Date- February 28, 2020
Location- Dugger Mountain Shelter
Elevation- 1,014 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 20.8 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 151.8 miles
Weather/Temp- Partly cloudy 40s, 50s
Pain level- Zero
Spirits/Morale- Cold and tired
Wildlife encounters- Whitetail Deer x 8
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 4
Today felt so long, yet passed in a blur. We were up and hiking before 7:30am and crushing miles. Katana was on much better behavior today. Whatever had gotten into her yesterday, she had slept it off.
The first half of the day was easy as pie. All of the climbs were short and gentle. We spent most of the time trekking through pine grove stands, weaving through hollers, and skipping across creeks. I thought we might be able to knock out an early day. Twas not so.
No sooner did we eclipse the 10 mile mark, the climbs began to get longer and a little steeper. We had about a 1,200 ft climb stretched out over five miles, but in tiers of shorter/steeper climbs. It was still nothing to write home about. However, being the second half of the day, on top of having around 50 pounds on my back, made it a chore.
We never took any breaks over 30 minutes (not even for lunch) – which we had atop an earthen damn around 11:45 am. The sun was coming and going all day. I switched between wearing my fleece and a T-shirt probably 3 or 4 times.
Katana was a much better listener today. Even though she only tallied up maybe 3 miles, they were strong ones (mostly throughout the first half of the day).
Once again, we saw no other thru-hikers or people in general on the trail. It was just us. I feel like the lack of human and animal encounters is making for very boring writing. I guess I could dig and spice it up, but I feel like I would just be waxing philosophical, rather than sharing anything of substance about the trail. The landscape does not vary much. Skeleton forests sometimes punctuated by pine groves, endless climbs, and descents into and out of the countless hollers.
I did see around 8 whitetail deer today on three different occasions. On each occasion, they were gone and charging away the second they spotted me. I’m not sure what the deer season is over here, but they are probably only on the tail-end of whitetail hunting season. The deer are still very skittish. I saw no other wildlife.
It was quite a mundane day. Nothing exceptional happened and Katana kept things tame. I’m glad we were able to finish all of our miles about 15 minutes before dark. The shelter where we’re staying is in a great location, with regards to avoiding the coolest of temperatures. It’s out of the hollers and a little ways up a mountain. Not too exposed, yet not too low. Just right.
I caught an updated forecast earlier today. It looks like the next two days will be nice, then a run of rain again for a few days. I’m just under 40 miles from the next town of Cave Spring. If I could pull off almost 20 miles for the next two days in a row again, I could beat the weather. The only issue is the next 40 miles looks like the worst elevation changes of the entire trail. I’m game to give it my best shot, but we’ll see what happens.
Shortly after finishing this journal, two guys came hiking into the shelter. I chatted with them for a moment and asked if they were thru-hiking. They said, “Yes.” I asked them where they had come from today. In their response, they claimed they had only started at a dirt road a quarter mile back and were hiking a section to another highway. So either they misinterpreted what a “thru-hike” meant, or they were referring to themselves as thru-hikers in the sense that they had thru-hiked another trail previously. Not sure.
Personally, I only refer to myself as a thru-hiker when I’m thru-hiking. At any other time I refer to myself as a long distance hiker, which I feel encompasses the past, present, and future. I am a former thru-hiker of the trails I have successfully thru-hiked, but I am a long distance hiker with multiple thru-hikes under my belt, always and “4 lyfe.”
Anyway, those guys decided to night hike another 6 miles to the next shelter. Maybe I’ll catch them tomorrow and get more info…