Day 26: Just Climb
What To Do Without Internet
I wake up early. Once I’m awake, I stay awake. This morning I woke up at 4:45 am. After I’d done my morning rituals, I had an hour without any internet to kill, so I started looking over today’s route on the FarOut app, a digital trail map.
I went looking for the 300-mile marker I expected to see today, and discovered a bad weather bypass at that point. Apparently, the AT needs a bypass route during high winds, lightning, and rain? That sounded exciting. And it was! An exposed ridge, climby and rocky in places, occasionally hard to follow and overgrown, but with outstanding views.
A Big Climb, For a Change
I also saw that I’d start the day with a 2,500-ft climb. But midway up that climb, I realized I’m no longer playing the “how much is left game.” I just climb.
I set a pace I can keep for the entire climb, which is a function of the steepness and length of the climb, the day’s total miles and total vertical, and whether it’s morning or late afternoon (energy level, temperature). And then I grind it out. No, I walk it out. It’s no longer that much of a grind.
The Five Stages of Climbing
I think I’ve progressed through the five stages of climbing. I’m past the denial, anger, bargaining, depression…(the map must be wrong, stupid AT trail planners, if I climb this the rest will be downhill, this trail sucks)… I might be approaching acceptance. I just walk up whatever’s in front of me. That’s not to say I don’t still love getting to the top or get exhausted, but I’m enjoying the journey up more.
A Great Blue Heron on the Trail
During today’s big climb, I saw a Great Blue Heron (GBH). It looked like a skinny, 90%-leg, 20-something, but it acted like a GBH. On river trips, when you see a GBH ahead of you, it always does the same thing. Just when you pull up next to it, it takes flight and zooms down river. And when you catch up again, it does the same thing all over again. It can do this for miles before it figures out that it should just let you pass by.
About a third of the way up the first big climb, my 20-something GBH pulled out of a shelter just ahead of me and zoomed up the trail out of sight. Two minutes later, I saw him standing by the side of the trail, chest heaving and hands on his knees. Then he saw me plodding along toward him and he took off again.
We did this maybe four or five times, each interval a little shorter than the last. Finally, the GBH gave up, stood off to the side and gave me a grumpy “good morning” as I plodded passed. I never saw him again.
Got Me Again
As I neared the top of the climb, I saw a lookout tower next to some cell phone towers. The AT twisted and turned, trying to get me to play “the game,” but I knew where we were going. We were headed to the towers. Until we didn’t.
What in the AT? We got to within 200 vertical feet of the tower and went right past it with no Blue Blaze trail to the top. After a 2,500-foot climb. The AT got me again. It’s a tricksy one, that AT.
Who Loves You, Baby?
Part of the big climb today was along an old wagon road. I love walking the old wagon roads, partly because I love to imagine their history. But mostly, I love that they have much better grades than the regular AT. Which tells me that the old wagon road builders loved their mules more than the ATC loves thru-hikers.
The Lowest Form of Humor
Last climb of the day was up Big Butt. Not Big Butte. Big Butt. But it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I expected a bald, but it was pretty hairy. Coming down the backside, I realized I was wiped. I probably looked a little flushed. Ok, that’s the end of that. Sorry to dump all those puns on you.
- Start: Log Cabin Dr. (Mile 291.3)
- End: Devil’s Fork Gap (Mile 311.1)
- Weather: Puffy clouds and cool, then warm in the afternoon.
- Earworm: You Don’t Have to Be a Star Baby (Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr.) … all because I saw a star-shaped stump)
- Meditation: Jn 14:13-14
- Plant of the Day: Bluebead Lily
- Best Thing: Climbing like a champ
- Worst Thing: See earworm.
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Be careful. The AT is messing with your head.
“Last climb of the day was up Big Butt. Not Big Butte. Big Butt. But it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I expected a bald, but it was pretty hairy. Coming down the backside, I realized I was wiped. I probably looked a little flushed. Ok, that’s the end of that. Sorry to dump all those puns on you.”
Great way to finish!
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