Day 95: Miracles and a dramatic finish

Hotdogging near Rock Point Overlook [mile 841.7]

Holy crap. Crazy day. It completely restored my faith in the trail. Then I fell off a cliff. Literally.

I woke up to an overcast morning. It didn’t feel like rain, but I packed up fairly quickly just in case. Cause you just never know around here! I headed to the shelter for water and bumped into those lady section hikers again. Fun gals!

In fact, they just passed the place I’m stealth camping, so they caught up to me. I was hoping they’d camp here, but it’s seriously tight quarters. More on that in a bit.

As usual, the first part of the day was a brutal mountain climb. Three Ridges Mountain, elevation 3984, coming up from 1910 feet at the shelter. Steep and outrageously rocky in spots. Reminded me of home. 😉

I conquered that mountain! Woohoo! I didn’t use my poles, and that was great. I actually prefer not using them now, but the price finally caught up with me on the steep, rocky downhill. My bad knee started to feel very sore and puffy. I’d been planning a shortish day anyway (a longer day wasn’t going to get me into Wayne’s World any sooner), so I broke out the poles. They helped the knee pain. And having not used them for a few days I could spot fhe times they slowed me down and how to avoid or minimize it.

So I made my way down the 6 miles to Maupin Field Shelter for lunch. Lunch was going to be cheese and trail mix because rations are very short. And don’t you know, somebody had left food at the shelter? Food! At a shelter! It had the look of a weekender dropping some excess weight—two peanut butters in those single-serving cups. a granola bar, and a 7-ounce foil pack of Tyson chicken. Trail magic! Sort of! All within its expiration date and nary a mouse chew in sight.

I ate the peanut butter and granola bar and stuck the chicken in my nearly empty food bag. I’m just like the guy who found the socks.

I went another couple of miles to a road crossing in a field, and stumbled onto a cooler of…trail magic! While I was chugging a Pepsi, the rain came. An epic downpour. I got under the slim shelter of a tree and managed to get my rain jacket on, and the pack cover. But you know what? It was pretty warm, and the rain was fine. Fun, even. I scrubbed my legs like it was a free shower.

Another field, then a trek through a section so dense that the trail was a narrow thread between waist-high weeds—much of it the Mean Green. But that was OK because at the next road crossing… trail magic! Yes! A Dr. Pepper and some peanut butter crackers, and I was great to go.

And in another hundred yards, a parking lot. With a trash can. Could the day have gotten any better? It could: The sun came out! The sky was pewter clouds on one side, and bright blue on the other. Just like the trail—highs and lows, side by side.

After that the path turned technical and rocky again—like marching through a stone-floored jungle. Dense, green, wild. The only disadvantage was what I call the ‘trail-magic, no-privy blues’—the effect of a sudden influx of a thousand calories of high-fructose corn syrup on a digestive sustem that’s been on lean rations.

But we survived!

The going was so good that it completely turned around my thinking. (Thank you, trail angels!) So what if I have to flop-flop? Southbounders don’t end at Katahdin, and they do just fine. They also don’t have an arbitrary deadline. If I need another two weeks to finish, it won’t bankrupt me. And anyway, I don’t have to decide until August or even September. Just keep walking north at my own inexorable speed.

The trail climbed over rocks now slippery from the rain. I’d gone about 11 miles when I came to a stream rushing down a stony crack in the mountainside. Gorgeous. I went to cross it… and the stepping stone in the middle, probably loosened from the powerful rain runoff, tipped and threw me out into midair over a steep waterfall of rocks. I had enough hang time to realize this was bad trouble, then I hit the rocks and rolled downstream.

I was on my back in the creek. Water was rushing over me, and everything hurt so badly I could hardly breathe. I thought for a minute that my left hip and right arm were broken, but everything wiggled the way it was supposed to. So I unstrapped my pack and managed to stand up, then to hoist the pack out of the water.

I was shaking like a wet leaf as I crawled up the rocks. Adrenaline. I couldn’t even do a damage assessment for a while.

Then I did. Miraculously—miraculously—nothing was broken. Not me. Not my gear (with one critical exception, which I discovered later). Not even my FrankenPee. The pack was wet but not soaked through, thanks to the pack cover. I, though, was wet as a drowned rat from lying in the creek.

Upshot: We’ll see tomorrow. With these things, you never know til the next day. Bumps and bruises, it feels like.

But the hip! Dear gods, I could hardly clasp the hip belt. I couldn’t imagine the weight of the pack riding on that sore spot. And there was nowhere to set up camp—it was all rocky, steep, and wildly overgrown; I was halfway up a mountain.

I ended ip limping a mile or so to this overlook, the first spot that was even reasonably clear and flat.

Not a bad camp. I strung a line and hung my socks, pants, bra, underwear, and pack, and even my soaked shoes. I figured they’d catch the last couple of hours of sunlight and dry up nicely.

Bad decision. Right now, of course, it’s pouring like hell again. With my pack and half my clothes out in it. And my air mattress seems to have been destroyed in the fall, so I’m sleeping on rock when I wanted a nice soft bed.

Ah, trail life. 😉

Did I mention that Waynesboro has an Outback?

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Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Day 95: Miracles and a dramatic finish

  1. Oh My God. You’re giving me a panic attack. I hope you get some nice sun soon to dry you out and make things a little easier. Take care!

    • Hey, it’s sunny today! And somebody who reads this journal is driving me to Walmart later! A good day!

  2. Ginny Henninger

    What else can happen? You must have good bones, thank goodness. But you made me laugh. Glad you’re ok.

    • I think my pack saved me! The injuries weren’t from the rocks, they were from the pack straps, lol.

      But let me tell you, I’m very colorful at the moment. 🙂

  3. Derek Vreeland

    Omagosh! I am glad you survived.

    I have a prayer for you. I do not know if you are a praying person or not, but this is a good one…and it is short and easy to memorize. It has been used by alcoholics in AA for years, but don’t let that throw you off. It is the serenity prayer:

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is; not as I would have it; Trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will; So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you forever in the next. AMEN

    Pray this on your good days. Pray this on your bad days. Pray this on the days the sun is shining and pray it when it is raining. I hope it helps!

  4. Lisa Milstead

    Colorful is way better than broken! Glad the pack saved you!

  5. Glad you’re okay – tough hiker!!

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