Date- March 8, 2020
Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 1,089 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 20.6 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 254 miles
Weather/Temp- Clear, 50s, 60s
Pain level- Zero
Wildlife encounters- Dogs
Days without shower- 3
Days without laundry- 6
Another wonderful day in the books! Last night was the start of daylight savings. So in the past week, I’ve gone from darkness at 6 pm, to darkness at 8 pm. I feel like I’ve found a couple extra hiking hours in my day! Still, that didn’t stop me from starting at 9:20 am this morning – even though it’s the same daylight equivalent of the time I was starting a week ago in Alabama. So, no extra hours utilized. Oh well.
On the Road Again
Today was beautiful and went so smoothly. The hiking and the trail were relatively easy. This was mainly due to the fact that most of the day was spent on forest service roads. I’m not complaining! They’re easier on the feet than asphalt, they’re graded, usually quiet, and still immerse you in the “nature experience.”
Doe a Deer
Aside from a few minor highlights, it was a calm and fairly uneventful day. In the late morning, while taking a short break atop a forested ridge-line, a doe wandered upon us. I was leaning against a tree, while Katana dawdled around – rooting in the leaves. I happened to notice the doe step onto the trail about 75 feet ahead of where I was sitting. There was a cross wind, so she couldn’t smell us, but she could see. She was absolutely fixated on Katana, but Catfox was oblivious to her presence. I don’t think the doe was even aware of me sitting against the tree, quiet and motionless. I continued to sit and watch… I’ll be damned if the doe didn’t start to very cautiously move towards Katana. Whether out of curiosity or bad intentions, I have no idea. I know deer have been known to trample dogs to death with their hooves – a small payback for all the suffering the canines have inflicted upon the ungulates. Whatever her intention, I had to call Katana because she was getting too close to a small rocky ledge. The doe promptly fled.
Twice we trekked shortly through farm country; twice we met up with multiple loose dogs. The first pair were an Aussie Shepherd and a coonhound. They were all bark and no bite. The second pair were a little more brazen. No clue about their mix. They leapt across a drainage ditch to cross a road to get to us. Luckily, they were deterred when a big pickup came speeding by, forcing them to flee back across the road. I thought they might get hit for a moment, but they knew what they were doing! Still, even after the truck passed by, they made a run for their house where they stood on the porch barking incessantly until we were out of sight.
In the mid-afternoon, we also came across a party of three horseback riders who were doing some trail maintenance and cleanup. We spoke for close to 15 minutes before I thanked them for their service to the trail and moved on. I wish I would have taken a picture of them, but that’s always the last thing I’m thinking of when having an interesting interaction.
The highlight of the day was hiking through an active controlled burn zone. The trailhead was cordoned off and closed. But, seeing as how nobody was there to physically turn us away… my powers of deductive reasoning told me it was probably mostly safe.
Within a few hundred yards of the trailhead we hit the burn zone which had already burned itself out. Now it was just smoldering – hence not serious enough to warrant further professional observation or turning hikers away. We easily walked through the beautifully maintained trail with black ash on either side of us. Katana was able to rack up another mile and a half to round out her day between four and five miles again. Our system is working pretty good now. Katana alternates between walking and riding in small sections throughout the day, based on trail conditions.
The burn zone lasted around 2.5 miles before we forded a wide creek and left it behind. We pushed on for almost another mile before making camp on the side of a gravel service road (blocked off to vehicles a short distance back).
End in Sight
As of right now, we finally have less than 100 trail miles left (right at 95). The end is closing in fast, and it’s looking like it might be a rainy finish. The forecast is calling for one more day of good weather, and then rain for the next week. We only have about 31 miles left to finish this section. So, I’m gonna try and push us as hard and far as I can tomorrow. I don’t want to go all the way into town – but I do want to have the shortest distance possible for walking into Dalton in the rain, the next day.