The Heat is On

April 13, 2018

Destination: Lick Creek Campsite Mile 563.5 Today's Miles: 15

Start Location: Davis Path Campsite at Mile 548.5 Trip Miles: 563.50

Rolling Hills of Virginia
I woke up before light and laid in my tent for a bit. I went outside to pee, then crawled back in and tried to decide if I wanted to start packing up, or just lay there for a bit longer.

In making such a decision, I was really just laying there for a bit longer. Suddenly I heard an incredibly loud owl call. it sounded like it was right over by Sauerkraut’s hammock! Maybe the owl was telling him to wake up. I believe the owls we have been hearing are great horned owls, but I am not sure. They make a very traditional owl noise, unlike something like a screech owl, which basically sounds like some kind of assault in progress. 

I made the climb to get my humongous food bag down from the ridge. When I got back, as I packed up my tent I pulled the trash tissue out of it. I figured I would blow my nose in it again to save tissue, so I did. I then realized I blew my nose all over the dead spider I squashed! Wrong tissue..... after picking up camp, we all had breakfast and good conversation over it. Two gents who looked like thru hikers passed by our campsite as we ate. Sauerkraut and I had both become mildly obsessed with stopping at A place called Brushy Mountain Outpost at mile 591.2. The challenge was that it was closed on Sundays. They had some resupply items, but the real motivation was food - burgers and milkshakes made onsite. We were even discussing hiking big miles today to get to Chestnut Knob Shelter or just past it, and then getting up at 4am to hike into Brushy on Saturday. Food will make thru hikers do crazy things, especially when it is a specific food craving or destination. Eddie and Rumi were walking a short day to a hostel, so Sauerkraut and I headed out. As an aside, I wanted to explain Rumi’s name. It comes from Ruminant, which basically means having a stomach with four compartments, like a cow. Someone saw her eating a lot of food and called her that. Her and Eddie joked about changing it to Hungry Cat II, since she goes by Kat in real life. I think Rumi will continue to stick at this point though.

I cruised along hiking the various ups and downs. I met up with Sauerkraut just after passing an old quarter way sign, presumably from a year when the AT mileage was different. It was at that point that I realized though that we really had gone a quarter way. It feels like the time has gone so fast. I don’t feel like I’ve been living in the woods for that long.... As we both filtered some water and discussed this, a young couple trotted up. Their names were Apollo and Skutch and they were thru hikers from Ohio. I didn’t get the details on Apollo’s trail name, but Skutch is interesting. Apparently Apollo’s grandfather is Italian and used to call his wife that. Thinking it was an affectionate nickname, Apollo called his girlfriend with that term of endearment. They later found out it is some kind of Italian slang for pain in the butt! They are both runners, but apparently Apollo has placed pretty highly in the Boston Marathon before. They were telling me about some crazy intense race called the Barkley Marathon, but then I had to drop out of the pack to pee. 

I hiked on my own for a while and as we descended in elevation I found some nice patches of violets and ate some. It’s one of the several edible plants I can identify. I walked along beside pasture land and then out into an open pasture. The day was getting quite hot! It felt like it was about 80 degrees. I saw Sauerkraut up ahead going over a cattle fence ladder. I joined him on the other side and found some nice patches of chickweed there and ate some of that as well. I mixed a bit of wild onion stem in with it and had some trailside salad. We hiked on and up the rolling pasture hills with incredible views of the little valley we were in. It was HOT! I was sweating buckets and stopped to put some sunscreen on. I hiked on and eventually came to a pretty creek near a farm. I crossed over it as the trail climbed up its bank along the ridge on the other side. There was a creepy looking old barn that had definitely seen better days on the other side of the river. I hiked past that and past where Sauerkraut was taking a break, and then out of the forest into a meadow again. I ran into three lady hikers there in the heat under the blazing sun. One was named Nat Geo because she knew a lot about local flora, another was named Navigator. I can’t remember the third lady’s name. I kept pushing on and I knew I needed to take a break. I wanted to air out my feet, change my socks, and try to wet wipe off some salt deposits to avoid chafing. I also wanted to eat lunch. 

After a bit I came to a road crossing. Just past that was a campsite along Possum Creek. It was the perfect spot for a break. I did everything I had planned to do in terms of tending to my feet, etc, and ate a nice big lunch. Sauerkraut joined me and did much of the same. I left feeling energized, but the climb out of Possum Creek was steep, and soon I was just hot and sweaty again.

I finally stopped at Knot Maul Shelter to sign the log and break for a few minutes in the shade. Sauerkraut caught up and we continued on after briefly seeing the lady hikers again and Dimples, who had been at a hostel the night before. We refilled our waters and charged on. At the shelter one of the ladies had a thermometer on her bag. It read 82 degrees. It was definitely and adjustment and a change from the cold! We started another big climb and kept pushing and pushing up the hill. It was tough hiking in the heat. After the long climb we descended back into the woods and both kind of decided that there was no way to make Chestnut Knob shelter. It was too hot and we just needed to accept that it wouldn’t happen. We came upon a large creek with a bridge crossing over it. There were camping spots around it and it was quite beautiful. After consulting the guide, we figured out it was Lick Creek. It was five o’clock - quittin’ time - so we both happily laid down our packs and worked on setting up camp. An older gentleman named Captain America was camped across the river, and Wallace showed up and camped as well. Dimples passed through saying she was going to push on to Chestnut Knob. 

Sauerkraut and I came to acceptance that we would not make Brushy Mountain Outpost by Saturday. We began to think about a new scheme though. We joked about maybe having a short day and camping near it, or behind it. This would later morph and play out in an interesting way. I learned tonight that Wallace’s trail name is after his dog. His dog was killed by another dog about a year prior. Wallace is a vet from Tennessee and that’s about all I know about him thus far. 

I was grateful for the beautiful views today, especially the valley meadow views. I was thankful to find some natural nutrition in the meadow, the oasis to cool off at Possum Creek, and for the ability to stop pushing and start relaxing when the day got tough. Tomorrow will be another hot one.

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