Hotdogging at Bruisers Knob [mile 674.8; mpd 8.54]
I’m not really hotdogging, since I’ve pitched my tent on a lovely flat spot left by somebody else. But this campsite isn’t listed in the book.
But man, there’s a fierce thunderstorm going on overhead. One minute I was pitching my tent under a bright blue sky; I no sooner got tucked inside and my shoes off when the sky turned black and the wrath of Zeus started! So funny… as I was pitching I was quoting one of my AT rules: Whatever it’s doing at night, set up camp for the opposite. If it’s dry at night, prepare as though it’s going to rain. If it’s calm at night, prepare as though a big wind is coming. The weather changes regularly overnight. So I’m pitched for rain and wind, even though it was sunny and calm a half-hour ago.
The lightning’s a little scary, though.
Anyway, lots of good things today, and no real bad ones. Here’s the Cliff Notes version:
1. For a little while at lunchtime, I had internet! The first thing I did was order a new P-style!
2. Nefarious offered to send me a P-style! And I would have been on that in a New York minute if I hadn’t been so quick on the draw. Thanks, Nefarious!
3. I met some old friends! I mean way old… like week 1 or 2. Planet and Rig! It was great to see them. They think we’re fine, by the way, even with a max of 15 miles (and not a ton of those).
4. I saw an owl flying, but I couldn’t see its face.
5. I did 14 miles. And part of that was a massive climb and also a rocky section, so I feel good about that.
6. I saw a 300-year-old oak tree!
I packed up wet this morning. One thing I decided to try was taping my foot. I suspect there are a few different issues going on. We’ll see how that goes! I don’t have the right kind of tape, but I made do.
The first part of the trail was a long downhill right to the shelter I’d been trying to make last night. It was empty, although on the way out I spotted an MSR tent in a grassy field. (I found out later it was Planet and Rig.) The day wasn’t rainy, and the temperature was a little lower, so the walking was good. Later—most of the day, in fact—the sky was overcast. That helped the hiking, let me tell you. And sweat was still pouring off the end of my nose.
After the shelter, the trail visited Florida again: soft ground, shadowed paths, and the rush of water. There were a lot of springs and streams. So pretty! But then the ascent: 1700 feet of elevation gain over the course of about 2-1/2 miles. Nothing there wasn’t plenty of in North Carolina and Tennessee and Georgia, but those types of climbs have been a little sparser here. Some of it was brutal! But my feet held up.
One of the things I wanted to try was taking a full hour for lunch. Virginia hasn’t had as many big logs to sit on, so breaking has been difficult. Then this morning I thought, You idiot; you have a tent. It wouldn’t be worth pitching for ten minutes, but for an hour? I decided to experiment.
The trail turned shrubby at the crest of that climb. There was a lookout point called Kelly Knob. One thing about lookout points: there’s usually a campsite there! I was pitching the tent when Rig and Planet showed up. How great to see some winter people! They looked fit and strong. We chatted about how hard March was.
Did the hour help the feet? Not sure. I was stiff when I got up, and bumbling around like Frankenstein. But it did seem to pass, and the afternoon’s march was manageable. At least until this last steep climb. They don’t call it Bruiser Knob for nothing!
The sun came out for the afternoon and the trail turned pastoral. I love walking through grass and meadows for a change. The sun did beat down, though, with nothing to block it.
But then, some actual trail magic. The trail passed the famous Keefer Oak, the biggest oak tree on the southern trail. It’s 18-feet around. Magnificent! It felt like a wise old Amazon, with arms outstretched to the sun.
After the meadow, the trail went back into the woods and climbed. That was not an easy ascent. But right at the top was this site, and I practically threw my pack down in my haste to get horizontal.
And here I am! Safe from the rain!
In the next two days the trail moves through a reclamation area. Camping is allowed only in certain spots. Planet said a friend of his told him they tag a certain number of rattlesnakes there. There’s supposed to be a ton of them! I hope they’re mellow and not at all pissed off. 🙂