Sunday, May 19, 2013

To Daleville!

That title makes it sound much more fun and exciting than it was. The morning my mom left she dropped me off at the trail where we had finished our slack pack together. I was starting out again all on me own. My spirits were high but that didn't last long. They stayed up through the first day, with bony feeling fine and a sunny day above me. But on the second day, despite the beautiful weather, I cried the better half of the. It's tough to be out alone and not have anyone who is accountable to you. There isn't anyone to share your woes and triumphs with if everyone is a relative stranger. Also, there are parts of the AT that are not a simple cake walk and it is good to know in confidence that if you don't show up to a place by a certain time, someone will know something is up.

For example, one of the days between Woods Hole and Daleville included a section of trail called the Dragon's Tooth. I had gotten the impression that I could take a few pictures of this rock formation and keep hiking... Until I found myself staring down jagged cliffs before me, in the rain, wondering how the white blaze ahead expected me to get to it. As if meandering down these wet rocks using whatever help my trekking poles could provide wasn't already nerve racking, I soon found a series of metal rungs that I was somehow supposed to descend. Turning around on the edge of a wet rock and lowering yourself down on to a ladder to climb down it with a 30 something pound pack on your back to balance is not the easiest task. It took me a long time, with much cursing and fearful hoping, to get down the Dragon's Tooth. And still, no pictures...

With this behind me, I knew I had McAfee's Knob and the Tinker Cliffs ahead of me. McAfee's Knob is the most photo photographed spot on the trail besides the Katahdin sign I bet. It has a magnificent view if you hit not on the right day. The Tinker Cliffs I had no idea about but after the Dragon's Tooth I could only assume this "0.5 mile cliff walk" would have me on the 3 foot wide cliff edge with no railing and, on the particular day I was traversing it, running through a thunder storm. The morning I set out to conquer both of these called for rain at 9, 11, 1 and thunderstorms at 4. I started out booking it, trying to make it to McAfee's for a picture before the bottom really dropped out. I made it the ten miles out to the scenic view in only three an a half hours. Still I decided to keep up the strong pace to try to miss the on coming thunderstorm. I hustled all the way to the cliffs, which when I got to I found to be decidedly more tame than my mind had cooked up. They were like a series of smaller McAfee Knobs and yet still safe and fun to walk over. Only a mile down the mountain was the shelter that marked the end of my day and I made it in about ten minutes before the rain set in. It had held off all day but when it came it came with a vengeance. Suddenly the day I had spent running over mountains seemed well worth it.

Oddly, I ha not seem another thru hiker all day while hiking. Not until 6'7 (who is indeed 6'7) showed up about 3 hours behind me did I see someone who was not a section hiker. The trail had been getting more and more sparse since I had life Pearisburg because of Trail Days. Everyone seemed to be heading back to Damascus for the weekend AT celebration so it made for a lonely time to jump back on the trail.

Trail Days is a annual gathering of hikers celebrating the trail and those who hike it. Its part educational, part gear themed and part party. On the Saturday of every Trail Days there is always a Hiker Parade where the hikers of each "class" get together and walk through town in a roughly organized escapade. This year, a great misfortune happened. An older thru hiker apparently lost control of his car after a possible medical incident and ran over many hikers in the parade. Around 60 hikers were hurt and several were helicoptered out to a hospital. Rumor has it that the main victim was a thru hiker from recent years named Rainbow Bright. This made my phone blow up with worries calls and texts. Hermes, who I started my hike with texted me, as well as Fresh Ground, who supported us with food hundreds of miles up the trail, and Jeremy, who helped me prepare for the trail. I first heard of the incident from Jean Genie, who called me having heard from our friend Spider Mac that I may have been under the car. Thankfully, I was safely tucked away in the woods. But I feel terrible for all those involved.

On a lighter note, Jean Genie and Duffle Miner are only a day ahead of me! Apparently when they got off to I to their wedding they stuck around much longer than they imagined.

As for now, I am in a very nice yet still cheap hotel room with 6'7, Shutter Bug, (both whom I met while at the hostel) and Smiles, who is from my original bubble of hikers. Hopefully when I hit the trail tomorrow I will catch Genie and Duff before too long. Also, I am happy to have hikers around again to share life with ice again.

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