After my fiancé, Kara, and family left, I spent another zero day with the SOBO Bubble in Dalesville. The rain and wind from Hurricane Ian was not inviting. I headed out in less severe rain the following day and camped just below McAfee’s Knob. As you will see, the sunrise the next morning was amazing… but the foot injury that followed was not. I had little choice but to hike to the next town and get a much needed rest day.
Day 99 (0.0 miles)
I got to sleep in again, plus a big breakfast in the morning. We packed up and headed out of our hotel mid-morning. The rain was coming down steadily and the wind was supposedly quite bad on the ridge lines. I was happy to have another day hanging out with some other hikers and staying dry. I spent the day blogging, watching movies, and eating copious amounts of food. For dinner, I went to the Three Little Pigs BBQ joint with MG and Tick Bite. It was just a half mile down the road. Delicious and somewhat nutritious, at least by hikers standards.
Later that night we watched the Clemson football game. I fell asleep for part of it, but woke up for the last quarter and then went to bed for good. The rest of the gang was zeroing the following day as well. I decided to push on. I couldn’t convince myself to zero again when I was feeling good, especially not on day 100! This is a decision that may have bit me in the ass.
Day 100 (15.4 miles)
I remember not sleeping well this night. Possibly it was the nap that I took shortly before bed. I felt that I needed to get back on trail. It would be too easy to get stuck for another day, especially with the forecasted rain. I packed quietly and headed out just as the crew was waking up. Not an early day on trail, but I was happy to be hiking. My pack was distinctly heavy. This may have played a role in the events to come. Either way, it is a fact that zeroes make the first day back on trail very difficult. My legs felt like jello as I climbed out of town. I questioned why I put myself through this.
There were hardly any people on trail. I saw one creepy guy on Tinker Cliffs. He came out of nowhere and was acting a bit odd. I hurried down the trail and never saw him again. Rain was forecasted for the early afternoon. A shelter just below McAfee Knob would be the perfect place to wait it out. I was familiar with the area. My good friend, Evan (the same one in previous posts), and I had hiked this section the prior winter.
Ironically, we had bad weather the weekend that we hiked this section as well. I descended from the cliffs and navigated through the unique rock structures that surrounded me.
The Campbell shelter was just a few miles away. I hurried to it and made it just before the rain began to fall. I was glad to have stayed mostly dry.
I had a lot of time to think as I sat in the shelter for hours. Evan and I did the same thing the last time we were here. Backpacking isn’t always about hiking. Part of it is about knowing when to hike and when to just sit one out. Rain and wind came later that afternoon. The weather was forecasted to be much better the next day. I was excited to hike to the Knob for sunrise!
Campbell Shelter: T1, S3, P1, W1, B2
Total Score: 6
Day 101 (24.7 miles)
I got up at 6 am for the sunrise on McAfee’s Knob. The wind was howling and the shelter was surrounded by fog. I considered not going up, but that would have been foolish. As I ascended the fog was still dense. I was surrounded by mist and mountain laurel for the last few hundred feet of the climb. Then, just as I neared the top, the fog cleared and I could see into the valley. My cold and windy morning was worth it. I sat patiently and made my coffee. There was still a half hour or so until the sun would show it’s face. Only two other people were at the top, a record low number for a McAfee sunrise.
After freezing in the wind, I headed down the other side of the mountain. I passed two more shelters, both of which I remember distinctly from the previous hike I did. At the parking lot, Mark (one of the hikers from the top), had left me some soda and waters. A genuine gesture that I gladly accepted! The next section was gorgeous. It consisted of a long ridge walk, then through some fields, and finally up a scramble to Dragons Tooth.
It was around this time that my right foot developed some pain. It is not abnormal to have pain while hiking. I frequently have pain that will come for an hour or two and then fade away. I figured this was the case. I stopped for lunch at Dragons Tooth and spent an hour there.
When I got back on the trail the pain persisted. By the time I made it to camp, my foot was in agony. It was primarily coming from the top of my foot between my two largest metatarsals, but it spread all the way into my ankle. I took some ibuprofen and massaged the area. I tried to look on the bright side and believed it may get better the next day. At least I made it past mile 1500 this day and had a beautiful campsite by a creek!
Stealth Site: T2, S2, P1, W1, B3
Total Score: 12
Day 102 (20.8 miles)
I slept until 7 am and hoped my foot would feel better. I could tell it was not good as soon as I got up and moving. The first few miles of the day were agonizing. My thoughts went extremely negative. My thru-hike was over. My dream was ruined. Months of hard work would amount to nothing. I needed someone to talk to and I needed advice. Luckily, Kara checked both of those boxes. Unfortunately, I broke down as soon as she picked up the phone. There were no words, just sobbing. Eventually, I collected myself and Kara helped to calm me down. She sent a video on how to tape my foot, which helped a lot. If you are reading this and think that I acted a bit dramatically… you are right. But you are also (likely) not 1500 miles into a hike, to which you have dreamed of for 10 years, and QUIT your job to do. An injury can end a hike quickly, or at a minimum make it miserable. There were some good views, but my mind was elsewhere.
The afternoon was a bit of a blur. The ibuprofen and taping helped the situation. I passed through some pastures and met a few friendly cows.
I ended the day at the War Spur shelter. Hidden along a creek and surrounded by mountain laurel. A trail family known as the Georgia Boys were there. It was good to have some company and they made a nice fire. I soaked my feet in the freezing creek. They went numb quickly and it seemed to help the situation. It was my worst day on trail, but I tried to stay hopeful for the next day!
War Spur Shelter: T1, S2, P2, W1, B2
Total Score: 8
Day 103 (25.2 miles)
I got up as the last of the GA boys were leaving. They were early risers! I like to get up naturally to the sunrise. I spent years getting up to an alarm, I don’t need that on the trail. My foot felt surprisingly better than the day before. As an added bonus to the morning, I sliced my forehead on the sheet metal roof of the shelter.
I made the first climb in minimal pain. The forests were beautiful and the sun rays were welcomed when they poked through the newly colored leaves.
I crossed numerous streams and enjoyed the hiking as much as I could. The foot was still lingering on the back of my mind.
I ate lunch with the GA boys at a shelter with the last good water source for a while. I had to make a tough decision. Do I carry lots of water up the next big climb to shorten my miles… or carry much less water and hiker further to the next shelter. I opted for the latter. I believe my injury is from my heavy pack and wanted to travel as light as possible. This decision would also make the following day into town much shorter. The next climb went smoothly and my foot pain was manageable. There were good views all along the ridge.
I eventually made it to the Rice Field Shelter. It was well worth the extra miles. The sun was just beginning to set and the shelter was perched perfectly on the mountain top.
This night rejuvenated my spirits. I was just happy to be on trail. I was happy to have the experiences thus far, and hopeful to make many more. It cleared my mind and made one thing abundantly clear. I’m not fucking done yet.
Rice Field Shelter: T1, S1, P2, W5, B1
Total Score: 10
Thanks for reading this trail update! I hope it wasn’t too negative. Not every day on trail is sunshine and rainbows. I’m trying my best to recover quickly. Hopefully my next update is far happier. Until my next post, remember to keep wandering in your own direction!
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In case you forgot, you are doing this because it is FUN!
Great photos. Good to listen to you body and slow things down when you need to. How many miles are left?
I have about 600 miles remaining!