Snakes and trail magic (3/9)

3/9 (Day 12): Wine Spring Road campsite -> Wesser Bald shelter (13.4 miles)

I slept in this morning until after 8, which felt great. I woke up when other people started shuffling around. Rooster and Hydrater were actually the other tents I saw when I got in last night, so it was good to see some familiar faces. We chatted as we packed up and Rooster taught me a better way to fold up my tent.

I was planning on doing around 12 miles today but getting such a late start made me nervous to get into camp and not find space at the shelter. Since it was calling for rain tonight, the thought of packing up a wet tent yet again made me cringe. I made it my goal to get into the shelter before 4:00 pm, but there were a few good climbs ahead so I wasn’t sure that was actually achievable.

My left pinky toe still hurt and was a little red, and I decided not to wear my big toe silicone protector and see if any hot spots showed up. I figured that would give the pinky toe a tad bit of room to not get so squished.

Graduating my toes from their silicone protectors

I was off by 9:30, a little after Rooster and Hydrator. I felt really good and full of energy and soon caught up to them. We walked up the road a ways to a gorgeous stone fire tower and a spectacular view. It was hot so I shed some layers and after a few pictures kept trucking along. I wanted to meet my deadline.

Stone tower that was partially destroyed by fire


View from the tower


White blaze on the tower


Relaxing after a hilly climb

I hiked for a while, and then realized I hadn’t seen a white blaze in a bit and the terrain didn’t look like the trail. I pulled out the Guthooks app which uses GPS on your phone, not cell signal, and realized I was 0.1 miles off the actual trail. There was a sharp bend in the trail and I followed a path that’s used to divert water. After mildly panicking I’d end up like that lady who took a wrong turn on the trail and died, I followed Guthooks back to the real trail and kept hiking.

I filled up my water at a little stream coming out of the mountain like a water fountain. I put everything away, took a few steps on the trail, and found a small little garter snake sunning himself right in the middle of the trail. It was really sunny out but still a tad chilly, so I was afraid he wouldn’t be fast enough to move and get smushed by an absent minded hiker. I took a little stick and coaxed him over to another sunny spot off the main foot area of the trail. I heard another hiker behind me and hollered to them to watch out for the little snake.

Coming to the end of a long downhill right before starting the big uphill climb of the day, I saw a sign around a tree branch that said, “Trail Magic Ahead!” I could barely contain my excitement and started shuffling along at double speed, looking like one of those professional speed walkers in the Olympics. Free food for a hungry hiker? I’d even shove a bear out of the way to get to those snacks.


Trail Angel

Trail magic

The snacks were plentiful and tasted amazing. I had a banana, an oatmeal cream pie, several candy bars, and packaged cream cheese crackers. I chatted with Sethook, who happened to be the hiker I hollered about watching out for the snake, and the trail angel for a few minutes before thanking him profusely and heading on up the mountain. I was under strict instructions to remove any subsequent snakes I found on the trail as Sethook hates them.

The mountain was steep and long, but I felt so energized from my trail magic snacks that I powered up it like it was nothing. I made a mental note to eat a lot of snacks before attempting big mountains in the future.


White blaze selfie

At the bottom of the mountain in a clearing, I met Jam and we headed up the short climb together. I had Beyoncé cheering me on in my earbuds and I soon passed Jam and another hiker I met. I still had residual energy from the trail magic and my ever closing deadline of 4:00. I skipped down the trail and slid into home (the shelter) at 3:45. Not bad for such a late start.

Empty shelter!

I expected to have to fight for room in the shelter, but it was empty! I took a coveted spot by the wall. The other 2 hikers I passed, Jam and Grievance, soon joined me in the shelter. I’d never been to a shelter so early so I kicked back and relaxed and made dinner. After seeing T-Rex make Annie’s white cheddar mac and cheese with a pouch of salmon mixed in a few days back, I bought it when I was in town. I figured I’d make half the box one night and have half the box the next. Well, half a box and half a pouch of salmon later I was still hungry, so I made the rest. It was delicious but a lot more time consuming than instant mashed potatoes.

After we cleaned up, Rooster, Hydrator, Beaker, and O-man joined us. We chatted a bit and then everyone turned in. Seems like everyone is planning on staying at the NOC tomorrow, but I’ll be hiking through to Sassafras hopefully to beat the snow.

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