Days 56 through 60 on the Appalachian Trail
I was out of the shelter and hiking at 8 am, wanting to get in as many miles as possible before a rainy afternoon. 10 miles into my day I stopped at a shelter to eat lunch and put on rain gear. Just as I was leaving the shelter, it started to drizzle. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to end my day and decided to just play it by ear. As the rain started to come down, I decided to hike to a shelter 0.6 off the trail in order to have a roof over my head for the night. I started to shiver as the rain came down harder and harder, stinging my arms and cheeks. I ran the last section in order to keep warm.
When I arrived at the shelter after a hard 16 miles, I saw a fire going. I was impressed with whoever was keeping a fire lit in the rain. It turned out to be 7 section hikers who were excited to ask me all about my thru hike. I was grateful to have great company for the evening and be able to dry out my clothes overnight. I was happy with my decision to not push past the shelter. I could only imagine how miserable setting up my tent in the rain would have been.
The wind was howling when I woke up and I had trouble getting myself to leave the warmth of my sleeping bag. I felt bad for the section hiker who had a 40° sleeping bag (mine is 0°). I put on all my layers and set off through the intense wind. It was pushing me over as I went over a beautiful bald. I had trouble enjoying the views because I was very focused on getting back below treeline. Once I was on the other side of the mountain, the sun came out so my puffy came off. I hiked the rest of the morning with Bill, a section hiker I had met the night before. He told me great stories of his time being a pilot in the navy as well as a pilot for FedEx. He stopped to eat lunch by a creek and I continued on to a shelter.
When I arrived at the junction to the shelter, Cheese Water came up behind me and told me that he saw a bear. It was the first time I had heard of a bear sighting near me, and it made me excited and nervous for my first bear encounter. I sat at the shelter basking in the sun and enjoying the alone time for two hours. I finally got myself hiking again and talked to a friend from home on the phone while I hiked. I ended my day after 17 miles at the Priest shelter. It is a shelter where hikers write their confession in the logbook and it was hilarious reading them over dinner. Some of my favorite confessions included people admitting to skipping switchbacks and surface pooping.
At 4 am I heard the other hikers packing up and leaving the shelter. I was so grateful to be able to keep sleeping. When I finally got moving around 7:45 am, the sun was out and the day was warming up fast. It was a long downhill all morning which made my knees hurt. I was glad when it was over but then realized I had a steep uphill for the afternoon. I passed Bill at the beginning of the uphill and told him I’d see him at the top. The uphill lasted forever! Every time I thought I was near the top, another switchback would appear in front of me. Finally, I saw the sign marking the top and collapsed on the grass.
Ten minutes later Bill arrived, also annoyed at this long and intense mountain. We sat and talked at the top and then continued on. 13 miles into the day, we arrived at a shelter. Bill decided to stay there but I still had some energy left in me. I cooked dinner and said bye to him, determined to get in a couple more miles before dark. I hiked three and a half more miles where I arrived at a campsite with two other thru hikers. I decided to join them for the evening, happy to be in my tent for the night.
Town was on my mind as soon as I woke up. My body felt fatigued and my mind needed a break. I got an early start to my day but by 9 am I was already exhausted. I contemplated taking a nap but decided to eat some food and chug crystal light instead. It was just what my body needed to continue. I called my mom on the phone and we talked about college forms as I hiked. Being distracted helped me get up the last mountain of the day. I stopped quickly at a shelter to eat again and then busted out the last couple miles to town. 17 miles into my day, I finally arrived at the road into town. I called the shuttle and got picked up and driven to a hostel. I felt extremely tired and hungry when I arrived but was glad to see the friendly faces of thru hikers. The all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet was my first stop in town. Three full servings later I felt satisfied with my meal. I walked back to the hostel, showered, and fell asleep.
As soon as I woke up, I knew I needed a zero day. I didn’t feel well-rested and the idea of hiking didn’t sound appealing. I drank coffee and sat and talked to some other hikers. The local diner was a great spot to get breakfast. My hiked hunger was real, and instead of choosing what I wanted for breakfast, I just ordered it all. Even after eating all the food, I wasn’t full. I finally felt full after Dream gave me some of his eggs.
We walked to the post office where I mailed home my hiking pants and knee brace and then went back to the hostel. Walmart was the best resupply option nearby, where I spent way too much money. I started to feel restless, worried that I wasn’t getting any miles in. I tried to push the feeling away. Firebow arrived at the hostel after her day of slackpacking so we went to McDonald’s for dinner. It was fun hanging out with her and hearing about her hike. I was grateful for my third zero of the trip but still felt unsure about the idea of hiking the next day.
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