Days 46 Through 50 on the Appalachian Trail
Woods Hole hostel is an iconic spot on the AT and it was so hard to leave. I woke up unsure of what the day would bring but excited for breakfast. They served eggs, french toast, and fresh fruit. I helped clean up the kitchen after breakfast by drying dishes and putting them away. It was a sunny day and I spent the next three hours sitting on a swing with a dog and staring out into the garden. It was so perfect.
Everyone else I was with decided to zero but I wanted to get a couple of miles in. I finally left at 2 pm and hiked an easy three miles to the shelter. Rain started coming down as soon as I arrived at the shelter which I took as a sign to stay. A woman named Miles arrived and I was so glad the rain made me stay. We had some great conversations and made plans to hike to the same shelter again the next day.
My face was tucked into my sleeping bag when I woke up and when I poked my nose out a draft of cold air hit my face. I packed up quickly and got started to stay warm. It was flat and downhill so I was able to go faster than normal. I hiked with a section hiker named Joel who knew the names of all the flowers. It was so cool learning about all the blooming flora. After 14 miles I arrived at a trail closure. I called a shuttle to get around the 15 miles that are closed due to power lines being down. I’m really sad to have skipped this section but I didn’t have any other option. I hiked three more miles to a shelter where Miles arrived a couple of hours later.
I woke up at 7:30 am which is sleeping in for me now. I slowly packed up my stuff and chugged a water bottle of caffeine-filled crystal light. Miles and I hiked the first four miles of the day together. It was great having a new hiking partner and I enjoyed hearing about her dreams of one day thru hiking the AT. She is doing a 100-mile section hike so I’m sad we won’t get more time together.
I continued on my own after a lookout where the terrain flattened out. It was so nice being able to get my pace up to a slow jog. I arrived at a shelter for lunch and ate lots of cheese and tuna. The service was good at the shelter so I spent lots of time catching up on social media and relaxing in the warm sun. It was there that I decided that I wanted to hike to a shelter 22 miles away from where I had started my morning. It was already 2 pm, so I knew I was setting myself up for some possible night hiking.
There was a large mountain standing in my way so I continued on, excited to hike more. I stopped to take some pictures at the biggest oak tree on the southern AT where I realized I was out of water. Luckily, at the next parking lot, a man offered me crackers and water. I felt so lucky to not have to hike the last three miles of my day without water. I reached the top of the last mountain as the sun was setting and ran down a 0.4-mile side trail to a shelter just as I had to pull out my headlamp for the evening. It was my favorite day so far on trail.
The climb up from the shelter back to the trail was steep and got me sweating quickly. I tried to go fast in the morning because I knew that if I could go three miles an hour I would be able to make it 24 miles to a hostel before dark. I started getting really hungry right before lunch as I went up another climb but I was determined to get to the top before stopping to eat. A bench at the top was my savior as I lay across it eating my cheese. I felt so much better after lunch because I now had fuel for the rest of my long day.
Dragon’s Tooth was my final challenge of the day. The hike up was steep and rocky but manageable. At 7 pm I got to the top, sure that I could get down before dark. I started the descent over insane rocky cliffs but soon arrived at a spot that completely stumped me. I was terrified. My legs started shaking and my hands started sweating as I stared over the cliff, terrified of the height. I called Bug in a panic, unsure whether to keep climbing down or climb back up and camp. As I cried to her into my phone, two day hikers came up behind me. I hung up on her and explained to them that I didn’t know how to get down the rock.
In an instant, they offered to carry my backpack and help me down. Through my tears, I thankfully agreed to their plan and handed over my heavy pack. Without my backpack on and with a trekking pole in hand, the climb down was easy. They looked behind them every few feet, making sure that I was doing ok. I couldn’t have done it without them.
We arrived at a junction 0.8 miles later. I looked down at my phone. It was already 8 pm. I quickly thanked them again for their trail magic and started running. It was 1.5 miles to the road and I knew I could make it. I turned the flashlight on my phone for the last little section and safely made it to the road at 8:25 pm. The road walk to the hostel was another half mile and when I arrived I was so exhausted. I was too tired to eat dinner, so I showered and fell asleep.
I woke up early to do my laundry so it had time to dry in the sun before I left. I did a quick resupply at a nearby gas station and got on trail at 11 am. My brain felt foggy as I started so I took a break one mile in to collect myself. I took the rest of the day slowly since I was only going 8 miles. The plan was to camp two miles below Mcafee knob in order to be on top for sunrise the next morning. I think I felt so gross because of a few factors: I had hiked two big days in a row, and the night before I skipped dinner and slept badly.
There were lots of day hikers throughout the day that I passed and got to talk to. It was fun explaining that I had hiked 700 miles to get there. I arrived at the shelter after going almost one mile an hour all day. I set up my tent next to another hiker and we talked as I ate dinner. She was triple crowning (she already hiked the PCT and CDT) and it was so inspiring listening to all of her stories. The ground I set my tent up on was super slanted but I was so grateful to get into my sleeping bag for the night.
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