Oats on the Appalachian High Route: Day 8

The first 2 hours of the day I spent blithely singing anything that came to mind + my top 100 songs of 2021 playlist on Spotify. I sang so well, in fact, a certain yellow jacket was unable to handle the vigor of my voice – and stabbed me in the arm to prove it. I hadn’t been stung by a wasp since I was around 10 years old geocaching with my Aunt Joan through tall weeds on the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This time, I peered down almost in confusion to see the yellow jacket, equally confused, spinning around seeking traction on my sweaty arm, its stinger still embedded in my arm. One carefully positioned flick later and I was bounding down the trail at full speed, nervous that he had a few buddies around to defend his honor. After it was clear I had outrun the danger, it didn’t take long for me to resume my dancing and gallavanting as another absolute banger – “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing” by the Scissor Sisters – filled my ears.

Ending summer in the green tunnel: I’d have it no other way.

Later, I had my first panic attack of the trip. I was spoiled with FarOut Guides from the Colorado and Appalachian Trails in the past, so when my Mountains-To-Sea Trail Guide marked Moonshine Creek Campground as 1.5 miles from the trail I figured there’d be nothing more to it – and I was wrong. As I approached the mile marker that mentioned the campsite (typically the mile marker closest to the access), I realized Google Maps was telling me to backtrack, hug the shoulder of the interstate, and continue down a steep, paved two-lane road for over 2 miles. The poor camp host on the other end of the line didn’t have much else to offer me except to ask her husband to come pick me up.

Road walks have never been my favorite part of long distance hiking, but with easy tread the miles pass quickly.

Already feeling like I had caused a ruckus, I decided to hug the shoulder of the interstate and hike in silence for the next 45 minutes as I descended down the narrow country road. Having just read an article by a Trek Blogger on the Long Trail in which he was struck by a car at a road crossing, I was as cautious as the road allowed me to be as I passed sign after sign for Moonshine Creek Campground… 2 miles… 1.5 miles… and finally the large sign at the entrance welcomed me in.

I swung my pack down with a “thump” and began digging for my itty-bitty-ditty-bag with my Ziplock wallet. The two camp hosts welcomed me in, the woman at the counter being the person I had spoken to on the phone. I apologized for the inconvenience, but she assured me that she was just happy I made it in safe and sound. As I perused the shelves of S’more kits, ice-cold sodas and assorted chocolate candies, she rang me up for a covered campsite next to the river – I had requested the cover specifically to avoid the worst of the rainstorm forecasted for the evening. I hadn’t yet weathered a storm in my Zpack Altaplex, and a back-up plan didn’t seem like a bad idea.

It was then that the owner of the campground walked in and regarded me. “Are you a MST hiker?” I smiled, just grateful to be engaging in conversation with people again. “Yep! Sorry about the smell.”

“Well if you’d like, I start at 8 am here in my truck and will give you a ride back to trail so you don’t have to walk that whole road again. You tell me what time and I’ll make it happen.” My smile grew from ear to ear. “That would be incredible – and 8 am sounds perfect!” I said, keeping in mind my meeting with my Mom and Gram about 10 miles into the day at Waterrock Knob. I thanked the owner, who introduced himself as Jim, as he walked outside and I slowly added a few more snacks to my check-out. I then heard Jim shout something to the camp host that was checking me out – the words “upgrade”, “bed roll”, and “rain tonight” stood out, and I didn’t need much more than that to realize what he had offered. The camp host exclaimed, “He’s upgraded you to a cabin! Said it’s going to rain tonight so there’s no reason for you to have to pitch your tent. Just put your bed roll on top of the bed and have a wonderful stay.”

I was walking on air the rest of the day. I purchased a small bottle of shampoo in the camp store and took the best shower I’d had in months in the heated bathouse. It felt like a sin to put my camp clothes and hiking shoes back on after working so hard to scrub off the trail, but I remembered quickly that I could’ve been going back to sleep in my tent tonight, too. Instead I passed the hours organizing my blog posts, chatting with friends, calling my family, and stretching. Lots and lots of stretching.

Luxury accommodations: check!

The tone of the next section of my hike will be determined by the amount of work I put into working on my left knee and hip flexor. I’ll need to take these rest days seriously and them stay disciplined with my stretching routine on trail, or I may end up with an injury that 600 MG of Ibuprofen can’t handle. I fall asleep gently pulling and massaging my legs in any way that feels good, and sleep like a rock.

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