14.7 miles, 194.3 overall (Silers Bald shelter)
It gets cold during the night. I forgot to grab my hat out of my pack so I struggle to use the sleeping bag’s mummy hat and at the same time keep my pillow. It doesn’t work well. To exacerbate my sleeping problems we have three Polish section hikers at the shelter who brought Jameson’s. They are a little noisy when we go to sleep, but the real fun begins around 12 after they go to bed. I am sleeping next to a thru hiker named Dewey and next to him is one of the drunk hikers. Around 12 the hiker rolls over onto Dewey’s mat. Dewey spends the next 20 minutes or so kicking and pushing the hiker, trying to get him to move. Eventually Dewey gets fed up and tells the guy “dude, get off my mat!” The hiker moans. Dewey tells him again. The hiker says “just a minute.” “no, you need to move now,” Dewey tells him. Eventually the hiker moves, but not completely. “your feet need to move too.” Finally the hiker moves and we are all able to get back to sleep.
In the morning it is cold and I have to put on 3 of my 4 top layers to stay warm. I eat my breakfast quickly so I can hit the trail soon. Today is the first day in a while that I start hiking with my second layer and the legs of my convertible pants still on. The first 3 miles or so go by quickly with me, UV, and Ninja all hiking together. We stop at the first shelter for a snack and then move on.
At this point hiking starts to become difficult for me. I’m not sure what the problem is – perhaps lack of sleep, allergies, too little food, or maybe just the long day yesterday. Whatever it is the miles just aren’t flying by today. By the time I get to the second shelter I am dreading the still 5.5 miles left for the day. However I take some time to eat and get some water and by the time I am done I’m feeling better.
As I start the last leg of the day the first 3 miles go by quickly. I even see some of the first cool wildlife I’ve seen on this trip – 2 wild turkeys! They are huge birds and they take their time crossing the trail in front of me, apparently not too worried by my presence. However the last 3 miles really drag. My energy is down but I don’t want to eat until I get to the shelter. My legs feel heavy and my mind isn’t wandering like it does when I’m hiking well. When I’m in the hiking zone I don’t think about the miles I’m walking, my mind simply wanders. All I can think about now is whether the shelter is around the next corner.
Just after 4:00 I climb the last hill and find the shelter. The first thing I do is put down my pack and throw on 2 more layers of clothes before I get cold. The close second is to start fixing food. By the time UV and Ninja catch up I have finished dinner #1 already and am about to start on dinner #2. Hikers wander in for the rest of the night – Peach, the Georgia boys, Kennedy, Buddha, Bob. Most of the hikers are people I know. It has gotten to the point where we are in a sort of hiker bubble, where we rarely meet hikers we don’t know yet. There is one new hiker here tonight whose name is Unicoi Zoom. We have seen her entries in trail registers before but have never met her yet. As I write this I still have not met her because although we have talked briefly through the tarp covering the shelter I am in the shelter in my sleeping bag and she is still outside eating her dinner.
All of us are in our bags early tonight, agreeing that today felt longer than the 15 miles it actually was. We spend the last 30 minutes or so before hiker bedtime (which we discuss and agree is 8:00) chatting and making jokes. Tomorrow we get to Cligman’s Dome, the highest point on the AT, and we pass the 200 mile mark, so it is going to be another long day on the Appalachian Trail.