Daily Archives: May 31, 2013

Day 86: Critters 4, hikers 1

Cove Mountain Shelter [mile 748.5]

Since day 1, I seem to have a universal problem with the second day out of town. It’s always horrible and pear-shaped. I feel awful, things go badly, and I end up with a short day.

Today I got 10 whole miles. And it took me nearly 8 hours.

Here’s the thing, I think. The first day out of town I have a massive boatload of food, but I’m also well rested, well fed, and full of optimism. I generally don’t sleep well the first night out—nightmares, all the old discomforts I forgot in town, too much caffeine in my system. So I wake up on morning 2 with a bad case of tired. By then, the town food’s worn off. The pack feels like I’m carrying Idaho. I’m out of condition from eating nonstop for a day and a half. And my stomach is empty again and crying out for a cheeseburger or ice cream. And I have caffeine withdrawal. So day 2 ends up being miserable.

Today was day 2 and it didn’t break the pattern.

I slept badly and woke up exhausted, but I hit the trail at 6:30. The day was immediately humid, and it got boiling hot as it wore on. At the overlooks, the haze covered the mountains and valleys like fog.

But the day really started going south at around 8, when I stubbed my toe, couldn’t recover fast enough, and went flying. I landed hard on my hands and knees, and my right knee smashed into a rock. The good news is that once again, nothing broke. The bad news? My pants are shredded.

It hurt. A lot.

I tried to get to a shelter to sit and fix myself up, but I couldn’t make it. I found a log, dragged off my pants, and had a look. The knee was skinned and scraped and cut, and I’ll probably end up with anoher legendary bruise, but the pants are done. Can’t even be sewn. I can patch them next time I’m in town, if I can find a patch, but in the meantime all I can do is tape them. And I didn’t want to empty my whole pack into the bug-infested leaves looking for the tape, so I just gave up and put my shorts on.

Of course, the long pants were my insect protection. In about 5 minutes, I had as many mosquito bites. Since I nixed the Off, I don’t have any repellant.

And I was just shaky and hot all day after that. I sweated like a waterfall ain the brutal sun. The trail was rocky, so my feet got chewed up. I needed water and had to walk a quarter mile to a spring, which was a half mile that didn’t count and also took time.

I finally got here at 2:30. This was supposed to be my lunchtime stop. And I was done, done, done.

Also, I found a tick inside my tent. But not on me! I think it jumped in when I was taking off my shoes. (I check for ticks insanely frequently.)

I only saw one hiker all day: Codewalker, this afternoon. (There are two people in the shelter now, eating dinner.) I think a lot of them stopped in Troutville for the trail fest there this weekend. And the rest were heading for a swimming hole and campground 3 miles from here, then the next shelter after this one.

On the other hand, I saw plenty of critters. A snake, a toad, a lizard! They all stayed nice and still while I took their picture. Then just a mile or so ago, I turned a corner and there was a deer standing right in the middle of the trail! I took her picture, but the phone made her the size of a pinhead. I’ll stick it at the bottom, and you can play Where’s Waldo, lol.

Looking forward to sleep. And I think I’ll start my hike over tomorrow.

And I’ll try to think of what I can do in future to reward myself on the dreaded day 2. A little candy maybe? A planned shorter day? I don’t know. I’ll figure something out.








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Day 85: A walk in the woods

Hotdogging near the Blue Ridge Parkway [mile 738.3]

Today was about as close to a regular old walk in the woods as this thing is going to get, I think.

Highlight reel: Saw a deer. Saw a toad. Saw fish. Saw 50/50 and friends. Saw flowers. Saw cows!

I had a quick breakfast af the Super 8 (waffle and a couple of yogurts, since they didn’t have eggs) and hit the ground running at 6:38. (I was going to round that up to 6:45 so I wouldn’t look as anal-retentive as I am, but what the hell. It’s got to be obvious by now.) The plan was to try to get the elusive 10×12 today… 10 miles by noon.

The morning was already warm when I set out. The weather report called for a temp of 90 by 5 PM, and the day eventually turned into a scorcher. But a scorcher with a light breeze. And under the shadows of the Green Tunnel (that’s what they call the AT), it wasn’t too bad, even with long pants on.

Oh! I forgot! I was tossing and turning last night about the DEET. I finally got up and did some reading at around midnight and realized that it would be stupid of me to spray myself with it. I’m pretty clumsy. All it would take would be one random swipe, and I could easily melt my tent, my pole handles, or—disaster scenario—my glasses. I’m pretty much blind without my glasses. So I ditched the DEET idea. For now, I’m thinking I’ll just wear long pants and see how that goes.

So even in long pants, the heat was manageable. The trail into Troutville was manicured and neat, even with some cutouts in the woods for tents (I presume).

Right on the other side of Troutville, 50/50 caught up with me! With him were Green Blaze and Jabberwocky. It was great to meet those two, and it’s always great to see 50/50. We leapfrogged all day, along with a hiker named Buckeye Cornelius who remembered me from way back in the day. It’s funny how the trail’s become Two Degrees of Separation. All the bubbles are doing some intermingling now. And now that the number of hikers has dropped, everybody either knows everybody else or has heard of them in passing, nine times out of ten. It’s rare to have a conversation where you can’t find mutual people in common.

After Troutville, the trail meandered through a meadow. I was looking down and watching out for cow poop, which i noticed was fresh. Then I thought, “Fresh? Then where are the ones doing the pooping?” And I looked up and a dozen big black cows were standing 30 feet away! Staring at me!

They were HUGE. Hey, I’m a city girl. They spooked me. I wondered if they were going to charge me or kick me or bite me. They didn’t, though, not even when I had to pass through another bunch of them who were milling around right on the trail. So go, cows! Be your own bad selves! Thanks for not hoofing me to death!

After that, the trail went woodsy again. It was pretty, as usual: soft ground, shady trees and pines. The mountain laurel trees were blooming. Water was available about every five miles, which was OK. With the heat, a dose of North Carolinian water frequency would have been handy. But I didn’t run out, so it’s all good.

Eventually the trail hooked up with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Spectacular views! I got about 14.8 miles and passed a good site, so I decided to go ahead and jump on it. I can hear the occasional car down on the Parkway, and I’m close to the trail. Both of those facts are comforting.

The only down side to the day is that I lost my two good pens. I somehow ended up with a hotel pen, though, so at least I’ve got something. I hope it has enough ink to get me to Waynesboro.

One good thing: I didn’t quite get 10×12, but I got close. I think I can get 10×12 if I hit the trail at 6. I can’t do 10 miles in 5 hours, but I can usually do 5 in 3. So I’m going to start setting my alarm and trying to do three 5-mile hikes every day, and another mile or fwo if my feet can tolerate it. That’ll get me my 14 with some wiggle room.

Somebody said today that the common wisdom is that if you get through Harper’s Ferry by July 4, you have enough time for a comfortable finish. I don’t know what ‘comfortable’ means in that context, since other people can churn out 20s, but it sounded hopeful anyway. I think Harper’s Ferry is around mile 1000—the psychological halfway point. I should be through by July 4—or actually end of June, I think. Not sure, between SNP (Shenandoah) and the home visit. We’ll see. It’s all up to the trail!

Tomorrow… I have no freaking clue. 🙂








Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 4 Comments

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