Day 31: Echoing Shrieks and Blackhole Stomachs

Beginner Backpacking Clinic

It was an early morning for me. I got up at 7:00 and knew that I’d be putting in a long day. Everything was covered in frost. My quilt, my tent, and my underwear and socks I left out were all covered. I also woke up with bad chafing. Unfortunately, I need more breathable camp pants. The camp was busy as the beginner backpacking clinic group were up at 7:00. The table was covered in snacks once more. It was hard finding a place to have breakfast though.

I settled in for some cold soaked oatmeal and listened to the attendees talk about an interesting thing they learned and how they slept. Most said that they were freezing. The ones leading the class asked follow up questions and most didn’t wear hats or begin to layer up when their sleeping bags got cold.

The teachers of the class said that all the hikers here had hiked over 200 miles to get here at the campsite and that we had experience. They started asking us for tips that we have learned and what our favorite piece of gear was. I shared ways to stay warm – since it seemed everyone struggled with it – and that I couldn’t go without my handkerchief. I use that thing everyday.

Not as Bad as the Privy

Blaze came up to me and asked, “How’s the oatmeal? No gagging?” I quickly responded with, “You should have seen me at the privy.” The smell of the privy – not me, just to clarify – had me plugging up my nose. I was gagging so hard at the smell of it. It definitely didn’t smell that way yesterday. Thr oatmeal was fine.

After packing up, I headed out. Right off the bat, I began listening to music. It was that kind of day. The tramily I was with had the same plans as me: get as close to Hot Springs without actually going there. We were aiming for Deer Park Mountain Shelter. It was 14.7 miles.

The first half of the day was uphill. It was pretty steady, so it wasn’t much of a struggle. I passed Blaze, Fine Young Buck, and Sweeper and continued on. They ended up passing me further up because eating a snack while going uphill doesn’t mix as well as I want it to. We got to a bluff and everyone whipped out their phones to check for service. I followed their lead.

Blaze and Sweeper in the process of grabbing their phones.

I Wasn’t Expecting That

I did! It wasn’t great, but I noticed that my mother Venmo-ed me some money. I felt very weird at seeing that notification. She has never done that before and I felt extremely conflicted. Why would she do that? I tried calling her when I saw a text message from her asking “How’s it going?” I immediately lost signal. Go figure.

I left the others to their phone scrolling and began a small downhill descent. I passed a shelter that was confirmed as a norovirus hotbed. I did not stick around. The entire downhill, I was hung up on my mother sending me money. It wasn’t a lot, but I didn’t ask for it either. I am grateful she did as I need it, but I was struggling to process what exactly it was I was feeling. I cried. Or as much as I could. Getting tears in your eyes warps your vision, so I needed to get rid of them quickly.

My parents and I are extremely close. We are open in conversation and love each other very much. I think I struggled with the fact that they have done so much for me and they still offer financial support. It’s a sign of love, but I know how money has always been tight for them for most of my life. I am fiercely independent and have relied on myself. My Appalachian Trail journey is a very self reliant one.

The last time I talked with my mother, I asked her that, if she and dad could, save aside some money so I could finish this hike. It’ll probably be about $2,000 and I’d pay them back within the year. I had a strong realization that I’m not okay with not finishing this hike. I was at the beginning because I was convinced that I couldn’t do it. I now know that I can. I have the mind for it. It only took nearly a month for me to realize that.

Bluff Mountain Lunch

By the time I got to the final big climb of the day, the tears were gone. Mostly. I was trying to focus on the fact that I needed water. I didn’t have enough, so I needed to conserve. The climb felt long, but that was because I wanted food and I was only going to get it once I got to the top of Bluff Mountain. I stopped to get more water and the top was nearly there.

At the top, I plopped down on a boulder and began spreading my stuff out. It was bread rolls, sausage sticks, and cheese. I ate my fill. Fine Young Buck showed up before my feast and he dramatically collapsed onto a rock to rest. He was down for a minute before he, too, began grabbing lunch.

As I was eating, he asked, “How’s it going? You seem sad today.” I was taken aback. “I’m surprised you picked up on that,” I state. I continued. “It was going great until I got cell service.” I proceeded to tell him what happened. Of course, the water works started up. Looking back on it, he probably was referring to before the mountain top. Sometimes, I’m just quiet and people think something’s wrong. It was just one of those mornings. I felt touched, though, that he asked.

The tramily at lunch on top of Bluff Mountain. Photograph credit: Fine Young Buck

I lunched for an hour. The longest yet. The others came up and sat down too. Before heading out, I changed into my new shorts – which really showed the chafing – and put on sunscreen. It was all downhill from that point on.

The Speeding Buck

The grade wasn’t bad at all. I actually got some speed going down. It was nothing compared to the bullet that was Fine Young Buck. He zoomed past me jumping and skipping down the stairs. He was ecstatic. I didn’t see him until I arrived at camp seven miles later.

The downhill got tiring quickly, so I was forced to slow my pace. The entire time, I was trying to convince my body that I could make it to the privy at the shelter to poop. I could not. The cat hole came later as the ground was covered in roots and I had no time to spare.

The remaining three miles dragged on. I was ready to rest my aching feet. I listened to several National Park After Dark podcasts to keep me entertained. I knew I arrived at the shelter when I saw Fine Young Buck’s pack leaning against the sign. I sighed in relief.

Deer Park Mountain Shelter

He went to fetch water and I decided to scope out the shelter area. He didn’t know if we wanted campsites or the shelter. The shelter was, according to FarOut, recently occupied by a homeless man. Nobody was there. We stayed at the shelter.

By 5:00, everyone made it. We all groaned as we sat down and made dinner. My stomach was a black hole. I could have kept eating. I announced that I wasn’t going to have oatmeal since town was three miles away. “Oh, come on! I wanted to get it on video this time,” said Blaze, in reference to me gagging at the sight of it two days prior. I stared him down and said, “Fuck off” in a joking manner. Everyone laughed. Blaze came back with, “I respect you a whole lot more now that I’ve been told to fuck off.” It was a good time. They brought up the trash burners again and I rolled my eyes. I was very outwardly portraying my disapproval apparently.

During one of the conversations, I made my weird hiccup and the conversation stopped. It was loud and had echoed into the valley. “You should be called The Shriek.” I love it.

Late Night Fun

Dinner wrapped up and Fine Young Buck had another meeting. It just worked out that he had service. Everyone else did too. I did not. We sat around and talked. And talked. I left to grab some water and widely waddled down the hill to get water. My chafing sucked. Blaze laughed and said, “You should put this on the blog.” “Take a picture and I’ll put it on there.” I retorted back. “I really have nothing to hide on there.” He didn’t. I’m sure everyone can imagine what a chafe walk looks like. Just add in a hikers waddle and you have a chafe waddle. Blaze gave me some cream for the chaffing.

I got up and decided to do some stretching. My shoulders were killing me. Sweeper was up, filtering water. “Where does it hurt?” he asked. I pointed to my should muscle, cringing. “Right here. It’s been acting up ever since I’ve really begun to lose weight. My pack doesn’t sit right, no matter how I adjust it.” He said that’s common and pointed out what muscle it was. Obviously, I don’t remember the name. He then raised his hand and rested it on the affected area. Muttering, he said, “It should really be affecting you right her-” “Ow, ow, yep, yep, yep!” I shout, backing away. “That’s it. Warn a gal before you start poking.” I joke. He’s a physical therapist – he knows what he’s doing.

Sunset over the shelter.

Blaze and I headed off to our respective beds to write about the day. The others stuck around and talked. Once the sun began setting, they, too, went to bed. It was just the five of us at the shelter. It was weird not seeing others, but it was nice. Peaceful. Quiet. That is, until Fine Young Buck started snoring. In the earplugs go.

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Comments 5

  • Patricia Gustafson : Apr 19th

    Try to order quick dry long boxers for women for the chafing

  • Morgan Schmidt : Apr 19th

    I’ve been debating on getting wool long boxers. I already wear boxers, but I think the material is also contributing to the chafing. I’ve been wanting some for months before hiking, but haven’t gotten any. I have no idea what I’m waiting for.

  • Jenny : Apr 21st

    I think your mom is showing you her love by sending you money. I’m enjoying your journey and glad you feel confident about making it the whole way. You have gumption.

    • Morgan Schmidt : Apr 23rd

      She was showing love. Obviously, I know my mother quite well, so I know her love languages and how she shows them. This was different from the way she usually shows it, so it threw me for a loop. And thank you! The journey to get that confidence was hard, but I’ve got it now!

  • Super Scott : Apr 23rd

    Not understanding why ur mom sending u money surprises you, u say u didn’t ask her for any and it’s strange. I. The very next paragraph u say u asked ur mom and dad to help u financially get thru the hike, 2 grand. Not sure where ur confusion is coming from, u asked her to help u with money and she sent u some… Just seems odd that you thought it was out of nowhere!? LOL


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