Date- March 7, 2020
Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 1,302 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 20 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 233.4 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 40s, 50s
Injuries- Cuts, punctures
Pain level- Zero
Wildlife encounters- Dogs
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 5
We got a slightly later start today, but relative to the sunrise and sunset, it was the same start we’ve been getting since before crossing into Georgia.
The first 10 miles were a continuation of railroad bed. As such, it was flat. But… nothing ever comes for free in this world. So, there were perimeters of mud, water fields, and plenty of loose dogs to contend with.
In those first 10 miles, Katana managed to rack up over a mile. Even though it was flat, many times it was too muddy, with too much broken rock (often found on rail beds), and too many sneaky damn dogs approaching us. In fact, I had about reached my limit with the loose dogs today.
The railroad bed crossed directly behind quite a few different properties and farmlands throughout those ten miles. One particularly hairy section passed behind a string of trailers that almost looked too decayed to have anyone living in them. Some kind of boxer mix came running up to the edge of the trail while I had Katana off leash. It began barking like mad, but retreated when I rushed forward to grab Katana. That was a startling scare, but worked out alright.
More Dawgs Than I can Shake my Stick At!
A short distance later, we came to another trailer in the woods which seemed to have a dog tied to every tree. A huge German shepherd was pulling and jumping against its rope-tether while snarling and barking incessantly (along with the other tied up dogs). My main focus was on the big shepherd…cuz I REALLY – REALLY didn’t want it to get loose.
Suddenly, with all the commotion, a different shepherd came around the building along with a long haired dachshund. They both charged onto the trail at us, while barking wildly. I stopped to stand my ground while Katana sat across my shoulders. As I turned, I noticed a man sitting on the side porch of one of the trailers, in the middle of all these dogs. He was just watching the proceedings.
The German shepherd stayed at the edge of the trail where it initially charged. However, the deranged dachshund was making repeated charges and lunges for my ankles, as I used my staff to keep it at bay. I thought about yelling out to the guy for some help, but he was obviously aware of the situation and eager to do nothing. I half-thought that any sort of complement to get him to act would result in some kind of sarcastic or heated exchange that might escalate into who-knows-what. That was just my instinct. I also didn’t trust myself not to be the one coming across as confrontational… considering how annoyed I already felt defending myself from the crazed ankle-biter.
Enough is Enough!
Yeah, I didn’t want to get bit regardless… But make no mistake, any attack from this little unhinged dog was going to turn out much worse for the dog- in front of its owner, no less. He was barely twice as long as my shoe, and my shoe would have been more than sufficient to dispatch it – especially with my 235 pounds behind or above it. Luckily (for him), he gave up and went home — but not after thoroughly aggravating me toward all loose dogs on the planet.
You Gotta be Kidding!
A few miles later we were charged by two great pyrenees and a baby pit-bull coming out of someone’s front yard. Thankfully they kept a short distance – as long as I faced them; they continued barking non-stop. After that lovely encounter, three large mutts (of unknown mixes) charged onto the trail snarling and barking aggressively – from a long gated driveway. Of course, the gate was open. They followed us on the trail for a minute, before turning back.
My loose-dog PTSD was on maximum overdrive today! Multiple dogs coming at you are the most distressing of all. With every single property we passed, I was anticipating the worst. I felt on edge the entire morning. As a result, I didn’t enjoy the flat walking for even a second. I couldn’t wait to get out of this populated rural/farmland valley and back into the mountainous woods.
We finished up the ten miles a little before noon and took a 45 minute lunch break at the High Point Trailhead. Everything from there on was a bit of a roller coaster ridge-walk in the trees. I greatly enjoyed this second half of the day, and Katana killed it! She racked up another 3 miles on the trail as we pushed along.
At one point we got into a funny rhythm whenever she started to sniff around a little TOO MUCH. When I started to make my way back to wherever she was being distracted – she immediately reacted with a new evasion tactic. As I got closer to her, she would freeze with her nose to the ground – listening for my approach. Then at the last second, just as I was about to reach for her… she would jump back towards the trail, do a little dip, and swerve quickly around me to keep going down the path. Once she was moving, she knew I wouldn’t pick her up. We repeated this little deflection game close to half a dozen times. She was bound and determined to hike and not ride, but would do so on her own terms. Shifty little CatFox!
I messed up on our water carry as we left High Point Trailhead, accidentally leaving us without water for 9 miles of the ridge-walk. There had been so much water everywhere for the past week, I just hadn’t been thinking about it. We didn’t suffer throughout those 9 miles, but it’s a mental thing. Once you know you don’t have it and can’t get it… you want it and it’s all you can think about.
Initially I thought we were going to have to hike 13 miles to the next reliable water source. However, we came across some beautifully unmarked springs – one of them was gushing out from the base of a tree.
We went another mile after that to round the day off at a perfect 20 miles, with 45 minutes of daylight to spare. It was a good day and we only have 53 miles to reach Dalton. I’m thinking I’m going to try and get us a little over 40 miles in the next two days. Then we’ll walk into Dalton on the next rain day and save ourselves with a room. It’ll feel well deserved, getting there in the rain.
I’ve been looking at the news a lot during my little breaks out here. It seems this Coronavirus madness is gripping the country and many supplies and bulk food items have been bought out. The virus itself does seem to be very serious from what I’ve read (not on the regular news). It feels strange to be so removed from all the panic and preparation that is going on around us in the more populous areas. I really don’t know if I should be eager to remain out here, or eager to return home. I feel that the vagabond hiker lifestyle of going in and out of towns, restaurants, supermarkets, and motels puts me at a much higher risk than living in my van home on the beach (fishing every day and cooking my catch). That is my plan after the hike, and I’m very much looking forward to implementing it.
We’ll see what tomorrow brings…