The famous and amazing Partnership Shelter [mile 530.6; mpd 8.04]
Holy pony poop, what a day.
Let me start with the weather report. It’s raining. I’ve decided to start naming the rains. This is Angry-rain-born-of-mighty-vengeance. With a side order of lightning. And overtones of black clouds.
It’s pouring again. The good news: I’m in my tent with a belly full of pizza. The bad news: There’s a little lake between my footprint and the tent floor. The worse news: Torrential rain in the forecast for the next two days. And at some point, temperatures in the 30s. And that’s in town.
OK, so I’m way ahead of myself. When I woke up, the sun was coming out! I’d set an alarm for 5. I had the happy realization that it’s now light enough to hike at 6, so I may continue the 5 AM wakeup, if I’m in an area where an alarm won’t bother people.
Not only was the sun coming out, but for only the second time so far, the chill was manageable enough that I could start the day in shorts! Usually I have to start in pants and waste 20 minutes up-trail changing, after it warms up a bit.
I was determined to get to Partnership Shelter today, because you can order pizza there! So I was serious and pushing. I got to a gorgeous meadow full of flowers…honeysuckles, daisies, buttercups. And bumblebees! Big fat ones, chasing me down. They were everywhere! I don’t see many of those at home.
But get this! The derelict schoolbus is no more! There was an old pile of metal, but no paint, nothing. Just rust. So if you want to see the iconic schoolbus on the AT, you’ll have to watch the movie Trek. So sad! No ponies, and now no schoolbus.
A mile later back in the woods, a church group had left a box full of trail magic! Sadly, it had already been pretty well pillaged. I found a bag of pork rinds, a couple of envelopes of hot chocolate, and two baby wipes. Blood Orange and I commiserated about the missing schoolbus.
I met another Southbounder! Stonewall. He started at Katahdin last July.
After that, the trail went up. And up. And up. Then down. The terrain wasn’t terrible, but the ups kill me. Eventually the trail crossed a river. I sat on the other side, on a wall. I used Gatorade to mix my cocoa, and I ate it with a spoon that smelled like salmon. And I checked the elevation profile and almost cried. A 3-mile climb. I just couldn’t do it. I was sitting by the bank of a beautiful river on a bright sunny day, and I was pretty close to despair.
Also, I added my water drops to the wrong bottle, then realized I’d put my pack down on a pile of ants.
So what do you do when you’re full of despair about a big climb? You shut up and put on the headphones, and you just climb. One step at a time. And a few hours later it was done. Not easily and not happily, but done was sufficient. (For the first time I wondered whether I actually might not be able to climb Katahdin, should I make it that far.)
Near the top, I was ready to cry. I was like, Trail, I need a little magic right now. I can’t do this. And don’t you know, through a break in the trees was a beautiful mountain. I pulled out the phone for a picture and happened to check my internet… and wonder of wonders, I had LTE service! I uploaded my blog entries and realized that I can eat disgusting things and wear the same underwear for two weeks without a shower and still be happy as long as I have internet.
That little burst of connectedness was enough to get me over the top. It was still 4 miles to Partnership, and I already had hamburger feet and icepick shoulder. I just put my head down and clenched my teeth and walked. It was a lot of up and down until the last 2 miles. One mile was flat and easy, then the climb started. A gentle climb, though. I though about pizza.
A mile from the shelter, the sky opened. The rain was sudden and came down in sheets. And it continued until I got to the shelter. I picked a flat place and got the tent up at light speed, then it started again. Hard, vicious, and loud. After an hour, my tent was sitting in a lake. The down’s dry, at least.
There are at least 20 people here. I met one woman briefly at Aquone before she started her hike. Sass, her name is. Her daughter was the other Socks. And I met Blacksquatch on top of Mt. Rogers. Very funny guy. He said he’s technically a section hiker; he took 270 zeroes.
Guess what! All these freaking people have pony stories! “Here’s a picture of me and a pony!” “A mother pony brought her newborn right to the shelter! It didn’t even have teeth yet, and it suckled my finger!” I only saw two ponies!” “I saw a whole herd of ponies!”
You know what, pony people? Bite me!
I’ll go back someday when the ponies aren’t hiding from the miserable rain and fog.
Partnership Shelter. You can’t even call it a shelter. It’s a log cabin. With a shower. And a privy with toilet paper. Some people say some of the shelters are overbuilt, but if you think of this as a visitor center, it’s fine by me. And the pizza was delicious.
No pictures of the shelter, though. It was raining too hard. I’ll try to get some tomorrow.
And now, the bourbon is flowing up at the shelter. (A lot of them made a trip into Marion today for provisions; provisions usually include booze.) Sounds like a frat party up there. Time for me to put in my earplugs and hit the hay! This slow hiker needs her beauty sleep. 🙂
Oh, one highlight! I saw two tiny little frogs! Wildlife report so far: four squirrels, ten chipmunks, some birds, a bear from a great distance, and now two little frogs.