April 8, 2018
Destination: Campsite at mile 488.7 Today's Miles: 9.10
Start Location: Saunders Shelter Trip Miles: 488.70
Last night Inside Out tented close to me since the shelter was full. I think she has a tendency to talk to herself, as I heard her doing so when I was in my tent getting ready to go to sleep.
I talk to myself out loud occasionally as well, but only when I’m alone. Anyway, I don’t know what was going on, but I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to her muttering, shining her headlamp around, and making lots of noise. It sounded like she was breaking down camp, but it felt like a crazy hour to do that - I think it was about 3am. I fell back asleep, and when I woke up later in the morning she was gone. Maybe I will pass her later on and get the story on what happened. Another camp mystery!
I slept in until about 8. I got up and grabbed my food bag down and scrambled back to bag. It was cold - around 23-25! It was no longer snowing, but the wind was gently nudging tiny flecks of snow off of the branches overhead. I had breakfast in bag: coffee, two packets of maple brown sugar oatmeal with honey (courtesy of some honey packets I pilfered from Mojo’s), and a few spoonfuls of Jif Maple peanut butter. Jif Maple is the ultimate peanut butter and I can barely contain myself when I eat it. I found it at Food City in Damascus. Imagine the best day you’ve ever had on earth, and the best feeling you’ve ever had (whether medicinally induced or otherwise), and the best view you’ve ever seen. Combine all of those with winning the lottery and multiply that by one billion. Then add infinity. Now you’re getting close to what Jif Maple peanut butter is like. I very much want to procure a snickers so I can try dipping that in Jif Maple, but I’m a little afraid my head will explode. I’m definitely going to try it though. As soon as possible. It keeps me awake thinking about it and it makes me want to giggle.
After breakfast, I took my time getting my gear together. My tent, tarp, and footprint were icy, and my down bag had ice in it too from condensation, so I would need to find a sunny place for lunch so I could spread that gear out to dry. My hands were once again numb from cold - we can’t seem to get away from it. I set off hiking to get my blood pumping.
I meandered along at a conservative pace and passed by some campsites next to a stagnant pond. At around 11:45, I rounded a bend and who was coming southbound but a guy named Zane. I had met Zane back in Georgia just north of Springer Mountain. I think I mentioned him in an early journal. Turns out he’s still chugging along. He was waiting on a package to arrive in Damascus, but as it was Sunday, he had someone shuttle him out of town and he was hiking back in. Then tomorrow morning he’ll get his package and get shuttled back to where he started today. I’ll probably see him again then! After we chatted, I came upon a nice sunny spot by a small creek. Looked good! I spread out my tenting gear and sleeping bag in the sun and sat by the creek on my butt pad to eat lunch. I had some tuna, nuts, and snack mix, and another couple of spoonfuls of Jif Maple. As my tongue pressed the Jif into the roof of my mouth, the sounds of the creek grew more vivid, more sharp. It was like I could hear each molecule of water making its own way downstream. Time slowed down. My eyes rolled backwards into a happy place in the back of my skull. The wind rustled ever so lightly, and I felt a tingling chill. Jif Maple.
I stayed in that spot for about 40 minutes to let things dry. I filtered water and then sat down and played Pooh sticks. Just as in the Winnie the Pooh books, Pooh sticks is where you throw little sticks in the water and then watch their progression through the small shoals and tiny rapids. I pretended my sticks were kayakers, braving the rapids of the Stikine, or maybe the deadly Nile. I watched as one got trapped in a small recirculating hydraulic, disappeared and then reappeared 6 inches downstream (it was a small creek). It reminded me of books I liked as a kid, and still do like, such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, and Paddle to the Sea.
When things were mostly dry I headed on again. The trail dropped down and joined the Virginia Creeper trail for a bit. This section of trail was gorgeous as it followed the banks of a lively, clear trout stream. I definitely want to go back to Damascus to ride the Creeper trail with Gillian - it has such amazing scenery and it’s all downhill! I turned off the Creeper Trail, weaving through the woods as droplets of melting snow released the rhododendron from the burden of their weight. I passed Lost Mountain Shelter and signed the log book. I saw Bear Meat and Clooney and Weeble and False Alarm had signed it too, albeit two days ago. I continued on and climbed up in elevation, crossing a cow pasture and road. My intended campsite was just ahead. There was only one level site and it was right off the trail behind a huge boulder. It looked pretty cool, so I took it! I had the place to myself. Black Dog passed by. He had left Damascus today. After he met me at the bunkhouse he had also gone to get a new pair of shoes.
I did my normal camp chores and ate and retired early. I wanted to get up earlier so I could increase my miles a bit tomorrow while still keeping an easy pace. Tomorrow I plan to hike to Wise Shelter in the Grayson Highlands, as long as my heels feel ok. That will put me past the 500 mile mark! My total mileage in my journal has not been correct. Originally I included the Approach Trail miles - I deleted those because I decided I wanted the numbers to only reflect AT miles. I had a duplicate entry in the Smokies and I had to delete that. Now it is all correct!
I’m grateful that the snow wasn’t too bad and that the day was beautiful and my heels and feet felt good. I am happy that I was able to go easy today and ignore my ego, who wanted to walk “just a little bit more.” I’m grateful for Jif Maple and all of its bliss. Overnight it is supposed to rain/snow, and then do more of that tomorrow off and on. I’m hoping for some visibility once I get up to Buzzard Rock and the highlands. We shall see....