Today will be our last day on the trail this year! It is a happy day and a sad one all at the same time. We are glad to be done with the southern portion of the trail, but sad to be leaving the trail and the friends we have made this year. Both of us will go through "Trail Withdrawls" for a couple of weeks. The body will wake up and wonder where the pack is and why we aren't walking by 9AM. We will be going somewhere and see mountains out the window and yearn to be walking the ridgeline, doing quick mentalcalculations on how long it would take to walk that stretch. See someone with a backpack walking beside the road and wonder what trail they are on. As I travel up and down the East coast, everytime I get near the AT's route I'll watch for the signs to the places we have walked, places where I know the trail crosses the interstate and for the hikers wishing I was with them. We'll think of the hikers as we watch hte weather along the trail, missing the good days and glad we are home on the bad ones. Thinking and planning for next year when we will try to do the last 1,164 miles from Harpers Ferry to Katadhin.
Last night was laundry night. While working on it I ran into some of the guys from our Pod who had been walking wiht for the past few weeks. They were talking about the past few days and how tough CC is on the trail. Haggus talked of how he and his brother had passed us early in the day, then we would catch them every time they had a break. They took breaks every four miles or so, as they would be rucking up to take off we would come walking up. We had one break early in the day, but as the day wore on and the weather deterioated we just kept walking. They really tried to out distance us, however we were like the "Little Nahs Rambler" and kept going beep, beep! When they made their last stop off the trail we walked past out of sight and they didn't know we had passed until they reached town. They wanted to know how many miles we walked without a break that day. Turns out we did 13 miles straight! CC was in front setting the pace as always. She said all she was trying to do was stay warm in the rain and get to town for a hot shower.
The night was quiet in our room. Even the train passing through town every other hour faded into dream noise soon enough. Rain drumming against the roof and window made sleep come quick. Our only problem was the antique bed we were sleeping in. I'm not sure what size it was intended to be, I do know it was way too short for me. CC even complained it was tough getting comfortable when her feet were hitting the footboard. I considered sleeping on the floor with my pad and sleepingbag, problem there was the antique floor was anything but level or smooth. Morning came soon enough and the rumblings of our stomachs told us it was time for breakfast. Long miles were planned for today so CC insisted on a proper sitdown meal of more substance than oatmeal. Off we went to the town diner for a breakfast of more than 300 calories. French toast, bacon, eggs and cold orange juice for CC. An enormous omlet, home fries and an english muffin for me. Back to the room for our packs, turn in the keys and out the door for our last days hike.
After yesterdays rain this morning was a real keeper. Mist rose from the valley and the sun was working on burning the excess humidity from the air. Everything was fresh and new, flowers bloomed with the sweet smell of morning. The Lord had blessed us with perfect weather on this our last day. We didn't see many boot prints in the dirt beside the road as we walked out of town at 8:20AM, so it seemed we were among the first group of hikers to head north today. Crossing the French Broad River we headed up towards the top of "Lovers Leap" a 500' climb in 1.5 miles. Switchbacks made the climbless painful and the temp was in the low 50s so sweat was kept to a minimum. Two of the guys (Charlie and Grandpa Joe) caught us as we topped the climb. We had stopped for pictures along the climb allowing them to catch us. They knew this was our last day so goodbys were said and they blazed off as they are 20+ mile per day hikers.
We had tried to get pictures of birds last year and this year with little luck. As with the weather the Lord smiled on us and I was able to get a shot of a Scarlte Tanger. It is a Swallow sized bird who is brilliant red with black wings. We saw a number of them last year and they were always too quick to flit away before I could get them in the viewfinder. The day was improving on perfect.
We plodded along talking about it being our last day and exchanging pleasantries with the other hikers we met. Our plan was to walk to the first shelter, take a lunch break then blast for the car. I hadn't looked close at the guidebook or map last night, laundry and visiting took a priority. I knew it was 16.3 miles on the trail, then.5 miles to the place where the car was parked. I was thinking the shelter was about the halfway point. We had walked and walked the time ticking away with each step. Our pace seemed about average to at times even fast, but hte shelter never appeared. Talk soon shifted to how could we have missed the thing. 11, 12 and then 1PM came and went, still no shelter! We had stopped to shed a few cloths as the day warmed and even grabbed a quick snack one time. Our water was getting low and all the streams we passed were dry, hunger was setting in along with concerns about our water. I had only put half of our normal amount in the drinking bags trying to keep our pack weight down to make the miles easier on this long day. Fresh cool water was sounding real good as the temp edged close to the mid 70s. Just before 2PM the old log shelter appeared out of the trees looking like a palace! We had hoped the thing was at least the halfway mark. We were elated to discover we had covered 11 miles since leaving town as we sat down in front of the shelter.
30 minutes later we started the last leg of the year, lunch done, feet rested and cold mountain spring water in the drinking bags. The last miles seemed to drag. We are not sure if we slowed down without thinking or we just wanted to make it last a bit longer. Soon enough we arrived at the dirt road that le ddown off the mountain to where the car was parked. We took each others pictures standing next to the sign where we were forced to end our hike last year. Now we had completed the 288 mile walk from Springer Mountain in 22.5 days. This years stata are as follows:
26 dayson the trail
22.5 days walking
289.4 miles completed including the approach and departure trails
12.86 miles per day averaged
We will try to be on the trail by the end of June next year at Harpers Ferry, WV heading north in an attempt to complete our AT hike of 2,175 miles. Thanks again to all who followed us this year and for your encouraging remarks. I'll add the photos as soon as I can. Until next year. Thank You.
OD and CC
Tot: 1.801s; Tpl: 0.04s; cc: 9; qc: 50; dbt: 0.031s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb