Day mileage: 28.3
AT total mileage: 1,204.6
Time: 9 hours
The rain continued off and on throughout the night, eventually tapering off around 5 AM. Neither Pneumo nor myself wanted to get up and enter into the damp world the woods had become, so we got another late start around 8:30 after doing our best to shake the water off our tents. This was one of those mornings where I'd have loved to infinitely sleep in, but my plan included a high mileage day so waking up was unfortunately necessary. We began hiking, and all of 2 minutes down the trail, irony struck. If you remember me writing yesterday that it would take death or severe disability to keep me from Katahdin, apparently the Appalachian Trail and Mother Nature read that post as well. I was hiking along silently, cursing the muddy trail in my head, when a large sounding explosion went off. Having hiked by firing ranges with large caliber and automatic weapons the day before, I somewhat frantically looked around to see if a bomb had gone off. Not a half second after the sound a 50 someodd foot tall oak tree came crashing down across the trail about five feet in front of me. Had I not stopped to look around when the base of the tree cracked and made the loud noise, I may in fact have been standing where the oak landed. What a way to start the day... it certainly got my heart rate up.
The Trail crossed over a 120 year old bridge, then under I-81 (you may have noticed I've been hiking alongside, over, and under I-81 since early Virginia). Veering up into the woods, today's terrain would call for only one steep climb of 1,000' to be completed in the first few miles. After that it would be hiking along a ridge for pretty much the rest of the day. The biggest frustration with the morning hiking was not the rocks on the trail, but actually the damp grass that was soaking my socks and shoes. Despite the storm the night before, the clouds had moved on and the blue skies were allowing sunlight to bake down onto the already humid mountaintops. I can't imagine having started later at Springer Mountain and being in the regions of steeper climbs with this kind of miserable humidity. I can only hope it doesn't get too much worse as I move north. 8 miles into our day we stopped at the William Penn shelter to get water from a stream. I called a friend to wish her a happy birthday, and noticed a celebratory sign on a rock leaned against a tree. There's a photo of it below, but it was exceptionally hard to photograph. The rock, with writing in Sharpie, says "1,000 Miles to the Kat!" - meaning only 1,000 miles to Mount Katahdin in Maine. From here on out it's a countdown of mileage. Pushing on an additional four miles to the 501 Shelter, Pneumo and I crossed our fingers that the guidebook's labeling of a 'solar shower' there would mean the ability to take a quick hot shower before continuing on. Along the way we ran into two hikers named Simba and Peppa who were sunbathing on a rocky vista. From Baltimore and Lyme, NH respectively, they've been hiking together for quite a while at a relaxed pace. Next week they'll be taking a 'trailcation' and visiting the Jersey Shore to stay at a fellow hiker's summer house. Seems to me like a reallllllly relaxed hike. We moved on, coming across the 501 around 1300hrs, and running into Chuck Norris, the owner of a hostel back in Hot Springs, NC. He and his wife met thru-hiking a few years ago, and both offered us a ride into town for cold sodas, pizza, and a resupply. We thanked them profusely but knowing the mileage left in the day decided against taking them up on the offer.
Unfortunately the 'solar shower' at the 501 Shelter was built in the shade, therefore defeating the 'solar' heat part of the contraption. We conversed with a section hiker who introduced himself as 'I am the Walrus' (I appropriately chorused 'koo koo cachu') and snacked on left over pieces of the pizza he had ordered. We didn't linger long, and after saying our goodbyes headed off into the rocky woods to finish the 15 miles left in our day. These rocks are driving me insane. I can honestly say its the most frustrated I've ever been with a state, and I've never been more eager to hike out of one. Ankles, knees, and general foot pain are incessant as the rocks twist and turn your legs however they please. The mileage went by slowly, and it was relatively boring until about 1500hrs when we came across another new animal on the trail. Honestly I would have walked right past it, but Pneumo slowed and pointed out a snake curled on the trail. We tried to see what kind it was (and if the head was triangulated, often meaning a poisonous one) when it started rattling its tail and extending its body out, at which point we practically broke into a run getting away from it. I for one would rather not be bit by a rattle snake. Hiking on, I set my goal to be at the shelter we were aiming for by 1930hrs. Pneumo was having some pain in his heels which slowed him down a bit, so I hiked on. Some of the pain experienced later in the day was unbearable. Every once in a while there's a pyramid shaped rock that happens to find its way directly into a blister on my feet, sending what feels like an electric shock through my body. I hiked quickly and with purpose, eventually finding myself at the sign for the Eagle's Nest Shelter at 1930hrs exactly. This is where I made a mistake... Without thoroughly reading the carved sign, I turned down the side trail towards the shelter. Half a mile later I realized that I had continued hiking north on the Appalachian Trail, and had to double back that same half mile before finding the appropriate 1/3 mile side trail to the shelter. How frustrating.
I arrived to a 'full' shelter (in comparison to lately) with 5 hikers. Cooking dinner quickly as the cloudy skies looked threatening, the rain began around 2030. Pneumo had arrived shortly beforehand. The rain increased steadily, and by the time I got in my sleeping bag around 2100, it was pouring. My hope is that it will taper off overnight, but the weather reports aren't sure of that. Hiking in the rain sucks. Tomorrow we'll hit Port Clinton, PA where I'm hoping to get a hair cut and a small resupply at the Walmart. We're only aiming for a 24 mile day so it should be a little less stressed.
Today marks my 2nd calendar month on the Appalachian Trail. On April 4th my dad and I parted ways at Springer Mountain, and I've now walked 1,204 miles north. In my first month i covered 468 miles of the Trail, and in my second month I covered 736- a sizable difference. With 981 miles left to go, I'm hoping to continue enjoying this daily adventure as much as I have already.
Onward and upward. Katahdin's on my mind.