Thru-Hikers Confess Their Sins
Bama➡️Baxter Day 91&92
Day 91: 20.7 miles
This morning I woke up around 6:30 a.m. and packed up. I walked to dig a cat hole and nearly died climbing up some boulders to get up off the road nearby our campsite. One shifted and nearly came forward at me. That would have been a rough way to go.
I walked back to the site and finished packing up my things. My shin was definitely still bothering me and I was getting genuinely concerned. If this gets progressively worse over the course of the day I’m going to have a serious problem. Boosted gave me some KT tape so that I could tape the area in hopes of helping a bit. All of us hung out with Tripod a bit before he headed out. I also drank a morning Dr. Pepper which was killer.
I’ve been hanging with Tripod for about seven or eight days at this point and it feels weird that he’s finally heading home. I know we’ll see each other again on trail in the future, but still. It’s been such a blast hanging with him this past week.
Then we said goodbye and headed out. Tripod took a picture of the guys and I before we hiked on. When I got back to walking I was feeling pretty sore but was able to keep the pain away. I just had to be careful about how I stepped and had to walk a bit slower than usual. We did about five miles, which were pretty cruisy. It was relatively flat to start and then slowly began to climb up. I managed the find a comfortable way to walk which was great. The uphill is definitely more comfortable than the downhill for some reason. But the down fortunately isn’t painful.
I caught up to the guys at a shelter and we took a nice long break there. I ate some snacks and did my stretching. It felt good to let my shin rest up. It’s hard to believe that this injury presented itself so randomly yesterday.
After hanging out there for a while we continued along. The trail was pretty easy to start and only had a small gradual uphill. About two miles in, the trail crossed a road and a steeper longer climb was about to start. But there was a family set up in the parking area doing trail magic! So we couldn’t resist taking our packs off and getting comfortable once again. They had soda, burgers, hot dogs, and loads of other goodies. It was a really nice surprise. Plus I was loving any excuse to rest my shin a bit more.
After we left the trail magic I was feeling fueled up and ready to go. There was a pretty decent climb over the next few miles but I felt great. I didn’t have any pain in my shin and was feeling strong. The climb was a bit less steep than I expected as well. Once we got to the top we took a quick breather. Then we continued on for another 3.6 miles until we arrived at a spur trail for a water source. The guys needed water so we stopped off there.
The sun was out and we couldn’t resist laying our tents out to dry. So we took a nice long break there, ate some food, and water for our things to dry out.
I’m starting to think that I may have pinched a nerve or strained something deep in my shin. When the pain began yesterday, I almost immediately got a bruise on the surrounding area where I felt the sensation. But as we’ve walked along today it’s felt progressively better. I can only imagine that if it was something more serious, I would have felt worse as we continued hiking today.
As long as I continue to feel better today and tomorrow, then I think I’m in the clear. Pain such as this can be very nerve wracking on trail. You never really know if something is serious or not until you give it some time. Aches and pains are common and can often be sporadic. And in my experience they generally pass after a few miles or a day of walking at the worst. But you really never know. I’m just glad that I think I’m on the mend.
Around 4:00 p.m. we headed out from the break spot after well over an hour. The sun felt great and we were all laying out in a grassy area for a while. I really didn’t want to move but I knew that we had to keep going. As we laid I couldn’t stop thinking of the lyrics from the Zach Bryan song “Burn Burn Burn.” It goes, “I want to lay in a field on a cozy blanket and feel the fear of never waking, to know the true warmth of the sun.” Laying at this beautiful spot in the middle of nowhere made me feel grateful. I’m just happy to be out here enjoying the incredible simplicity of trail.
As we were packing up and getting ready to head out, another hiker, Dreamcatcher, passed by us. We’ve met her a few times recently and she is a really cool chick. All of us continued along from there. My shin was feeling even better than it had earlier. I didn’t notice any pain or sensation over the next few miles. If anything I actually noticed I didn’t have to baby it anymore or watch how I was walking. I was able to walk completely normal without a tinge of pain. Things are looking up.
We walked for about four miles and then caught up to Boosted, who was grabbing some water. From there it was only about 3.6 miles to the next shelter. We planned to break there and see how everyone was feeling. If we were up to it we might go a bit further. But if the shelter was empty, we could be tempted to stay the night. Those next few miles really flew by. The terrain was very gradual and I was feeling fantastic.
Around 6:30 p.m. we arrived at the spur to the Seeley-Woodworth shelter and decided to head down. And the shelter was indeed empty! We couldn’t resist calling it a night a bit early for once. Our schedule lately has been so out of whack because of trail days. It will be nice to have an early night and get some good sleep. Then we can actually have an early start tomorrow.
A few other hikers arrived at the shelter while we were there. A section hiker Sway joined the three of us and Roxy in the shelter. Dreamcatcher and Oats also arrived but they wound up tenting and hammocking. Everyone hung out at the picnic table though and cooked dinner together. It was fun talking to the other girls for sure. It’s just been me and the boys for pretty much the whole trip. Other than while we were hiking with Spring Break’s girlfriend Tia. But they never caught up to us in Lynchburg, so it’s just been Boosted, Sweet Pea, and I.
I cooked dinner out at the picnic table. Then I stretched, took some ibuprofen, and did my daily exercise routine. And after a while I laid in my sleeping bag and called it a night. It felt fantastic to be falling asleep at a “regular” hour for once. Hiker midnight sure hasn’t been a thing for us recently.
Day 92: 24 miles
This morning we slept in a bit at the shelter. We had wanted to get an early start, but I just kept on going back to bed. Eventually Sweet Pea got up and packed up, which made Boosted and I follow suit. Then we headed out and began our day. My shin was feeling way better today! The pain has gone down almost entirely. Considering that we didn’t slow down our pace at all, it clearly wasn’t anything too serious, thankfully.
We managed to get a nice chunk of mileage down before taking our first break. The trail was pretty gradual and we were making good time. There was a few small climbs but all of them were over fairly quickly. After going for about 6.5 miles we decided to take our first break at the Priest Shelter. I had heard that it had the juiciest trail register around. Everyone confesses their sins in the Priest Shelter log book.
While we sat and ate some snacks, I read through the log. Some of the confessions were pretty standard, such as “stealing” toilet paper from hotels and restaurants, not digging deep enough cat holes, and what not. But some of them were quite juicy. There was a confession from a hiker that we knew of and he was bashing another hiker who we have met before. I thought that was a pretty rude thing to write in a log book for sure. The reading definitely kept me entertained though while we rested.
Leaving the Priest Shelter, we had a four or so mile descent, which was nice. It was steep at some portions but wasn’t too rough on my knees. The time passed quickly going downhill for sure. When we arrived at VA Route 56, we saw that Dreamcatcher was there with a group of her girlfriends! They called us over and offered us snacks and drinks. That was some really cool trail magic for sure. One of the girls gave me a handful of mushrooms to take and eat at my discretion. That may have been the most unique trail magic that I’ve ever received. I’m sure they won’t go to waste.
While we were hanging out with the ladies, a couple called over to us. They came to the trailhead to do some trail magic as well! So we went across the street to there truck and talked with them for a while. They had sodas, other cold drinks, and snacks. Both of them were really nice and they had their adorable baby girl with them. I enjoyed an ice cold coke and an apple, which was lovely.
Then we spent a bit more time with Dreamcatcher and her friends before continuing along. We had a bit of a climb up from the parking lot but it wasn’t too bad. And about two miles in, we reached a junction in the trail. We could either continue along the AT or do a popular alternate trail called the Mau Har Trail. It is supposed to be a lot more scenic and follows along a river with multiple waterfalls. I’m certainly not a purist, so I had no problem taking the more beautiful alternative path. The trail was no walk in the park though. It was absolutely stunning but did have a very steep stretch of uphill in order to connect back to the Appalachian trail. It was well worth it though in my opinion.
When we got back to the AT, we took a quick break at the Maupin Field Shelter. There was a section hiker sleeping inside already by 3:30 p.m. when we arrived. We quietly hung out and I cooked a hot meal. The guy in the shelter kept angrily grumbling and coughing as we talked amongst ourselves outside at the picnic table. But it was very early in the day and we were being as respectful as we could be. The shelters are meant to be a shared space for everyone to enjoy.
After fueling up and enjoying a nice break, we continued along. The trail was super cruisy for the rest of the day with very little elevation gain. Just the occasional brief climb. All of us were flying along and talking with one another. And when we came to a nice scenic overlook, we decided to take a final break. We only had five more miles to go and decided to end the day off on a fun note. All of us ate a few of the mushrooms around 6:15 p.m. It was just enough to microdose but I knew that it would make for a pleasant end to the day.
We continued along and I jammed out to some great music. After a couple miles I started to feel something but it was very subtle. I felt a bit more relaxed and in tune with nature. It became a bit easier to zone into the hiking for sure. But nothing more than that. The final miles flew by and we began looking for campsites. We figured there would be a lot of unmarked sites along the trail, but to our surprise, there weren’t any. So we had to keep going until we found something.
Luckily it didn’t take too long to find a nice area for all of us to pitch our tents. The sites were perfectly flat, which was great. I got set up and then did my stretching in my tent. Mushrooms will often eliminate your appetite, so I wasn’t really in the mood to make dinner. All of us just wound up hanging out and talking to end off the night. We smoked a bit and goofed around. Then all retreated to our tents after a while.
I wound up finally getting a bit hungry later on and ate some snacks around 10:00 p.m. The funny thing was that I could hear the guys doing the exact same thing. We all got a bit snacky pretty late at night and you could hear the crinkling of wrappers as all of us were diving into food bags before bed. After I ate, I felt nice and relaxed and fell asleep quickly.
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