The bed and I had a very hard time going our separate ways today, but the parting was finalized about 8 am. After I had had breakfast – honestly, the breakfast was nothing special, but it was food and it was fuel and it was at least filling! This HoJo’s has a hiker wall with postcards from past thru-hikers, and I borrowed a Sharpie and signed the wall before I went.
Okay, 15 mile day, and a climb to the ridgeline almost right away. But the hike held some surprises almost right away as well. For one thing, it was rocky enough to qualify for minor rock scrambling, an unexpected treat; I enjoyed it very much. For another, I paused near a view that had a electrical tower looming overhead, buzzing, and it was feeding enough electricity into the ground that the metal screw in the hand grip on one trekking pole was giving me mild static shocks. I quickly moved on.
The path was interestingly varied today. Sometimes rock scrambles, sometimes pine needles, sometimes sandy(?), sometimes stony, sometimes just dirt. I did enjoy the different variety, it kept it from getting tedious. I really didn’t stop for much of a break until I reached the shelter 9 miles in. Snack, Clif powerblock gels, and some water with Emergen-C mixed in. I was going to need all the energy boost I could get for the next six mikes, because it included Tinker Cliffs.
Words fail to describe the incredible views from these cliffs, but I will try to put up some pictures tomorrow when I have Wi-Fi. (If I have Wi-Fi.) Deep blue mountains served as the backdrop for a dazzling array of autumn colors; sometimes a far-flung slice of Virginia countryside would unroll, with fields, barns, houses. If the wind had not been blowing a near constant 30 mph or higher, I might yet be up there!
From the cliffs to the campsite I was aiming for was a long 4 miles. The trail sagged between high points over and over again, and due to the fact I didn’t drink enough water today, my left thigh muscles kept spasming and threatening to cramp.
Let’s talk about the weather, because it is certainly making itself heard tonight. It never really warmed up out of the 50’s today, even though it was mostly sunny a lot of the day. The wind never stopped, and still has not. I was going to shelter up, but a) it was full of Boy Scouts, and b) too open to the wind. So I am in my tent, in my sleeping bag, wearing a double layer of socks, long johns, pants, a long sleeve shirt, and a fleece parka. It is pretty darn cold up here! I was all prepared to feel sad and melancholy about tonight being my last night out on trail, but with this temp, I can’t pull off sad and melancholy, just grateful. I’ll try again tomorrow.
Tomorrow will be a short day – obligatory photo on McAfee Knob, 7 miles to Catawba, another AYCE place, and then a shuttle to a hostel that only asks for a donation instead of having a fixed rate. Either Monday or Tuesday will be my final hiking day – schedule still a little in flux, but I planned on that.
The smell of multiple campfires is drifting on the wind rushing over the tents. This campsite and the shelter are full of people – there must be at least twenty tents here. There is at least one full Boy Scout troop, a number of section and weekend hikers, a few southbound hikers like me. Things have mostly quieted down – except for the wind, of course. Very soon now I will insert earplugs and curl up – I hope.
I hike on!