Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Day 51: Trail struggles

April 27: It was yet again another cold morning, but I was on the trail and hiking by 7:30. I said goodbye to Heavyweight and Superman not sure when I'd see them again. Heavyweight was meeting friends at a predetermined location which required them to do low-mile days. I'd keep going at my usual pace and would be outpacing them, but I hoped they'd catch up again when I took a zero or two to get some work done in Daleville.

The sunrise wasn't as spectacular as the sunset, but the views were still wonderful!

The day didn't start off well in other ways either. I managed to sprain my left ankle not once, but twice! It wasn't serious, but it would leave my ankle a bit tender for a few days and I babied it the best I could.

The first part of the morning had a lot of wonderful views, but once the trail dived into the trees and headed downhill, it was as if all trail maintenance had stopped for the last five years. Large trees regularly blocked the trail making it difficult to pass. Sometimes I could squeeze under them. Other times I scrambled over them. And, not surprisingly, other times I went around them. Whatever best suited the tree.

And much of the trail was covered with mud and water. Drainage issues became the day's biggest pet peeve for me. Not much I could do about that but whine to myself and hope it ended soon.

Late in the day, I met a cheerful southbounder appropriately named Smile. She was flip-flopping the trail: starting in Harpers Ferry and hiking south to Springer Mountain, then she'd flip up to Katahdin and continue hiking south until reaching Harpers Ferry where she started. She stuck out in my mind because when I met her, she was struggling to get over a large tree that had fallen across the trail and she warned me that there would be more to come. "This isn't the last one for you, either!" I warned her.

I could think of worse places to camp!

Despite the difficulty of the trail, however, she seemed genuinely happy to be there. I'm not sure how old she was, but she was an older woman. Probably retired, and hiking by herself, and exuded happiness. She stopped to chat for about five minutes telling me her story and wanting to hear mine which surprised me as well since we were traveling in opposite directions and would likely never see each other again. Maybe we'd cross paths again after she flipped up to Katahdin and started hiking southbound from there, but that too would be a brief two ships passing in the night. It seemed unlikely she'd remember every person she had crossed paths with, but she seemed absolutely confident that it would happen again.

Our exchange only lasted about five minutes or so, but I was sad to see her go. I admired her willingness to go it alone, despite her age or sex. I admired her bubbling optimism. I was a little disappointed she wouldn't be hiking northbound where I could chat and hike with her some more.

But we continued on our separate ways and I eventually wound up at the Baily Gap Shelter for the night where a fellow named Blue Collar had already set up camp. He seemed pretty excited to meet me--he had been following my trail registers from Springer Mountain and told me that I was a "celebrity" on the trail. At least among those behind me on the trail.

Lots of great views in the morning!

Blue Collar, in a lot of ways, reminded me of Smile. He was older, and although not retired, probably could be. He seemed happy to be out by himself, and he was burning up the miles since he started. I didn't write down his start date and have now forgotten it, but it seemed like he had started a couple of weeks after I did, and I was passing people like crazy. Very few people were passing me, but this guy did it. There are so many older people on the trail who talk like being old is a handicap or an excuse to go slow, but I find men like this one inspiring. I want to be him. =) He could have named himself Smile 2. It seemed a little odd to meet two people in the same day who reminded me so of each other, and I really liked them both.

But given his big mile days, I didn't expect to see him much longer. At least he was hiking in my direction so I might see him occasionally, but at his pace, I was sure it wouldn't be long before he had such a long lead on me that I'd never see him again.

And that was it for the night. The shelter had a stuffed mouse hanging in the shelter--presumably to serve as a warning for the real mice in the shelter. It was morbid and funny, but neither of us had any idea who put it up. The shelter also had an electrical outlet, but according to a note next to it, it didn't work. (No surprise there, really. Not like the shelter was anywhere near any power sources!)

It was a rough day on the trail for me, and I was already missing the Four Horsemen, but I was really liking the new people I was meeting on the trail as well. Carpe diem!

It's amazing to me that these giant powerline supports are on such a tiny base. It seems like they ought to just fall right over! (There are wires helping to hold them in place, but it still seems like the setup should be incredible unstable!)

Disciple passes me on the trail like I'm standing still! (Which, technically, I was when I took this photo.)

So much water on the trail....

Let's play a game: Is this a creek or a trail? Trick question! It's both! =)

A morbid (albeit funny) warning to the real mice in the Baily Gap Shelter.

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