Location- Near creek on ridge
Elevation- 6,755 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 16.8 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 129.4 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, high 70s 80s
Injuries- cuts, punctures, scrapes
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- zero, tons of tracks
Days without shower- 2
Days without Laundry- 3
Good gravy, what a day! This was easily one of the most strenuous days of hiking I’ve ever endured. It might have even been fun and unique had I not been juggling a dog through all of it, but alas…it was just challenging.
To kick things off we had EIGHT MILES of straight blowdowns through the burn zone. No shade, high heat, and sharp scratchy hurdles every few yards. I’ve never seen anything like it before. The last time I paused to think, “what have I gotten myself into?” Was on my first day on the AT. That thought crossed my mind several times today.
The blowdowns combined with the extreme overgrowth made for a brutal combination. My legs got torn up from branches, bushes, thissels, logs, you name it. Katana was fairly motivated through most of it. She could squeeze under many of the logs or hop up and over them, but more often than not; I’d have to lift her up and set her over them, or walk her around them off the trail. The stop and go, picking up, putting down, leading her around the right paths was grueling. Sometimes she’d make a run through a thick pile of blowdowns and get her harness caught in the branches. Then I’d have to go back and crawl under to get her out. The vegetation was so high, she couldn’t see any of the paths to get around the obstacles. I had to be her eyes to guide her or carry her.
As the miles painfully wore on and the sun grew hotter, all the fresh cuts and scrapes on my legs were stinging with sweat. All the while the horse flys are biting and the house flys are buzzing and landing all over you. It was a torturous stretch of trail, and it was after 3 pm before we got through the last of the burn zoned blowdowns. I can’t remember the last time it took me till 3 pm to get 8 miles done. I was completely drained from the heat, direct sun, and random obstacles to see Katana through.
Originally we wanted to try and do as close to twenty miles per day as possible through this section, but after seeing what could possibly be in store for many more miles…I’m not so sure. I don’t want to push Katana too hard (or myself) while we’re still fresh out here.
We slowly slogged through another 8 miles, but Katana just wasn’t herself. Maybe she was taking cues from my own exhaustion, but she was walking at a painfully slow pace, even in the cooler evening hours. So slow, that I had to take half steps behind her. The half steps took more energy than just going at a normal pace. I’d have to use extra muscles to stop my legs short or swing them wide in order to keep from kicking her heels. This took way more energy than letting them automatically swing to their full extension on a quick or comfortable pace. As a result, my exhaustion was compounded. As it were, I let her go at her pace and I’m chalking it up to a hard day.
We stopped near the top of a pass, near a snow packed mountain stream. The hope is for cooler temperatures and less bugs, but all we got were cooler temps. The bugs out here are unreal!
We only saw 3 other people today, and they were all section hikers; we passed them and didn’t see them again. It turns out that there was an alternate route around those blowdowns, but we obviously missed it. Tough shit for us. Now that it’s over, I’m glad I did it. Retrospective fun.
(Flies on my shoes)
I’ve made a change to my trail diet for this long stretch. All my other thru hikes have been dominated by sugar addiction. Having a background in nutrition, I’m ashamed for letting it happen to me. The simple sugars are cheap$, as well as cheap sources of energy. They keep you going strong as long as you keep a steady flow going into your body. If you stop that flow, things get pretty bad extremely fast. Your energy crashes, your mental state deteriorates, you can’t think, you get angry/hangry and cranky, and your productivity goes to zero. Knowing that I had to carry 9 to 10 days worth of food for this stretch; I knew it was unrealistic to think that I could carry that many days of sugary snacks. If I tired and ran out…I’d find myself in a bad place. So I decided to eliminate the sugar for this stretch and go with all complex carbs, proteins, and fats. I need my body to start burning fat (mainly my fat) and complex carbohydrates as its main source of energy. This way I’ll be able to eat less, and perform on a steady burn throughout the day without the rollercoaster energy crashes and cravings that simple sugars put me through. I know it’s going to be a tough switch at first; but better to deal with it now at the beginning, rather than the middle of this long haul after saturating myself with even more garbage food. I believe I’m feeling a little bit of the crash today, but my body tends to adapt incredibly fast when I’m out here putting it through the natural paces of…nature. We’ll see what tomorrow has got for us.