The day started early, when fellow southbounders Budget and Buffalo ‘knocked’ on my tent at 6 am, as requested. It was still dark as I packed up and ate a quick breakfast with them, though growing lighter in the east. Full sunrise hit as I was hiking up the slope of McAfee Knob, but I only had 0.7 miles to go, and I reached the top very shortly after sunrise, about 8:15.
What a view.
What. A. View.
When Buffalo and Budget caught up, we took turns taking pictures of each other, then just settled back and soaked in the view. Other southbounders were already up there – Pumpkin, and Hiccup, who I last saw at the White Mountain Hostel in New Hampshire. Though it was forbidden to camp up on the Knob, there were several tents tucked away in the rock maze section of trail leading up to the top. Made me wish I had camped up there as well.
It was windy still, so I headed down after a while. All five of us were headed for the same place – the Home Place restaurant about 4 miles down the trail, scheduled to open at 11 am. We planned to rendezvous at the road and catch a ride out, there, but I stopped at a shelter on the way down, and they unknowingly passed me by. When they got to the road and didn’t see me, they figured I went ahead, and went ahead themselves… When I reached the road, I waited 30 minutes for them, then caught a ride out there.
All that meant was that I ate my food in my own company, and was able to give it my full attention. It deserved my full attention!!! Fried chicken, roast beef, green beans, buttermilk biscuits with apple butter, pinto beans, corn, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, gravy, iced tea, coffee… And endless refills on. every. single. thing. There is a reason this restaurant is a trail legend and icon; from the beginning, it was part of my budget and plan. I took enough leftovers to serve for dinner as well, and I am so full. That does not happen very often at all lately!
Full enough that I would roll down a hill if prodded by a stick, I contacted the hostel, and they sent a shuttle to get me. This is a pretty basic hostel, a collection of beds and cots in a converted garage, but very welcoming with cheerful employees. Pretty full tonight, there are about 10 people here, including Hiccup and Philosopher, who I didn’t expect to see again – injury slowed her down. Sadly, Budget and Buffalo are not – I was getting used to seeing them at night.
I have about 20 miles left to hike. Tomorrow I will slackpack 10 or 12, then return to the hostel- my cousin Jean is driving out to meet up with me tomorrow. 🙂 Dinner with him tomorrow night, then Tuesday we will hike a section of trail that will include Dragon’s Tooth. Whatever mileage I have left to do, I will complete on Wednesday; I fly out on Thursday. Spreading out the remaining miles like this ensures that I don’t spend all my time hanging around the hostel. That would drive me nuts. It also stops me from getting moody, and falling into the “this is the last time I will do x” syndrome.
There is a group heading out to the gas station. The thought of another ice cream is tempting, but not enough to bestir me after all I have eaten. I feel like a python lying out in the sun, except there is no sun here anymore. At least it is quieter now. I don’t feel particularly social tonight. I just don’t.
I hike on!