20.6 miles, 910.1 overall (Bearfence Mountain Hut)
I struggle for the motivation to get up and get moving. All of my clothes are wet from yesterday. Luckily since I’ve worn the same socks two days in a row today is new sock day, but my shoes are still wet so I debate the logic of pulling out fresh dry socks. I decide it is worth it and pull them on. My pants and shirt are still damp and I am once again forced to pack up a wet tent. Back in Georgia I asked a group of hikers what they thought the summer would be like since the winter was so mild. One of them offered that it was supposed to be a La Nina year and so we could expect a lot of rain. I wasn’t sure how much to believe them at the time but I’m beginning to think they were right.
Once I’m packed I head to the shelter for breakfast. It seems everyone except Dropout is up. I talk to some of them while I eat and finish packing. Half-brew and Walking Wounded are leading 2 other hikers on a section hike to teach some basic backpacking skills and leave no trace ethics. We get a kick out of sharing some stories about hikers who started the trail unprepared (“do you know how to work my stove?”) and Half-Brew, having southbounded several years ago, gives me some info about the trail ahead. His group is moving slower than I am so I wish them well and head out, knowing I won’t be seeing them tonight.
I plan to move north 2 shelters today. It makes for a 20 mile day but, as yesterday, more importantly it allows me to reach a camp store just before the shelter. I plan to get there in time for some additional feeding. I’ve gotten an early start, meaning I can also take some time during the afternoon to rest if I feel like it. It is foggy this morning but it feels like the fog will burn off later rather than portending rain.
The trail is a series of climbs today that are just long and steep enough to be annoying – 500 feet, 1000 feet, 700 feet. None are especially hard but cumulatively they take their toll and by the time I complete the 8 miles to the first shelter I am ready for a break. I take a longer break than usual and eat a full lunch. Knowing I have a camp store ahead I am less worried about rationing my food today. When I get there the German couple Two Step and Hey Man are there drying out their gear. Before I leave Parmesan and Opie catch up and as I’m leaving Dropout arrives. Dropout and I seem to be hiking at about the same pace and doing the same miles for now. However his girlfriend is coming to visit tomorrow so I probably won’t be hiking with him much longer. Catnap, Pancake, and Frodo never got to the shelter last night, opting to tent somewhere short of it, and I haven’t seen them since.
After lunch I move on toward a picnic area where there is potable water. I hope that in addition to filling up there I can also practice my yogi-ing seeing as how Memorial Day is coming up and there may be some picnickers. On the way I run into Breezy, a hiker I have met before but neither of us remember at first. He is from Florida and is having a rough day. He has just found a tick that he is pulling out of his arm but he was already feeling lethargic with a headache. He says he has been drinking plenty of water bu he was bitten by another tick recently. I suggest that he try some drink mixes, thinking that the electrolytes could be the issue (as was suggested to me) and if he doesn’t feel better to see a doctor and mention that he has been bitten by a few ticks. Hopefully he gets it figured out quickly so he can keep hiking. I don’t think about giving him some drink mixes until I’m already up the trail.
At the picnic area I catch up to the Germans. I lay my tent out to dry along with my shoes and socks. I plan to stay a while. Opie and Parmesan catch up and stay a while. Parmesan evidently knows German and carries a bit of conversation with the couple. As the Germans are leaving Breezy arrives and I toss him the drink mix I didn’t give him earlier.
There aren’t many picnickers out and after my tent dries I decide to move on. Rather than put my wet shoes on again I opt to try my Five Fingers again. The trail lately has been dreamy, a perfect place to try them out. I only have 5 miles left to the camp store too with over 2 hours to cover them. As I hike they feel more comfortable than the last two times I’ve worn them. It seems my feet are adapting to them. Even in areas where I pass over some rocks they don’t bother me as much as they used to. I make good time, so good in fact that I catch up to Dropout who skipped the picnic area. We hike together the remaining couple miles to the store. At first Dropout was really quiet and I didn’t know what to make of him. As with almost every other hiker these days though the more I get to know him the more I like him. He is easy to talk to and we seem to share some of the same interests and sense of humor.
When we get to the camp store we find that the Germans rented the last cabin that was available. Opie and Parmesan are making some sandwiches with fixings from inside. I enter and find, first and foremost, some good beer. I get a bottle of Eight Point IPA from Devils Backbone brewery. I’ve never had it before but it isn’t a Budweiser so I’m happy. I also get some spaghetti with meatballs in a can, a cinnamon bun, and some pop tarts to add to breakfast tomorrow. I eat the spaghetti outside with the beer which is as good as I was hoping. I also charge my phone in the outlet outside. While eating the clerk entertains us with stories. Apparently he is a former thru-hiker and Olympic marathoner. When he thru-hiked though he carried a 70 lb pack and completed the trail in 72 days for an average of 38.4 miles per day (note that the math doesn’t work out since the trail, even in the 70’s when he claims to have hiked it, was around 2100 miles long). I’m sure he also walked uphill the entire way in the snow. He does tell us that the bears at the next shelter have been active since getting some food from an “idiot lawyer section hiker” who he wishes he could have arrested. I at least believe him about the bears being active.
After a second beer and an ice cream cookie sandwich Dropout and I move on to the shelter. We pass the last mile discussing how many ways we don’t believe what the clerk was saying. I wonder which parts were true and which weren’t and make a note to try to look him up later in a list of former Olympic athletes.
The shelter has several section hikers in it, mostly from one group that is hiking together. I opt to tent again despite there being space in the shelter. I find a nice spot and am soon set up. I brought a soda with me from the store and I drink it before bed, but for the second night in a row I don’t need to cook dinner. When I go to get water from the spring I run into a pair of deer who apparently aren’t afraid of people anymore. Instead of running away, one actually moves closer to me. It comes within about 10 feet before stopping. I take some video of the affair, amused by the lack of concern on display. Later when I go to the woods to relieve myself I hear a noise very close to me. When I turn to see what it is I see a deer. These deer have no fear.
I turn in early again, hoping to be able to get up early tomorrow to make some big miles again on the Appalachian Trail.