain today was the worst sustained hiking I’ve encountered. Ice, ice, ice, snow, ice, seasoned with a little sucking mud. Also, downhill. I mean steep, ice-covered downhill. And thanks to my new traction thingies, not only did I not trip or fall, I actually made two miles per hour all the way down!
I passed people!
Not only did I pass people, a hiker said the magic words to me, the ones I thought I’d never hear: ‘You’re faster than me. You go on ahead.’
Then, get this: trail magic! At Newfound Gap, beautiful Beth and Bernie from Florida had an amazing setup! Sammiches, cookies, apples, Cokes! Beth’s been following this journal and torturing Bernie with the tales of body fluids and woe. It was great to meet them. Their generosity staggers me; every year they spend their vacation coming up to do trail magic. Thank you both so much!
(Interesting aside: We almost bumped into each other last Thursday, the night I ran screaming to Gatlinburg. We were all on the mountain at the same time. I’m so glad we all got down safely!)
And after that, I made the three miles to this shelter in 90 minutes—rocky, icy, and steep uphill. (I give credit to that Coke from Beth—rocket fuel!) And guess what? I don’t have hamburger feet! They’re sore, yes, but manageable. It’s like, yes, my dogs are barking, but they’re not screaming in tortured agony. (That’s not conclusive yet; it was only eleven miles, and the snow may have had a cushioning effect. But for tonight? Rapture!)
I was always a little worried about this shelter. It’s named ‘Icewater.’ But it seems fine. The weather today was warm and sunny, and even at 6000 feet, I’m seeing my breath only a little.
Postman is here! Also DB Cooper, whom I’ve been hearing about but haven’t met yet. And guess what? I’ve been hearing about a hiker named Fifteen whom I don’t know, and it turns out he’s Rambling Rex from the Hiker Hostel! He changed his trail name.
And best of all, on the upper level, right above me, are two new hikers. One of them is Pierogi. And the other? Her name is Molly. (That’s kind of a magical name for me.) (So is Pierogi, but mostly because who doesn’t like a pierogi?)
Magic, magic, magic.
Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle.