I got a solid 12.7 miles in at pack mule pace and camped at a camp site with Jay, who I met April 3rd on SPringer Mountain and haven't seen since. It's nice to run into people like that. Jay was either really tired or antii-social, or nervous about noroviris, because he said "Hi" and then promptly retreated to his tent for the night at 5:30. That left me to set up camp, make and eat dinner, and hang my bear bag all by my lonesome. That's okay. It was one hell of a bear hang!
May 3: I woke up to a foggy, windy morning. It wasn't rainy, but it was very foggy, like being inside a cloud (which I essentially was). Knowing that the tent an rainfly would never dry in this weather, I put them away wet and hit the trail. The day started out on Unaka Mountain, hiking through the spruce forest. It reminded me of being in the Pacific Northwest. Or somewhere you may find a gingerbread house. Condensation was dripping off the trees, and big fog ghosts were blowing by. At the next shelter, I caught up with Prayer Walker who had been dropped off at the Beauty Point after her night in the hotel. We did Elevnesies together and hiked together, as she was also doing pack mule speed. Had lunch in an old apple orchard, where we met Billy-Jack and Uncle Buck wit his dog, Jake. They were very nice, sending out words of encouragement to Prayer Walker, who was down on herself because she thought she'd be so much further by now, and to me, as I used my water bottle as an ice pack for my ankle. That afternoon, we pushed on to a shelter where we were once again reunited with Billy-Jack and Uncle Buck, and were joined later by Jackalope and Crash. Good day.
May 4: Today was both the worst and the best day on the trail since I started. Today was the day the storm rolled in.
They day started out very blustery. No rain, just lots and lots of wind. I started out the day with a steep climb that just never ended. Acording to my guide book, I should have had a steep climb followed by a descent into a campsite, where I planed to stop for a mid morning break. Never descended. Never saw the campsite. As a matter of fact, I never passed anyplace that was remotely horizonatal or dry, so it became clear that I was just going to have to push ahead to Roan Knob SHelter for lunch, on the other side of the 6200 peak. The higher I climbed, the windier, the foggier it got. Finally, when I got to the shelter around 12:15, I joined the rest of the people from the shelter last night, and they were all in simiar spirits. So we at together cold, frustrated, anxious to begin the descent into lower altituded where hopefully the wind and fog woud lessen.
It didn't happen.
Yes, we descended a bit from 6000 feet, but we stayed above 5000 feet all day, so the wind and the fog stayed too.
ANd then I hit the grassy balds.
The grassy balds, as in absolutely no wind protection whatsoever. So...foggy, windy, no wind protection, low spirits, cold, and a wonky ankle. Not the recipe for a happy hiker! There were many places along the way where I had to crouch down and just let the wind gusts die down a little, because the wind was blowing me sideways off the trail. I was paranoid about falling and turtling over with my pack, having to wait by myself in the rain and the wind for somebody to find me.
By the time I hit the rocky climb, I was at an all time low for the entire trip and I had a mini-meltdown, thinking nothing but "I don't want to do this anymore. I want to go home. This is the worst thing I've ever done."
I finally got back into the woods and some wind protection where I was promptly passed by about 6 faster hikers. Great.
Around 3:00, things got better. Hawkeye caught up to me on the trail and walked the last 2 miles to the shelter with me. "Did you hike those balds all by yourself? Man, I wouldn't want to hike that solo. That must have been scary" he said.
The shelter was a big, old, abandoned barn that had been converted. It was huge! There were 28 hikers in there and room for more. I got a spot, got settled and changed into dry clothes and things started looking up. A number of other hikers were talking about the older woman who they passed on the balds. "I walked with her for a while, but then she told me to go on ahead. She didn't seem to want me with her." Prayer Walker! Oh, I hoped she was okay.
Around 6, Uncle Buck showed up and dropped his pack. He had come across Prayer Walker setting up her tent in a windy, unprotected spot because she just coudn't go any further. He had convinced her to come to the next shelter and when she was walking again, he went ahead to drop his pack so he could go back and carry her backpack for her. "No, you come in and get dry. I'll go get her." Billy-Jack said.
When Billy Jack and Prayer Walker arrived at the barn, Dorothy had a hot cup of tea waiting for Prayer Walker and another hiker had cooked a hot dinner for her, as well.
Today, I had gone from wishing I had never started this whole thing to being so grateful to be a part of this wonderful community of people who look out for one another and one person's success everyone's success. I am so lucky to be part of this!
Before bed, Hawkeye invited me to walk with him and Subaru.