So many things happen each day and lots to do when I get to these towns. Including rest, resupply, communication with family, new gear, and yes I still have to conduct some business 😳. In week two I’m starting to get into the routine of life on the trail.
After 2 days off the trail I was ready to get moving north. 3 days is really too long but I plan to use my zero mileage days more often early in the hike. The joints and bones need more time then muscles to get use to the constant stress from difficult hiking along with the weight of the pack. Two days off is also a way to step backward for an unseasoned hiker. Getting started again is a shock to the system.
I was headed to Niday shelter from where I left off at Hwy 42. Starting on private lands, which were cow pastures on rolling hills. My legs were feeling much stronger today! I passed by the Kiefer Oak which is the second largest on the Appalachian Trail. 18 feet around and 300 years old. It was 10 miles to the shelter including a 3 mile ridge walk. Ridge walks are not as pleasant as they sound. They include a series of peaks which are connected by a sag in the trail, requiring you to walk back down in elevation then reclimb that much and more. This can go on for 6,7, even 8 peaks until finally reaching the top. This one wasn’t as bad as the ones to come. On the way I crossed the Eastern Continental Divide. I tented on a pleasant night looking forward to the Audie Murphy Monument the next day.
Niday Shelter to Pickle Branch shelter. 10 miles
The morning started hot and soon was 80 degrees. The trail itself was what I have become to call a proper trail. Meaning fewer rocks, more leaves and pine needles. At 3100 ft and a 1000 ft. On what looked like an old road I walked up to the Audie Murphy Monument. Audie Murphy was the most decorated WW2 Veteran. He died in a plane crash here in 1974. It was my most anticipated moment to this point on the trail. I took some pictures, sat on a bench in silence for awhile then prayed and left in silence.
The leaves on the trees still were not out and the sun was taking a toll on my energy not to mention my arms were getting red. I couldn’t apply sunscreen often enough so I’m forced to wear a long sleeve shirt and hat. From here it was down to Trout Creek where I sat for a long lunch with my feet in the water. Mule, Dave livin’itup and three others were here as well. Not sure if I mentioned it but I tweaked an old foot injury and though manageable it means being very mindful of my foot placement. Fortunately the trail has been forgiving the last couple of days. I use the cold water of the streams like ice to reduce any swelling whenever possible.
- Going down to water always means going up afterwards. I climbed 400 ft. To Pickle Branch Shelter to end the day. An unexpected rain started the next morning followed by rolling thunder. I planned to go 13.5 miles today my longest yet. Little did I know it would be my worst day. Dragons Tooth had its own plan. The rain was limited to the early morning. The climb was tough but these now are becoming just an accepted fact of life.
- As I got higher and the rocks more prevalent I took a tumble. Not serious once again but then another in the next 5 minutes shook my confidence. Was I getting tired already? I rested started again and then a bad foot placement and I injured my foot again. I could still walk but a little more gingerly. I would have to be really careful from here on out. Unfortunately the terrain was going to get much worse! Dragons Tooth was no joke. At times I questioned whether this was the trail because it was that dangerous. I had to go real slow because of my foot and at times I could feel my feet sliding off the steep angles of the rocks. Twice I had to back up because I left the trail thinking I was supposed to go around a rock only to realize I’d followed the mistakes of others before me. Eventually The trail became a trail and not a rock scramble. In my focus to navigate this section I failed to see the sign which led via a side trail to the actual Dragons Tooth. Not sure with my injury I would have climbed it but I will go back one day without all the weight of my pack. I still had 9.4 miles to go and that was not looking good to me. I opted to stop at 4 Pines hostel believe it or not 4 miles away. Turned a bad day into a good day.
- I rested my foot, met new hikers, had pizza and cheese burgers, did my laundry and regrouped for an exciting next day to McAfee Knob. The goal today was 10 miles to Johns Spring Shelter. This would get me to Daleville in Saturday a day later than I planned. As tough as they are I’m getting used to the climbs specially in the cooler mornings. Starting out over a ridge than down to some cow pastures I saw many flowers long the way to Hwy. 311 in Catawba Va. Climbing to McAfee’s Knob a 1200 ft. climb in the heat of a very warm day. At the top was an amazing view of the valley below. I was a little leg weary so I didn’t have my picture made sitting on the ledge.
- Now I wish I had! I met Papa Smurf who took my picture and after talking to him I had the idea of attempting to go another 6.5 miles to another shelter which would put me in reach of Daleville on Friday. Papa Smurf didn’t know how unwise his suggestion might have been. My longest day up to now was 12.7 miles. This would be 16.3. Not only that but it would be 3 climbs in a day. Weather was threatening soon and there was no camping allowed after passing the next shelter a mile away. Plus I didn’t know how rough Tinker Cliffs would be. Another Dragons tooth and I’d never make it. I only had 4 hours till dark so I got to the first shelter thought about the pros and cons, prayed and decided to risk it. I’m drank a half liter of water and almost ran down to the se of Tinker Mountain. It started to sprinkle and struggled with the climb but I was committed and kept pushing upward. I was glad to see the top! Next was negotiating the cliffs which turned out to be not so bad though I lost the trail a few times which delayed my progress a few minutes. Thunder rumbled so I didn’t waste time up there and headed down to the shelter 900 feet down and a mile away. Got there and was glad to see No Collar who has been struggling with a knee issue and Papa Smurf . I just had time to filter water, eat and get into my bag before darkness settled in. Tired but happy. What a day!
- Morning brought rain and a 9 mile tough climb over seemingly unending peaks but eventually Daleville where I intend to to take Saturday off the trail and recover. I’ve traveled 119 miles thus far. Next stop Glasgow Va. The journey continues…
This was long again but I’ve had fun recalling all that happened and I use it to refine what I’m doing and learn from my mistakes. I have noticed a few themes that keep recurring in my thoughts as I travel. The first is trust and faith. The trust that God is with me and the faith that he will see to it that all is well.
The second is wherever I end up is where I’m supposed to be.The plan may change due to circumstances but wherever I end up that day, I can go forward the next.
The third is to make time I have to forget time. That is to say stay mindful of what is immediately in front of me. Not think or worry to much about the next climb or the next day. When climbing hills I found if I look down at the trail instead of how far I have to go uphill I make quicker progress with less stress.
Thanks for all your support!