My hiker faux-pas

May 16

17.1 miles, 771.6 overall (Marble Spring campsite)
Although I wake up at 6 I roll over and go back to sleep. I do the same at 6:30, and again at 6:50. At 7:20 I finally get up and pack everything. Some hikers who were in the shelter have already left. Another leaves while I’m eating breakfast. Teflon and I are the only ones left, and he leaves minutes before I do. Somehow I have gone from being first out every day at the beginning of my hike to now being last out. This will definitely have to change, especially as the days get hotter. It is far preferable to hike in the early morning hours versus the afternoon. Hopefully I can get into camp early tonight to make an early start tomorrow possible.

The day starts with a large climb of over 2000 ft. We haven’t had one of these in a while. I hope it will be nicely graded like so much of the trail recently has been. Some of it is, but other parts aren’t so great. For much of the climb I’m able to put my mind elsewhere though and pretty soon I can see Teflon ahead of me. This helps, knowing I’m going at least as fast as someone else despite not feeling very fast today. I eventually catch him when he stops and is looking to the side of the trail. He has spotted a deer. We watch it for a minute and then hike on. It watches us the entire time but never runs.

Just over the top of the mountain is the next shelter. We stop for a break but don’t stay too long. We discuss our plans for the next few days and start seriously considering working in a stop at the Dutch Haus, a hostel slash B&B a bit off the trail known for great food and great hospitality at a great price. We can average 15 miles a day and be there in time for dinner on the third day after today, or we can push it and try to get there in time for the free lunch that day. We think we will take our time.

On the way out of the shelter we have to fjord the trail. The rains from the other day have raised the water table everywhere. Streams are overflowing their banks and spilling into the trail, making for some interesting hiking for those of us without waterproof shoes. Having already had my shoes wet for the last several days I’m not incredibly interested in getting them wet again just when they are almost dry. I rockhop as much as possible.

I continue to follow Teflon through the next section, past some overlooks and past a side trail to Apple Orchard Falls. Although tempting, the falls are over a mile away. For me this is an obvious skip since I live close enough to make this a day trip whenever I like. For Teflon it is an easy skip since it is a mile with no edible reward. We do stop for a time when we get to an FAA tower at the top of the hill. Teflon says it looks like something out of the tv show 7 days (I think?) while I think it looks like a soccer ball. We sit in the grass for a while and take in the view of the valley below while taking advantage of the cell service to get caught up on things before moving on to the next shelter.

On the way to the shelter we come across the Guillotine. I know of this landmark from reading other hikers’ blogs. It is a stone suspended over the trail by the rock ledges on either side. I take advantage of one of the first times in a while that I’ve been at a landmark like this with another hiker and we take pictures of each other under it.

At the next shelter we take another break. I eat my low calorie-to-weight lunch while Teflon fuels up on whatever it is he is eating. We discuss options for the rest of the day. It is early afternoon and there are 7 miles left to the campsite we are targeting. It seems some hiking in the high heat of the day will be necessary in order to arrive at a decent time. I’m less motivated than Teflon and I lounge around for a while after he leaves before I follow.

The 7 miles remaining are mostly downhill but include 2 brief climbs. With nobody playing the role of rabbit to my fox, and with the heat of the day, I have even more trouble hiking than earlier. It isn’t incredibly hot today – my thermometer reads about 75 – but it feels like 85. I sweat a lot and worry about whether I’m drinking enough water. With about 3 miles left I actually run out of water in my hydration bladder and have to resort to my “emergency supply” – the half liter of water in a Gatorade bottle I keep for this occasion. It is enough to get me the rest of the way, but I still feel a bit dehydrated. In addition, a few miles from the campsite I notice myself bonking and have to eat my energy bar for a pickup.

Just before I realize I’m bonking and eat the energy bar I pass 2 hikers. I don’t recognize them. They are stopped at a spring that, like all the others, is flowing high from the recent rains. Because I’m feeling a bit under the weather I don’t take the time to talk to them and, without thinking about it, take my hat off and dip it in the spring to cool off. It isn’t until about a half mile later that I realize they may have been about to pull water from the spring to drink and I feel bad. I hope I get a chance to apologize, but I don’t see them again today.

When I do arrive at the campsite it is picturesque. Teflon has already claimed the best spot but I’m able to find a decent one as well. I set up a clothesline to finish drying some of the stuff still wet from the rain. I set up my tent and get water from the gushing spring where I also take the opportunity to wash up and try to wash some of the salt out of my shirt. I make sure to do this well downstream of the spring, remembering my earlier mistake. I ask Teflon if he plans to build us a fire and he isn’t sure, but while I am getting settled he gathers some firewood. It seems I have successfully planted a seed. Unfortunately the material around is still somewhat wet so he has a hard time starting the fire. I take over and am able to get it started but because of all the moisture it takes work from both of us for about 30 minutes to get it to the point where it is self-sustaining.

Once the fire is going strong we start dinner. While we are eating Mac and Snap arrive. They find a spot for their tent and get started on their own food. We all talk and eat for a while around the campfire until I turn in for bed. I still have writing to do and I want to try to get out of camp earlier tomorrow. I don’t plan a huge mileage day, but I want to avoid the heat as much as possible. We’ll see how successful I am tomorrow on the Appalachian Trail.






Categories: VA | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “My hiker faux-pas

  1. What exactly do you mean by “bonking”?

  2. LOL @ Shane… I was going to ask the same question! Travis, I definitely like the way you express things… this was my favorite from today’s post…”For Teflon it is an easy skip since it is a mile with no edible reward.” Made me chuckle. BTW, are you still hiking in your “new” shoes (the fivefingers, or whatever you called them?” Curious as to whether they turned out to be a better choice for hiking.

    • Bonking is a term for running out of energy. It’s why runners use those gel packs, because your body can use energy faster than it releases it.

      I’m not hiking in the five fingers. My new trail runners have fixed the Achilles issue that was apparently caused by my feet swelling so that I was hiking in shoes that were too small for me. I also am not having trouble with blisters lately. I do want to try hiking in the five fingers some more though and think southern Shenandoah would be a good spot to try it.

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