Stealthing [mile 1878.8; SOBO 860.4]
There. I said it. No cute title, no application of perspective; just suck, suck, suck, a veritable sucking morass of suck. Not because the day lacked magic, mind you; but the frigid wind was relentless. I’m so cold I can’t stand it, and if it continues into next week, this might be the deal breaker. But I think the wind is supposed to die down tonight and the temperature’s supposed to go up by ten degrees (at night, at least).
When I woke up in the pitch dark it was freezing. (Half-full: There were no ants.) I mean it was so freezing that in the headlamp my breath was blowing like I was smoking a cigarette. And I realized one of the great truths of my existence: I can get up in the pitch dark at 5:00 AM, I can get up when it’s 20 degrees in my tent, but I cannot get up when it’s dark and 20 degrees.
Couldn’t do it. I was awake, more or less, but I couldn’t muster the willpower to throw back the quilt until after 6:00 AM—when I’m usually stuffing the tent into the pack and getting ready to start walking.
This meant a late start. (Half-full: Well, I must have needed the sleep, right? Also, I got to start hiking in the daylight, yay!) I crunched my way through the frost-covered leaves for a couple of miles. The wind was ferocious. Even with my raingear on, it just chewed its way right to my skin. I didn’t ever really get warm all day.
At around 8:45 I got to the park office for High Point State Park. The bathroom was inside and they didn’t open until 9.00. I begrudged that time and didn’t really have to pee, but then it occurred to me that it’d be nice just to get into the warmth even for five minutes. Yeah, I thought. That’d be worth it.
So I waited. Good decision! The next hour or two turned out to be the highlights of the day.
While I was waiting, two other hikers showed up. They had the grizzly thru-hiker look, which I’ve missed seeing. Turns out they’re fellow flippers. Their hike will finish in Duncannon, Pennsylvania in two weeks or a little less. It was so nice to feel grubby and comfortable with hikers again. No explanations, no eyebrow raising at some of the ridiculous behaviors that long-distance hikers eventually adopt. (Looking in the trash can? Plugging your phone into the wall? Using the bathroom hand dryer six times because it’s warm?) Little Buddy and Sassy Bear were their trail names. They’re already ahead of me, of course! I wish them a joyous finish and a safe journey home.
While we were waiting for the door to open, who should appear but a trail angel. Snorz, his name is, and he’s read some bits and pieces of this journal. (If you see this, Snorz, thank you again!) Snorz had a lot of great information about this neck of the woods, and he’s a good friend to hikers out in this neck of the woods. And best of all, he drove me to the deli, where I got coffee for me and Little Buddy, plus a danish. Yum!
The park office was amazingly welcoming. They had sodas for thru-hikers, donated by a local group. They had a trash can for thru-hikers, which was fabulous. (You want to help a long-distance hiker? Offer to take their trash!) And there was a hiker box. I’ve been a little worried sbout getting to the MOC, so I nearly grabbed some ramen (which are disgusting when rehydrated in ice water). Then I realized it was panic shopping and I put it back.
Remember Tie-Dye from Rutland? I think I mentioned her; I met her on a bus. Apparently she flipped and she’s a day or two behind me.
Eventually after all that, I hit the trail. It was still blustery and cold. And the whole rest of the morning was a massive ridgewalk—meaning walking along the top edge of a mountain while the wind tears at you. No amount of sunshine today was enough to make me comfortable. And at some point or other, my blaze orange winter hat must have gotten tangled in my hood and blown away. It’s gone and I didn’t notice until I was pitching my tent.
To make a long story short, at around 3:00 PM, I was done. My stomach hurts (I took something for that), I have a sore throat, and I can’t get warm! I decided I needed to get out of the wind. (My body fat’s low right now, so I’m extra vigilant about the Big H.)
I was going to camp near the next shelter, but I decided one of my hard and fast rules is not to sleep anyplace that has underwear on the roof.
So I stealth-pitched my tent and got into my puffy wardrobe (including the down balaclava, which I haven’t worn yet up here), and here I am.
My head’s buried under the quilt as I type, like a kid reading by flashlight. I may never come out of here! Not til spring, anyway. And I guess it’ll be another late start tomorrow.