So I was right about not being the only one at the shelter. Soon after posting, a group of 6 men arrived. They had started around Swift Run Gap and were working their way south, trying to get to Rockfish Gap by Monday. Then more came. And more. By bedtime we had a completely full camp, with the shelter almost full and all of the tent sites taken! The best part? We had some southbounders camping with us! There were about 5 or 6 of them, including Manparty, Lush, and Easy. Manparty and Lush are a husband/wife team. The husband thru-hiked southbound 9 years ago, but his wife wanted to do it too, so they’re doing it together. I got to pick their brains for a little while about thru-hiking, but didn’t get too much new info. I think that means I’m ready for my own hike!
For the last day I started out south on the AT and got to Riprap Trail pretty quickly. The plan for the whole weekend had been to stay within a day’s hike of the car in case my knee started acting up. Instead of acting up it actually felt better as the weekend went on. I think the hiking actually helped strengthen it, so I’m much more confident about starting in March with 5 months left to get the knee back to 100%. So instead of turning down Riprap for another day in the wilderness, I kept hiking another 5 miles or so to get back to the car and return home. Better to get home healthy than stay out another day and risk another injury. About the time I got to my car some thru-hikers were passing me so I gave them my dinner for the night and some of my leftover food to enjoy before heading home.
Things I learned this trip?
1) Take it easy. I’ve always planned only 8 miles or so my first week or two in March. I shouldn’t have been trying to do more than that on my training hikes. This is the first time I’ve really taken it slow, and it paid off.
2) Chapstick. I forgot it again. I need to remember it in March.
3) I’m still taking a little bit too much food. That’s better than the alternative, but only slightly.
4) Northbounders are whiners. This is according to Manparty, who has hiked southbound twice. I think he’s biased.
So, the plan now is to continue working out at the gym to stay in shape, continue fretting over every ounce of weight in my pack, and somehow stay calm as I wait for March to get here.