Tenting near a creek [mile 484.1; mpd 7.94]
The good news: The new air mattress is fine. It was a typical March night (appropriate, since March was January) and I slept so warmly that I didn’t realize I was in a tent when I woke up. I didn’t know where I was, particularly, but I think I thought sheets and a bed were involved.
The bad news: I woke up late, fussy, cranky, and all manner of irritable. Everything went wrong from minute one, and it kept going wrong, and I finally called it quits after half a day. The good news is that even though I left work at lunchtime, the mpd still crept up a little bit.
I will never, ever, ever get past freaking Mt. Rogers!
See? Cranky! OK, that amused me. 🙂
So, it was wet and cold when I woke up. Not cold enough to freeze, but with the fierce wind gusts I’m thinking the wind chill was around 30. Which is fine at home, but when you’re in a mesh tent and have to take your pajamas off… highly not pleasant. It was already 7:30. I have no idea why I slept like that. Presumably I was already well rested from Damascus.
Also, it had rained; the tent was wet.
I discovered there’s a seam ripping in my new pack. That’s two packs from ULA, both with manufacturing defects. So I’ll probably have to stitch that up at some point in the next week. I might have to use dental floss; the thread in my sewing kit isn’t heavy duty.
Then… I just couldn’t get the pack packed. I know it’s only two inches shorter. It’s some mystery of physics. Well… it’s the too much food combined with the fact that my pack liner is giving up the ghost, so I’m having to get extremely creative to keep my quilt and down pants and jacket dry. I can’t just mush them into the bottom anymore.
It stayed windy and cold while I wrestled with the gear issues, but the wind dried the tent, which was excellent. However, because of the space issues, I had to jam the tent into the outside pocket again, and all that misery of the old pack was right back again.
All morning, I fought with that freaking pack. I was in tears at least three times. I pushed, pulled, wrangled, adjusted. It felt like somebody was stabbing me in the shoulder blade with an icepick. I stopped and unpacked and repacked. I raised, lowered, tightened, loosened.
I finally got it tolerable just when I got to the first shelter of the day. The shelters in Virginia are much nicer than in Tennessee! And woohoo, the privies are back and they have doors!
I didn’t see any other thru-hikers. Saw two pair of weekenders. And I crossed a fabulous long bridge over a rushing creek and ran into a group of girls heading home after a weekend camping trip, trying to avoid the rain. I got them to take my picture. Thanks, women! Aside from that the only other soul I saw was a park ranger (who was cute as a button, like a marginally grown-up Boy Scout), who warned me that it’s super cold up top. He meant up on Whitetop Mountain, which was where I was headed—-the last peak before Mt. Rogers.
And you know what? I had a meltdown. I just couldn’t flipping do it! So I forced myself to chew out a couple of miles to get to a good site with water, and I made camp. I’m going to sit here and eat the heaviest food in my pack. Then I’ll read a little bit, now that I have the phone charger. Then I’ll eat more heavy food.
Oh, that’s another issue! No phone service! Things were going so well that I thought I’d be good for a while. But I’ve got nothing, not even roaming. Must be Mt. Rogers. So very frustrating.
Mt. Rogers is at mile 494.5. I’m currently at 484.1. I should manage to get past it tomorrow, I hope, even though the weather’s still supposed to be cold and rainy and shitty. And it’s a lot of downhill after that.
You know, I said this was a lot of new for me. I actually think that’s part of the issue today. This was like starting out fresh at Springer. Of course it’s going slow; my gear and I are getting used to each other. But also, I think it’s partly because I rushed through Damascus. I normally like to take the first afternoon and do nothing but eat, sleep, shower, and laundry. This time I also resupplied, which was a mistake. I found myself in the grocery store without a list or even a clear idea of where the next resupply point was, and everything from there was just rush-rush-rush because of that pack issue.
Note to self: Even though I’m impatient, major gear purchases require one extra day in town, or I’ll simply end up back on the trail overwhelmed and with only half my ass.
The trail today, by the way, was stunning. Damascus really knows how to make a network of hiking and biking trails. The AT also included what has to be the easiest mile on the trail, because it followed the Viginia Creeper bike trail: flat, gravel-paved, and next to a gorgeous creek.
Right now it’s pouring rain.
Let’s see… which of this food is heaviest? Why the hell am I packing Sour Patch Kids?
Oh, yay. Hard thunder, maybe up on Whitetop. Maybe it’s a good thing I had a meltdown!
Update at dusk: Still pouring. It’s been pouring for hours. Days like this make you wonder how the sky can possibly hold so much moisture without collapsing. Except it is collapsing, isn’t it. Every raindrop is a piece of sky. Which may be why those rain puddles reflect the clouds so clearly; they’re remembering that they used to fly.