At the end of the last, you left me loading hastily into a car at the top of Springer Mountain to immediately throw myself into a social situation in which a majority of the participants would not be hikers, something I had not done for seven months.
After the nearly hour-long drive back to Amicalola Falls and the cabin (in which we stopped to buy like 10 bags of boiled peanuts for the party that very few people ended up eating), I said a few quick hellos, took a picture, and headed straight for the shower. People would be arriving within the hour and I needed to be fresh and well-dressed so as not to offend.
After that was a whirlwind of food and posing for photos and entertaining children and trying to interact normally with people I hadn’t seen in at least a year, and for several years in some cases. (And we wouldn’t be the only ones celebrating. The park was full of children and families doing some kind of fall festival event in the park, involving tractor-towed hayrides among other things.) But a picture is worth a thousand words, so fifty pictures will easily make this the longest post on this blog. Here’s what happened at that party, in pictures in no particular order.
Around 4PM, I began my climb out of Dick’s Creek Gap toward the top of Powell Mountain, fully stocked on snacks again (and sporting a brand new pair of Leki pokes), but all alone. After 3.5 miles, I stopped at Deep Gap Shelter to check it out. It was one of those shelters designed like an outdoor theater, with a wide stage on the front. I took off my shoes to let them air out and started on my snacks. I was listening to the new audiobook I had downloaded on Mama’s laptop at the Unicoi Lodge: Cory Doctorow’s For the Win. I wasn’t exactly expecting a YA novel, but I was getting into it a bit, just on the basis of the unusually multicurtural characters. Actually, I can’t remember another time I’ve read any other novel not largely focused on American characters. Oh, I remember one: Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. I’m getting off-track. So, yeah, I sat there on the bench on the front of the shelter for the brighter part of the afternoon before I finally decided to get going.
A nasty bout of weather cut short my one-week-to-Pinkham-Notch plan after a mere 5 days. Six days after being shuttled from Chet’s out to Kinsman Notch, I was back again. And I wasn’t the only one. Icarus was back again, having spent the past few days hiking the Pemi with Damselfly and Splash. He showed me pictures they took cavorting on the edge of Bondcliff and enjoined me to go see it myself, extolling it as the most beautiful spot in the Whites, and judging from the pictures, it seemed likely he wasn’t exaggerating.
An epic battle for Bondcliff (by Rachel “Damselfly” Kirchoefner, with Chris Eli “Icarus” Polett and Josh “Splash” Isbell)
It’s fitting that the Vermont border is at the top of a hill. It was only 2.5 miles from camp to Vermont, but it seemed like more, partly because of the excitement of entering a new, higher state, widely held to be one of the most beautiful on the trail, but also partly because halfway up, I found someone I hadn’t seen in about 3 months…going south. If you knew him, or remember things I wrote half a year ago, you’d realize who I must be speaking of instantly, but since it’s unreasonable to expect that of anyone who wasn’t there, I’ll remind you. Continue reading →
Despite the lateness of the hour, we still had plenty of light left, and once we finally hit the trail, we moved fast. I didn’t expect to go very far, just perhaps to Brassie Brook Shelter. Copper was just a week out from being unable to stand up on his own, after all. When we stopped in at Brassie Brook Shelter, there was plenty of daylight and energy left, so I decided to move on after a snack, especially when one other fast-moving Nobo I hadn’t met (well, obviously, seeing as how I’d fallen behind by a week) stopped in for a moment and decided he’d move on. Even though I left slightly before him and basically moved as quickly as I could to reach the top of Bear Mountain, he passed me moving twice as fast somewhere on the steep rocky slopes. I redoubled my speed and chased him to the top, where we stopped next to an enormous rock pile in the shape of a frustum. Years and years ago, when it was still a complete pyramid, it looked like this: Continue reading →
Derecho’s effects were meant to be felt most strongly in the following afternoon, so I decided I would try to get a taxi to the post office and back to the trailhead the following morning, which meant I needed to get some resupply that night. There was a Save-A-Lot down the street from Gus and Ted’s, but it was quite a trek by the time I delivered the hot wings back to the room and fed Copper. In fact, after I walked the mile back there, it had closed, and so had the adjacent laundromat, so there was no possibility of washing clothes that night with real detergent. I took a different street back to the hotel, and managed to pass a Turkey Hill, a convenience store owned by Kroger and stocked with a small selection of Kroger brand foods. So I added some dinners and snacks and grabbed a gallon of green tea to eat with my hot wings and went home to wash my clothes with Softsoap in the bathtub. I never felt like eating dinner; the hot wings went untouched.
The next morning, I walked to the breakfast nook in a brooding cloud, and by the time I got my waffle and bagel and cereal made, it had started thundering. I took the food back to the room to give Copper some comfort from the thunder, but he seemed fine. After breakfast, I called the post office. They said they hadn’t gotten my package from Steph yet. I cursed a bit and went down to the lobby to drop another 80 bucks. The storm stopped within an hour and no more of Derecho’s cells came through that day, so the US Postal Service was entirely responsible for my taking a zero.
This is probably going to be a long post. It covers a week and a half, but all that went by very fast because I hardly stopped for anything, so I doubt my part will be particularly long, but when added to my mom’s account it will surely add up.
So, of course I slept late the day after I was picked up in Rockfish Gap. I barely caught the tail end of the included breakfast buffet at the Residence Inn. I had thought to walk 15 miles this day from Wildcat Ridge trailhead, but it was so late by then time we got into the park, I shortened it to 10 miles. I think I was dropped off at Sawmill Run Overlook at around 1pm to slack the 10 miles back to Rockfish Gap by 6pm. Very little happened aside from the walking, which, as the south end of the park is so narrow, mostly ran adjacent to (and frequently crossed) the Skyline Drive. The Skyline Drive is actually the same road as the Blue Ridge Parkway, having been built as part of the same project in the same fashion, but for some reason it gets a different name while it is inside the park.
I stopped in to Calf Mountain Shelter to eat the leftover pizza I’d packed in, and found the fire going, which I knew meant that Cody Coyote would be there cooking lunch. I managed to catch up to him because someone had gifted him a large quantity of alcohol and so he had holed up in the abandoned motel at Rockfish Gap until such time as the alcohol had all been drunk, which meant about four consecutive zeros for him. This is why he goes no faster than me despite doing nothing but twenties when hiking.
On my way out, I bumped into Lauren, who you may recall I spent the night with in Iron Mountain Shelter. I asked her how she felt, because I’d read her account of her and Sweet Tea’s bout with the stomach bug in the Wolfe shelter log. They’d had to zero there because of it, and she zeroed again in Waynesboro to recover. She still looked a bit worse for the wear, and I didn’t want to touch her since some strains leave one contagious for up to two weeks, but I have to admit I was somewhat glad to actually be catching up to people I thought had long since left me behind.
The only other events that marked that day were passing a huge patch of Pink Lady’s Slippers on the back side of Bear Den Mountain (a hill with a cluster of cell towers on top) and passing Broken Pack just before making it back to Rockfish Gap. I hopped back in the car just before it started raining. I only took one photo the whole day:
When I last posted, Copper had just completed his first supravigintal day, and I was tented on a cant on a tangle of shrubs just out of the wind. I woke up late the next morning, of course, having been up until 2am, and by the time I packed up the next morning, all of the folks I’d left 8 mi. back at Niday Shelter had passed me. It would seem that my extra walking in the night hadn’t bought me anything, but the truth is, I can’t imagine getting up early enough to walk 18 miles by 4:30pm, but I only had ten miles to go on fresh legs.
Halfway down the hill I was stopped by a random guy who was interviewing everyone that came down that hill, collecting trail names, hometowns, start points, etc. for some video blog thing. I was still too sleepy to remember to give the address of this blog, but if anyone finds out where he posted that video, leave a comment here and I’ll see if I can get a link back here on it.
From there, it was down to the creek where Copper got his first good drink in half a day (because there was no water up on the ridge) then a climb back up over Cove Mountain en route to Dragon’s Tooth.