Conditions: 70s, Mostly Cloudy, Scattered Showers
Distance: 16.1 miles
Today was hard. Just one day off the trail made me soft. My pack felt heavy. I added about 7lbs of food. But it may as well have been 20lbs. The afternoon sun made the forest humid. The elevation changes were gradual and never-ending. Today was hard.
I hiked most of the day alone too. Your thoughts only occupy your mind for so long. Then you make up games. Then you focus on the trail. That fills an hour on the Appalachian Trail. You hike for 9 more hours. After 8 days, I’ve realized I don’t like hiking solo. It’s lonely.
Hikers are staggered on the trail. Everyone hiking at their own pace. So you won’t see anyone most of the day. You pass open campsites and empty shelters. It can feel like a ghost town. Especially when the clouds cover the mountain gaps. A cool sight a week ago. Now it reminds me I am alone.
My trail legs were still good. But my feet hurt. I don’t think I stopped as much today. Unconsciously I just wanted to get the miles done. So I kept hiking. There was a good overlook and watchtower at the top of one of the mountains today. It overlooked the town of Franklin where we had stayed the night before. I tried to make it before the rain. It started drizzling just as I arrived. I managed to get a quick video.
I made it down to the shelter before the rain increased. For the most part, the trees act as an umbrella so long as the rain is light. “Shifty” and Kyle were inside along with a solo hiker. The guys were about to leave for the next shelter. It was another 5 miles, but it was only 5pm. I asked for a few minutes to put my feet up and decide if I wanted to go with them. They had to fill up with water anyway.
The shelter seemed new. I struck up conversation with the solo hiker while I took off my boots and stretched out on the shelter floor. He told me about the hikers he had passed along the trail. He cross paths with “Machine” a few days back. The college kid kept the trail name I gave him. It was the best thing I heard all day. It gave me the boast I needed to continue. I told the solo hiker he should come on with us to the next shelter. After all, he didn’t want to stay there by himself, right?
Those last 5 miles hurt. Towards the end, I stopped every quarter mile. Fortunately I hiked with the guys most of the way. So it went quick. There was a south-bound hiker already in the shelter. He started in Tennessee. After some group chat, I heard he was a technology consultant for Oracle. My man. We spent the rest of the daylight talking about MySQL, Sun, and the upcoming Facebook IPO.
The shelter was cramped. The two college guys from Day 6 arrived shortly after we did. They decided to camp up the trail. “Shifty” and “Bones” quickly joined them. I suggested the trail name “Bones” for Kyle after following him up the last ridge. You could barely distinguish him from his hiking poles. Just a skeleton carrying a large pack wearing rain gear and a hat. Now with extra room, I asked the two others if I could set up my tent inside. I told them I needed to air it out. I didn’t want to mention the mice I saw minutes before.
This isn’t a very good entry. Like anywhere else, you have good days and bad days on the Appalachian Trail. Today was a bad day. I need some sunshine and my feet to not hurt.
~ Bootstrapper – 1000