Today is definitely a nearo, and I have been flat on my back, resting, for a good part of it. Forgive the TMI, but my digestive system has been in open rebellion for the last few days, and it is all I can do to drink enough liquid to not dehydrate. I am hoping that this almost-day off will settle it down; I looked at the guidebook yesterday and realized that I have not taken a break since a zero in Luray – 200+ miles ago. No wonder my body is rebelling, the elevation gains and drops have been taking their toll, too. I am just hoping it is not something like giardia, but I doubt it – I am very careful to filter and/or boil water.
You see, every day lately begins with at least a 1000 ft. climb and ends with a similar descent. Since the shelters are by the water sources, typically streams, and the streams are typically in the bottoms between ridges or mountains… In between first ascent and last descent are a number of other ascents and descents. I have noticed a certain amount of knee wear and tear, and sore muscles where there did not used to be any.
But enough of complaining. Where did we leave off, anyway? Where was I? Ah, yes. Glasglow.
Philosopher and I were ready to go when our shuttle arrived – okay, we were one minute late. Oops. I had gone to the post office at the dot of 8, but they were still sorting mail, asked me to come back in 20 minutes. I bought and ate a cheap gas station breakfast sandwich, then went back to the shelter to finish packing up. On the way out of town, we stopped by the post office again, and this time, they had my package ready! I dumped all of it into my food bag, and we were off!
The first 2.1 miles out of town were a hiker’s dream. First across a long footbridge over the James River, then alongside first the James and then Matt’s Creek, whoever Matt was, to Matt’s Creek shelter. 2.1 miles, 45 minutes, almost 3 mph! I stopped there to organize my food drop into logical order – breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, drinks. The food bag was very heavy, thus the backpack was too! I actually had to tie my tent on the outside to make room, and it kept hitting me in the butt the rest of the day. 🙂
Then the long, long climb out of the James River valley began. Up from 850 ft to 2650. There’s not much to be said about this section. It was just a long, sloping climb up the ridge, crossed by a few trails. I lost Philosopher in the fog as we climbed into it and she got ahead of me. She’s 20 years younger. It was expected – though I caught up with both her and Wreckin’ taking a break at the top of the ridge, about 7.7 miles in. I also stopped to take a break, while they moved on.
Then it was time to climb the very interestingly named Highcock Knob. Tough climb; another 700 feet over a mile. More diagonalling. Quickly followed by a 700 ft *decline* into Petites Gap. I liked that, being Petite myself, and my knees were happier. For a little while, because, you guessed it, up again! About 800 feet. Somewhere in there, I hit the wall – not enough energy, due to not having eaten very much that day. I dumped pack and lay down on a handy log for 30 minutes, before making the final push to where I decided to spend the night – Harrison Ground Spring, approximately 11.4 miles from point of origin.
As I came up, I could smell a campfire, which always cheers me up. It means company! This was a campsite, not a shelter, everyone was tenting, no privy. Attended to the usual camp chores, then was able to get some social time in. Two of the six there were from White River Jct. in VT, and another two were 76 and 77! I was seriously impressed and told them so!
Sleep did not come so easily that night – we were in the middle of a massive number of acorn-dropping oaks! I can only imagine the percussion sounds all those nuts would have made on a metal shelter roof!
I was only planning a 13.4 mile day today, to reach Bryant Ridge Shelter – another hiker had told me it was a great place to stay and I was curious. So I was pretty slow to get going in the morning, spent some more time chatting with the couple in their 70’s. I also made sure not to repeat yesterday’s mistake, and cooked up a delicious mixture of blueberry & flax granola, with two packets of instant grits. But I was on my way by 9 am.
I had the rest of Thunder Ridge to climb, before it leveled off, a couple hundred more feet. My thigh muscles were surprisingly sore, but loosened up later. Gradually (mercifully), the trail wound upwards to the top of Apple Orchard Mt. A nice, meadowy top, with a weather station, but sadly, the trees were blocking what otherwise would have been a great view.
Down, down, bounce up and down, curve around, up Floyd Mt., will this ever end… Bryant Ridge Shelter!
Now, this was a shelter! Two stories tall, full of bunk space, right by a stream, big enough to fit 20 people easily… Tonight, it only held one. Me. It was lonely and a bit unnerving, but since there was no space to tent, I sheltered up. All the camp chores needed to get done regardless, and I spent a lot of time reading, since sleep was hard to come by. Some hikers think this shelter is haunted. I am glad I didn’t know that last night, I was jumpy enough as it was. I really wanted to sleep in, but in the end, I would have settled for just getting some sleep, period. I was awake and reading again at 5:45 am.
Up and on my way as soon as the sky was light enough to see by. I had decided to make it a nearo sometime in all the tossing and turning last night. But I still had to hike 4 miles, up and over Fork Mt., and yes, it was a tough climb up and over. As if by some arcane agreement, different parts of my body began hurting, one after another. Right foot first, then right knee, then left knee. It was seriously discouraging. Finally reached the top and began the 2 mile descent to Jennings Creek. Lo and behold, as I reached the bottom and sat on a rock, a punchbuggy pulled up, driven by a shuttler I had met before! We debated who was following the other, laughing about it, as two hikers climbed out, and I climbed in. I am sorry to confess that I gave in to my weariness, pain, and digestive issues, and sought out a nearby hiker-friendly motel, regardless of budget. (But the bed feels so good. It is soft and horizontal. And my hot shower set off the smoke alarm. Go figure.)
My shuttle tomorrow does not arrive until 10:30. I think I will take the opportunity for a hot, soaking bath in the morning. If the smoke alarm does not go off again.
People, I needed this break…
I hike on!