Thru-Hike Reboot: Fine Tuning my Game
Howdy, strangers! The AT is full of wonderful things, but an abundance of 3G cell service isn’t one of those things. So let’s play a little catch up on my Trail progress!
The run into Damascus turned into… well, a run. I had spent 3 days walking while thunderstorms rolled constantly through; leaving me drenched, slightly miserable, and raw footed. However, I had planned to meet my husband in Damascus and go home for a week of R&R, so I was ploughing through the discomfort. The day of our meeting, I realized Damascus was about 4 or 5 miles further than I had planned! At this point, something in my pity party mentality broke. “Well hell, I’ll just have to hike faster” went through my head. So I did; I bumped up from my usual 1.5- 2 mph to about 3.5 mph. I ran into Damascus feeling like a supa-star hiker!
Virginia, the motherland!
Stuck Off Trail
Being home for a week was wonderful. My swollen, sore foot stumps were so happy to get some love. That is I thought they were until I tried to put my boots back on. I say tried because they didn’t fit. No worries, I saw tons of hikers in trail runners and wanted to try them out myself. One trip to REI later I was sporting a new pair of Salomons and a new Z-lite sleeping mat. I was gonna save weight and get it right this time! I cut my pack straps and got rid of everything I could think of; lowering my base weight from 23 lbs. to 18. I was hiking light!
Cue the rain again… According to the forecast, a solid week of the nastiest, coldest rain was in store. After sleeping on it (or rather, tossing and turning all night in a decision fueled crisis) I decided to wait. This turned out to be a good choice, because the weather on the Trail did indeed suck. I felt guilty for not being out walking, but also secretly happy to spend another week with my hubbie, dog, friends, and family 🙂
Oh AT, how I missed thee…
Back on the Trail
Virginia started a whole new chapter in my hike. I put aside my homesickness again and set off down the Trail; lightly passing the outfitters and all Damascus had to offer. I was fresh and well fed; ready to go! My new shorts and kicks felt light and breezy. Virginia was full of meadows and the forest had fully leafed out while I was home. Hiking through Grayson wasn’t as much fun as I had remembered from day hiking trips, mostly because I didn’t expect how rough the terrain would be on my tired legs. The ponies and highland views were giddy though, and I didn’t mind the battering or the break-in blister from my shoes. The Mount Rogers Visitor Center was an oasis. There was a clean bathroom with running water, and I got to nerd out on a real live hellbender in their aquarium! I spent a day in Marion with a fellow hiker, Sister Bear. We did what all good hikers do in town; split a hotel room and ate ourselves sick!
Salamanders are the bestest.
The following day found us getting back to the Trail separately. The next few days were a blur of hiking through the woods. Water had become more scarce than earlier in my hike. I blew past many nice views because of thirst, which seemed like a shame.
Some views are just too nice to pass up!
Things Get Messy
After several dry days, the rain came back for a 12 hour visit. I had stowed all my gear snugly in my tent and lazed around in the morning, letting it blow through. At about 10 am I couldn’t stand being cooped up anymore and the rain had lightened up. I figured I’d break camp, and by the time I set back up for the night it would be clear.
I was hiking a rocky rim of a valley and I was doing a little scrambling, but nothing serious. It was lightly raining in fits and starts. That’s when the sneakers, which had been Godsends in the dry weather, turned every boulder into something like the surface of a bowling alley. I was doing a constant stumbling dance that would have made any town drunk proud; until I did a slip, twist, and fall that ended with my head hitting a car sized boulder. I grabbed where I’d hit the rock to check for blood, and came away with a handful of my own hair…ugh! having no idea how bad it was, I texted John to let him know what had happened. I already felt a big knot on my head and a screeching headache rushing in. The rest of the day was a blur of slow hiking, ending by a creek. I was tired and didn’t want to do anything but sleep. I set up camp and did just that since I had no cell reception to let anyone know of what I suspected were symptoms of a light concussion.
The next day I was able to hike up a mountain and text John and we agreed he’d come get me that evening. The bright side of hitting my head; I had a great night’s sleep!
So I’m back home again, retuning my game. I’ve dropped my pack weight to a base of 12 lbs. and a gross weight of about 24 with 5 days of food and a full water bottle. The boots are making a comeback, with some lightweight socks to give me wiggle room. The Salomons can go back to REI and become someone’s garage sale dream, or death wish, whatevs. At this point, I have to say I’m not particularly enjoying my hike anymore, but I’m stubborn and that’s it’s own story! The plan now is to fastpack during the week and come home on the weekends while I’m south of Harper’s Ferry. After that? I’ll be damned if I know; this AT does what it wants!
The AT playing nice for 2 hot minutes…
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