Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 6,266 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 28.4 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1312.8 miles
Weather/Temp- clear 80s 70s
Pain level- low
Days without shower- 2
It was actually quite hot this morning, as I woke up a little late in a light sweat. The only thing on my mind was knocking out the 5,000 foot climb and getting as far as possible across the ridge after that.
I dug into the incline with everything I had, stopping at every creek and spring to guzzle fresh, cool water, but also to soak my shirt and drape it across my shoulders. I poured sweat for the entire ascent, and was surprised to find the steepness of the incline comparable to the AT in some spots, but only for a very short while. No animals or eclectic people.
I crested the top of the climb shortly before 1 pm, hiked another mile to the next water source and plopped down for a long lunch break.
The longer I sat during my lunch break, the more exhausted I felt. I couldn’t bring myself to get up and start hiking again, and as a result, laid there for over an hour.
I only had 15 miles at 2pm, and I’d had visions of going 36 miles today and passing the halfway point, one day later than I wanted to. That climb totally wiped me out. Despite my efforts to build up a fast and relentless pace, all I wanted to do was sleep. I felt tired in my bones.
As I slogged on, a feeling of loneliness came over me. I’ve basically hiked alone for nearly 600 miles, besides those 4 days with Schweppes and Katana. It’s nice not having to consult with anyone about breaks, miles, camp spots, towns, etc. I simply do whatever I want to do, when I want to do it. I’d say 95% of the people out here are hiking in groups of 2 to 7 people; almost nobody hikes alone. The dynamics between solo and group hiking are extremely different. I greatly enjoy the solo experience and the freedom it affords me, but when I choose a spot to stop for the day, I never know if I’m going to be completely alone, or if there will be a familiar face or friendly stranger already there. When you hike in a group, you always have the comfort of knowing that you’ll have someone with you/waiting for you at the end of the day, when darkness falls across the wilderness. I’m very comfortable camping alone every night, but when the random footsteps begin sounding around your campsite in the dark, and your left to wonder what or who they belong to, it’s always nicer to have another human being to “wonder” along with.
I had a bit of a startle in the early evening while sitting on a rock near the side of the trail. As I sat, I suddenly heard a quick thudthudthudthudthud to my left. I quickly spun towards to the sound to see two deer charging full speed along the trail in my direction. For a split second I thought they were coming at me, but no sooner did I have that thought, they had already gone by. My second thought was that something was chasing them, and I immediately looked back down the trail fully expecting a cougar or bear to come charging over the embankment. Nothing else appeared, so I looked back at the deer who were still running up the barren ridge. After a few seconds I realized they were simply chasing each other, playing.
The slog continued, and nothing else exciting happened. I’ve taken to playing a new game. Many areas of the trail are extremely dusty, and preserve perfect imprints of people’s shoes. As I walk, I take note of the different tread patterns. I can only track maybe 3 to 5 different patterns at a time, because those are the 3 to 5 closest people to me that have already trampled away the footprints of the people in front of them. So I take note of the treads and sizes and try to guess the shoe model, or if it’s a man or woman that’s wearing them. I can see where they’ve taken breaks, gone off trail, or whatever. As I pass people on the trail, whether they are hiking, or taking a break, I match the footprint to the face. I do this by looking at their footprint as I pass them hiking, or by seeing which print/prints disappear after I pass someone sitting down or already camped. It’s fun, because once I pass them, new prints appear that haven’t been lost in the trample, and my game gets new players. I’m slowly memorizing the treads of all the different trail runners. Keeping the mind sharp, right?
I hiked a little over 28 miles by around 7:30 and reached the base of a 1,400 ft climb. I just didn’t have it in me to keep going, so I hung the hammock, cooked dinner, and called it a night. The halfway point will have to wait until the morning….