May 27 - Ponies and Trail Magic!
Chilly night. Maybe the last one? Once I'm over Mount Rogers, it ought to be smooth sailing temperature wise. I decided to make a hot breakfast followed by coffee. I've lately only been having a Cliff Bar or cold oatmeal right out of the package with a bit of water. Believe it or not, it actually works - tastes good and it's fast and there's no cleanup.
I taped up the potential problem areas on my feet and then fixed up my two remaining open blisters like the book says, with moleskin with a hole cut in the middle where the blister is, and then filled it in with a free sample of zinc oxide I managed to yogi back on Damascus. And then taped over that. The zinc oxide is supposed to dry the blister up. We'll see. They're both on the heels so I still have slippage issues with the shoes.
Then I was off for my morning constitutional which I seem to need only every second morning (is this more info than needed, lol?). I moved away from my camp and the trail and found a nice log amongst a small stand of red Trilliums to hold onto during the squat and wondered, as I dropped my pants, if the A.T. might actually loop back and was closer than I thought it was. It's a snaky trail.
No sooner had I assumed the position, wearing my bright orange puffy jacket no less, than I heard voices. Boy Scouts. Lots of them. Thankfully I was low enough I could only see their heads 50 meters or so away. They kept me pinned down for a while though. :)
The climb up Mount Rogers and then up into the Grayson Highlands was difficult and took longer than expected because of the terrain. But the ponies more than made up for it! There was a bunch with some babies at the first shelter. One came up to me and licked my calf with a rough tongue, obviously enjoying the salty taste of a sweaty hiker. And they must know about salty hikers, as it happened a second time a few hours later.
I changed my mind about PUDs today. [Editor note: PUDs are "pointless ups and downs."] The trail was still full of Memorial Day day hikers and I realized that this is their trail and not ours. Thru hikers and even section hikers are the intruders. The trail was conceived for those who live near it, to enjoy on weekends like this one and how boring for them if it was only a nature trail meandering through easy terrain. Instead, the designers have made it challenging for them. To long distance hikers it might be tedious to go around in circles and always up and down in the most difficult terrain but that's our lot.
The only down side today was getting close up and personal with several families having personal difficulties. I heard a lot of harsh language directed towards children and saw one slapped in anger. Being a parent is difficult. I was behind one group and heard the father say no matter what he did it wasn't enough, they always wanted more and be was sick and tired of it. I wasn't sure exactly who he was talking to. He had a wife, two kids and two dogs in tow and was unaware I was coming up. But the wife and little boy saw me and they were embarrassed. Families and holiday weekends. They ought to kept separate.
Finally got to a place called The Scales which was the bottom of the last climb of the day. I really wanted to get over this 5000 footer and back down below 4500 feet before my feet gave out and I'd be stuck in the cold again. And there it was on the fence, a sign. "Trail Magic"!
There was a tent, a truck with the tail gate full of bags of stuff and a smoking BBQ! Puddle Jumper and Slayer, 2012 thru-hikers, had driven 3.5 hours to do some Memorial Day trail magic for hikers. There were burgers and hot dogs, cold drinks and Gatorade, chips and Doritos. A real feed. It really was wonderful.
I hiked up and over the last bump in the road and dropped 1000 feet to Old Orchard Shelter at 4080 feet. It's now 7:30 p.m. and still 20C out there.
I really enjoyed the hike today. I enjoyed my wild camp and I'm glad I stopped when I felt like it, when I was ready. Right here, thank you very much.
Today's hike was 13.9 miles and took about 8 hours.