4aasssI woke up feeling good and smelling dampness in the air. Expecting rain clouds overhead, I looked at the sky from my vestibule and was surprised to see clearing morning skies. Not one to tempt fate, I quickly packed before making the decision to hike.
I mulled about, exploring the surrounding cliffs (and going to the bathroom), before returning to camp. Moon Boots was awake, as were Savage and Push. I looked toward the falls just in time to see Monster dive in for a morning bath. Within a few minutes, the skies parted and the sun started to shine.
I was honestly a little happy to not start off hiking again. I was sore and needed the break – plus, we couldn’t have chosen a better spot to take a half day off.
Moon Boots, Get Weird, Champa and I decided to take breakfast orders and hike a one-mile roadwalk to Trent’s Grocery. In order to get to the road, however, I had to cross the river ahead of the falls. I could either ford the stream (in the process, getting my freshly-taped heel wet) or I could tightrope walk along a large log. I was the last to cross and jumped up onto the log.
I couldn’t do it. It was too wet and I just couldn’t get any traction with my boots. I could see myself slipping, falling right in. I made several attempts – none more than a few feet before jumping back onto shore. I small crowd of my hiking buddies gathered on the other side of the river.
Needing more traction, I took off my shoes and tiptoed across in my wool socks. It was still very difficult. For something seemingly so easy, my heart was racing. I was honestly scared even though falling in would have meant nothing more than having to change clothes. I almost fell in half-way, but regained my balance and eventually made it. Everyone clapped – I had to sit down to catch my breath. Terrifying.
After the quick trip to Trent’s, I again made the log crossing (in wool socks and still just as scary) and finished breaking camp. I supplemented my hot breakfast with some pasta I got from a section hiker at Partnership Shelter last week. With a full belly, I set off for hills surrounding Pearisburg.
I don’t think I could have asked for easier terrain – wide, smooth paths covered with shady Rhododendrons. But something was wrong – I just couldn’t get moving. I felt weak and hot, I was sweating too hard for no reason.
Michael and Push soon passed me followed shortly by Moon Boots and Monster. It took nearly three hours, but I finally made it the six miles to Wapiti Shelter. I found everyone having lunch by a pond. I felt miserable – totally drained is a more accurate way to put it. I ate a hot lunch and moved on.
Heading north from Wapiti, the AT gains elevation at a pretty steep clip. Within 30 minutes or so, Savage caught up to me. She was the last to leave Dismal Falls this morning and had been swimming in the pond when I arrived for lunch.
I told her I just wasn’t feeling that well. She told me she’d rather have an easy day and would rather hike at my crawling pace. I was appreciative – hiking alone can sometimes be demotivating.
I trudged on, covered in sweat and cursing every step. The blister on my heel was killing me. Even though I spent most of the afternoon hiking in silence on sharp rocks, Savage kept politely encouraging me.
Just before 8:00, we made the nine miles to Docs Knob Shelter and decided to have dinner. I was still full from breakfast and lunch – still I cooked my last hot meal and ate. Juan was also having dinner – Oriole and him were staying there the night and planned on reaching Pearisburg tomorrow.
We decided we’d hike as far as we could. I switched on my headlamp and started moving. I felt miserable. About 30 minutes up trail, I asked Savage to hold up. I was getting dizzy. I told her I needed to throw up. She gave me permission, promising not to watch.
All I remember is thoroughly disgracing the AT with the contents of my stomach – most of which was the undigested remnants of breakfast. I cleaned myself up and took a few minutes to get back together.
I instantly felt great. I hiked over to Savage to tell her what came up. She was surprised – not that I had gotten sick, but that I kept that free meal from the section hiker AND chose to eat it. It had been removed from it’s packaging and sealed in a ziplock when I got it. I should have known better. Who knows how old it was or how much moisture had gotten in.
Lesson learned – we hiked on in full headlights. About five miles outside of Pearisburg, we came across a power line clearing that afforded a nighttime view of the surrounding valley. It was truly beautiful.
At about that time Moon Boots texted to let me know he and Canuck had just made it to Pearisburg. They got a room and told us we could sleep there if we made it to town. Monster, Push and Michael decided to camp just before the descent into town – still miles ahead of us. We hiked on with a renewed vigor.
The descent into Pearisburg was steep and rocky. I was finally feeling good and starting to make good time. As we approached the road crossing, Savage told me to hurry. She knew I wanted to make Pearisburg in 9 to 10 days – if I made to the road crossing by midnight, we would have covered the 165 miles from Damascus.
At 11:58pm, I tapped my trekking pole on the white blaze by the road, thus signifying our arrival. We made it! It was a rough day – I only felt good for the last seven miles. But I’m glad I kept going.
Savage and I walked into town and straight to the Holiday Lodge. Not only had Moon Boots and Canuck got us all a room, they also ordered us a pizza. What a great end to what was looking like a truly horrible day.
I’m sitting by the bathroom typing as my hiking buddies sleep. I’m truly thankful to be surrounded by people willing to help me out. I’m generally not one who accepts help readily – I don’t like to be put into a position of weakness. I needed help today and it came from folks I’ve only known for few weeks.
I’m having the time of my life.
Breakfast: the rancid free meal, labeled “Turkey Tetrazini – add two cups”.
Lunch: Alfredo Fettuccini Pasta Side with tuna
Dinner: Alfredo Fettuccini Pasta Side spiked with instant mashed potatoes
Second Dinner: 4 slices of pizza, 3 breadsticks, 2 cans of Sprite from the vending machine outside