Day mileage: 16.5
AT total mileage: 547.5
Time: 6.5 hours
I'm unsure as to whether or not today went as planned.
I happened to be stuck next to the loudest snoring hiker at the entire shelter last night. Her trail name is Texas Tornado, and luckily despite her exceptionally loud noise making, my headphones kept me in a quiet little world of my own. On a full stomach of pizza I slept wonderfully, waking up a few minutes before my alarm at 5:00. Knowing that I only had 11 miles to hike before arriving at the restaurant UPS would deliver my package to, I laid in my sleeping bag for an extra half hour before deciding to get up. Mind you at this point daylight was more than an hour away, so I packed up my stuff with the red glow of my LED headlamp. After refilling my water and eating the last slice of pizza (intentionally saved for breakfast) I hit the trail at 6:10.
While I'd love to say I was out of the gate maintaining my fun 3 mph average, I instead was quite slow. I managed to get 1/2 a mile down the trail before needing to stop and address a blister that might be forming on my right heel. I had tried to dress it with a simple band-aid before leaving, but stopped on the trail and emptied my bag out to find my sheet of moleskin to cover the hot spot with. I continued on, making it another half mile before I found a cooler with cold sodas and apples inside. Thrilled, I drank a Sprite and ate a delicious piece of fruit before heading on up a steady incline. At the top, my phone started making noises of incoming texts and e-mails, and I stopped to post yesterday's blog. As you can see, I was very easily distracted... It took me two hours to walk three miles. Again, I wasn't really concerned with this fact so I just kept on walking. After a few miles of pointless hills the trail descended down into the valley below where after snaking along a stream for a while, I came upon the Chatfield Shelter. 7 miles into my day it was a great point to stop and eat a Pop-Tart, with only four miles left to go until town. It was around this point that the noseeums and flies started becoming prominent, likely due to nesting along the stream. I walked quickly with my head down, hoping the brim of my hat and breathing through my nose would protect me from consuming any of these aerial nuisances. What I will say is that the woods smelled amazing right about this point. The fragrance people at Yankee Candle would have had a field day with bottling this deliciously warm lemon/pine scent. That's all I have to say about that.
As the trail leveled out in the valley it crossed over the side lawn of the Lindamood School, built in 1894. This one room schoolhouse is now part of a museum, but also has many boxes and coolers of trail magic in the front of the classroom. Not only were there cold drinks available, but also leftover wrappers of chips from previous hikers snacking, and a large box with shampoos, conditioners, stamped postcards, and many other day-to-day items hikers might find themselves needing. You're reading this correctly- in my first 8 miles of hiking today I came across two separate trail magics. Apparently when you complain to the Blogosphere, people listen and respond. I signed in the Lindamood trail log with a sincere thank you before carrying on towards town.
At this point Comfortably Numb had caught up to me and we hiked together through two miles of rolling fields before crossing train tracks and ending up at our destination. Two interesting thing to note about this time in the fields: 1) I'll be checking for ticks later. Tall grass. 2) there was one point where after crossing the train tracks we came across a baby stroller haphazardly left on the side of the trail in tall grass, with a small toy monkey left in the stroller basket. After looking around and listening for any noises or clues to a baby being nearby, we somewhat hesitantly continued on. Being such a strange and disconcerting sight, apparently other hikers called the police and the state police came shortly after we were there, but believe it's a prank by local townspeople to freak hikers out.
The resupply point here is a convenience store section of a Sunoco gas station. I stopped by quickly for a Powerade (my favorite reentering-the-real-world-after-hiking purchase) and then rushed to The Barn restaurant to see if UPS had arrived yet. They hadn't, and the waitress informed me they "typically do between 2 and 6" so I sat down to eat lunch. The special to get here is the Hiker Burger, comprised of two 8 oz patties, all the typical toppings, one slice of American and once slice of Cheddar cheeses. I also got tater tots, because how often is that an option?! The burger went down quickly, and soon after I found myself laying on the front lawn of the restaurant, eating candy peach rings, waiting for Brown Santa (this is a name from many years on JeepForum.com that we'd use to refer to UPS when they were delivering Jeep parts). I talked for a long time with newlywed thru-hikers Gilligan & Ginger (http://missionoutofabackpack.blogspot.com) about their plans for the trail, what gear was working for them, and life in general. Not long after the sky started becoming overcast and as the cars and trucks marched by on I-81 right beside me, the clouds kept moving in with the threat of thunderstorms.
I picked up a few days of snacks at Sunoco, knowing that I'll be at an actual grocery store as soon as Monday to get real food. The UPS driver pulled into town at about 3, and I literally hopped on a bicycle & chased after him to get my package faster. This was quite the sight to see, and (poor quality) photos do exist. After the new back plate was installed in my backpack, I hit the trail as the rain started trickling down. This was around 3:30. I told myself I'd hike until 7 and see where that got me mileage wise, but with a stomach full of food and a few hours off it was hard to push myself for any speed climbing out of the valley. At one point while walking through a sprawling cow pasture I performed interspecies communication with a very young calf who was standing in the trail and didn't want to move. We were only 5 feet away from each other and I kept talking to him about the weather as the rest of the cow heard watched on. He eventually stepped aside, and all parties left with positive memories of the experience. As the rain picked up more steadily I found a spot on a mountain a few miles out of town where cell service was available and pitched my tent hoping to get it up and habitable before the worst of the rain started coming down. My tent is erect some 16.7 miles from where I began, one of my shorter days in recent times. I'm not exactly thrilled, but my intentions by ending early were good. It sprinkled rain for the rest of the early evening, and I napped until 10 or so before waking up and finishing writing this. At the moment it sounds like there's no rain at all, despite the weather reports saying scattered showers and storms every hour for the next week or so. I'll cross my fingers that doesn't come to fruition.
My plan is to get a good night's sleep, at least 12 hours, and hit the trail early. I'll hike a bit longer tomorrow to make up for today's lack in mileage, and hopefully the 'storms' will keep temperatures down a bit to make doing so a bit easier. I started by saying I'm not sure if today went as planned or not. I'm not sure if I expected to get my normal 20-23 miles in or even less, but there's part of me that's disappointed with a mid-16s number. C'est la vie, mileage isn't everything. Luckily I've got some time to walk tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after...
I'll close by sending a big heartfelt thanks to Keon and the great customer service team at Granite Gear who got me the part I needed to keep hiking in less than 48 hours. I truly appreciate the work you out into getting that done. Definitely a company that's as great as their products.
Back to sleep for me. Interestingly enough this is my first night tenting alone in my 5 weeks (today's the start of week 5!) on the trail. Certainly puts a guy's auditory sensors on high alert.