Stealth camping at Deep Gap with a billion other people [mile 286.7]
It’s so mysterious! Some days are just good, and some are just bad, and no amount of chemistry seems to make a difference. Maybe it’s the weather. Whatever it is, today was phenomenal, for no reason I can determine. I managed 12.8 miles including three big uphills with no trouble at all. I don’t even have hamburger feet!
I went to the diner at 6 AM for a last breakfast—just a couple of eggs to stoke the burner. When I was paying, I told the cashier I was so sorry to be leaving Hot Springs. She just smiled and said, “That’s part of the journey, isn’t it.” She didn’t say it like a question. She’s right, of course; one of the lessons out here is impermanence. You lose people all the time. The trick is to enjoy every person and every place fully while you have them, and let them go freely when the inevitable time comes.
The walk out of Hot Springs was lovely. Pine needle paths, well maintained. I did get off the trail once. I found myself scaling an enormous rockface hand over hand. I needed feet, hands, knees… and when I got to the top, I realized it wasn’t the trail. It was a giant rock called Lover’s Leap. I couldn’t get down! Eventually I slid down a drainage ditch like a sliding board. it was fill of thorn bushes and pine needles, and my tush got scratched up, but I lived! (Unlike the lovers, presumably.)
So that was a big uphill, but I managed it without trouble. Maybe it’s because I took my watch off finally and just decided to stop worrying about how long it was taking. Or maybe it was the green tunnel… not really the green tunnel, not yet. But the elevation was low enough that I was under the treeline, and the rhododendron bushes touched overhead. Summer’s going to be like that!
The afternoon got hot and sunny, and after a steady climb the trail ended up back upstairs with the bare trees and dead leaves. But wildflowers! So many tiny ones! Brilliant red and white and yellow. And something I’ve never seen: wild iris.
I also passed two more tombstones. For what it’s worth, at the moment I’m thinking that if I croak on the trail, I’d rather be buried in a hotel room with cable and a hot shower.
I took a break by a gorgeous pond, and a couple of other 15-minute breaks. Then tonight I called it a day at Deep Gap. I was alone until a raiding party of young hikers showed up. There are about ten or twelve of them, plus a doggie. Feels like Gooch Gap! 🙂 Which is absolutely fine.
Saw Dreamer and the Postman today, but everybody else has been a new face. A lot of new faces.
That’s part of the journey. Just hiking my own hike, me and the trail.