Note: I’m finishing this post on Monday from my tent – this has been a brutal couple of days.
I woke at 6:45 – the sun had completely risen. I sat up and looked over at Black Santa – he was still sleeping amongst the rocks. I stood and stretched, trying to find the energy to start hiking. I was tired and very sore. Every step was painful – it really reminded me of that hike into Damascus, right before I got new boots.
By the 7:30, the two of us were packed and ready to go. I tried taking the lead, but had to let Black Santa pass quickly – I could barely move. I stopped at 9:00 to have breakfast – I had only hiked just a mile when McDoubles caught up to me. He was surprised to see me – I knew I was ahead of him, I just didn’t know how far.
The two of us resumed hiking – neither of us was going fast. The terrain was brutal. This section is indeed “challenging” – the trail ascends and descends rapidly, the whole time traveling over rocks and boulders. I even found a rebar ladder at one point to aid in a particularly bad ascent.
The two of us continued hiking in this manner for the next three hours – just when I thought I was starting to pick up momentum, I’d find myself facing another rock scramble or boulder climb. I even ran into a snake just before noon.
It was nearing 12:30 – McDoubles and I were plugging along. We turned a corner in the trail and found Black Santa resting in the shade. I asked if he was going to the creamery to get a snack – Creamery? he said, Sure! The three of us headed just 0.2 miles off trail to the Bellvale Farms Creamery and enjoyed a scoop in the shade.
I was relaxing, trying to find the energy to move forward. By this point, my legs, knees and ankles were aching just as bad as my feet. I really can’t wait to get my trail runners back in Fort Montgomery.
At 1:30pm we were back on trail, looking for a suitable spot to rest – it was getting hot again and I was getting really tired. We found a campsite at 2:00pm and I set up my tent. After cooking a hot lunch, I immeadiately shuffled over and went to sleep.
I awoke four hours later – I was hot, for sure, but felt very refreshed. I looked around – Black Santa and McDoubles were nowhere to be seen. I was initially confused, but then checked my phone. Savage, Champa, and Get Weird were tenting about 15 miles ahead – I assumed the rest of the guys were trying to catch up to them.
At 7:00, Tortilla stopped by camp. We chatted briefly – I told him I was gonna night hike as far as I could go, hoping to catch up with Black Santa and/or the rest of my hiking group. He was headed to the shelter two miles ahead – and was also suffering in the heat.
At 7:30, just as the sun was starting to set, I finished packing up and hit the trail, determined to make miles. I cruised in the waning sunlight, pulling into the Wildcat Shelter at 8:30 – I saw Tortilla’s tent, but no Black Santa. I pressed on.
While I assumed tonight would be perfect for night hiking, I was quickly proven wrong. The forest I was hiking in was dense and sparsely blazed – this combo made hiking in the woods very difficult. While I had plenty of light to see the trail clearly, I never had enough to see ahead. After taking a 200 yard accidental detour, I kept second-guessing myself as I hiked on.
I passed Fitzgerald Falls and made it to the Mombasha High Point, pausing to eat a hot dinner at Allis Trail, just before the summit – here, the AT was extremely rocky and made the boulder crossings along the ridge very difficult. I was moving at a snail’s pace.
I finally made it to Buchanan Mountain at 1:30am. I had been hiking for five hours and had only covered eight miles. I was done. I found a nice spot amongst the boulders and stretched out my sleeping pad, deciding to cowboy camp again.
I tried writing, but fell asleep on my keyboard.
* * *
This section contains some of the hardest trail I’ve ever hiked. These steep microascents and descents are really taking a toll on my feet – I’ve quickly become one of the slowest hikers on the trail.
Fourteen miles – what a sad day.
Tomorrow, I’ll be up early – that’s how it goes when I’m cowboy camping. It’s kind of like sleeping under an overpass – it makes for speedy packing up in the morning.
If the heat gets too bad tomorrow (which it’s forecast to), I’ll likely wind up taking another midday nap to beat the heat. Hopefully, I’ll reach Fort Montgomery tomorrow afternoon, but I’m not counting on it.
Breakfast: two 20 gram protein bars, dried cranberries
Snack: Bellvale Farms: two scoops of strawberry ice cream on a waffle cone.
Lunch: Teriyaki Lo Mein Pasta Side with two tuna packets
Dinner: Creamy Garlic Shells Pasta Side with two tuna packets