18.4 miles, 1680.8 overall (Stealth camp)
As I fell asleep last night I heard movement outside of my tent. I wondered what it could be and wondered whether I had hung my food properly. Soon one of the things moving around outside bumped into the tent! This startled me and I set about finding it to see what it was. When I finally discovered the culprit I had to laugh. The noises and bumps were being made by frogs which have become quite common around the trail, almost as common as chipmunks.
I wake by 6 and I’m “out the door” by 7. It is so much faster to get ready when you don’t have to take a shower or pick out clothes to wear in the morning! When I reach the Big Branch shelter Thunderstorm is there but everyone else has left. I say hi to him but move on quickly. I’m hoping to get in some good miles today. I have about 38 to go to get to the Inn at the Long Trail tomorrow and whatever I don’t do today I’ll have to do tomorrow. I soon pass the Ohioan who must have gotten an extremely early start from the last shelter, and at a road crossing I run into Five Pair and T.
I stay ahead of everyone as I listen to my Count of Monte Cristo. We head up a mountain and on the way up I pass a couple areas where people have made “rock sculptures,” towers of rocks. In the spirit of the activity I add a couple rocks to the towers. Finally I arrive at the shelter near the top of the mountain and I stop for lunch.
Lunch is quick and I’m back on the trail soon, heading quickly down the mountain. When I get to the bottom I realize there are two road crossings where I only remember one in the data book. I reach for the data book to check and – its not there. Shoot. It either fell out or I left it back at the shelter where I had lunch. I stow my pack in the woods and start up, hoping someone finds it and carries it forward. I pass Yellowtail, Sunroof, Five Pair, and T. None of them have seen it. Finally, 1.5 miles later when I get back to the shelter, I find it sitting on the log where I ate lunch.
With my data book back in hand I get down the mountain and find my pack where I left it. I rehydrate and fill up on water before setting off again. I head up Bear Mountain and down the other side, past the shelter where the Long Trailers plan to stop tonight, and head for a road crossing that has a restaurant. While I had been unsure about whether I should go before, now I see it as a reward for 3 extra miles hiked. I reach the road and hang a left.
The restaurant apparently closes at 2:30 but reopens at 4 as a pizza place. I arrive around 4:30 and the Mules are seated and have just ordered. I check the menu and find that I can order a 2 liter of soda. I also get a large pizza. 20 minutes later my pizza arrives and so do Five Pair and T. I’m able to finish all but a slice of the pizza. I could finish it all but I wouldn’t feel good and I still have to hike another mile to the shelter. I take it to go thinking I can eat it when I arrive.
Back at the trail with some leftover pizza and soda in my backpack (I put the soda in a platypus) I’m immediately met with a huge uphill on a rock scramble. It is still hot and with a full stomach it doesn’t go well. At the top I almost feel sick. I take my time walking to the shelter. On the way I can hear hikers ahead. It is The Birds and Achey Breaky. The Mules told me they had seen them at the restaurant and that they are carrying a 24-pack of beers. Great. When I get to the shelter I can hear them yelling and carrying on in the woods next to the shelter. I decide I don’t want to listen to them all night. I sign the register and push on, hoping to find a stealth camping spot soon because it is getting late.
Just past the shelter the trail goes uphill again. The pizza still hasn’t settled from the first uphill so I am forced to take it incredibly slowly. Once I reach the top there aren’t any camping spots so I have to go further. I walk through a field and over some fencestiles, not a good sign for camping spots. Finally I find a spot just a few feet off the trail. It isn’t an established spot but it is flat and just large enough for my tent so it will do. As I set up my tent I am attacked by bugs. I quickly throw a bear line on the other side of the trail and hang my food. Pretty soon I’m in my tent safe from the bugs, glad that I don’t have to cook dinner which would require more exposure to the bugs. Although it has been a few hours since I was at the restaurant I’m still not hungry due to the constant churning of food in my stomach since I left. This is a far cry from the perfect campsite I had yesterday, but every night can’t be perfect on the Appalachian Trail.