Day 3

It was a restless night. Even though there were at least 10 people sleeping there I couldn’t help but think about all the bear activity that I’ve been reading about. We all put our food in the bear locker instead of hanging it from a tree. No bears showed up but there was a very loud snorer in the shelter. I’m glad I tented.

This is my first night on the trail and testing out my gear. I made a last minute sleeping bag and pad change to save me a pound and it worked pretty well. The low was in the mid 50s. I don’t think I would be comfortable any lower than that. I rose at about 730. Half the hikers were already gone. I walked over to retrieve my food bag and made granola with coconut milk powder. Not bad but a little lumpy. I met a few hikers that were still there, one included a middle aged guy named Robin Hood.

Our resident shelter pony appeared and stared me down for my oats. It didn’t get any. As Two Sticks left the shelter he remarked at why the water was yellow which hadn’t occurred to me: horse poo. I decided I was going to look for a water source outside of horse country for my next resupply. After I ate I packed up my tent and stuffed everything in my pack. I thanked the camp site for a safe night and began my hike.

I crossed a rushing creek and up through more horse pastures. I pulled out my harmonica to pass the time and to alert any bears in the area. I came upon a field of fiddle heads and looked to my left to see the ridge where I had walked over yesterday. I cruised through this leisurely graded path and down through a gate. Bye horsies.

After 12 miles yesterday I thought I couldn’t possibly do any more today. My options were 6 miles to the next shelter or 11 to the next. I stopped at the next shelter at 11:30 and sat down for a 30-minute lunch break. I was making surprisingly good time. I was just catching Robin Hood at the end of his lunch. He set out in the trail as I dug in to my snack bar. He said, you’ll probably catch me. I’m slow. I thought it was fairly early in the day to be quitting so I stretched by legs and arms and hiked on after my cheese, jerky, and tortilla chips entree.

The 900 foot climb up Iron Mountain was steady with the sun bearing down on my back. I stuffed my orange rag under my hat to protect my sun-burned neck. I passed a couple with a dog that were trudging up the mountain painstakingly with huge packs. On my way down the mountain I saw some trash on the trail and bent down to pick it up but realized that it was bear scat. A snickers wrapper and a lemonade packet was all I could make out. I had been reading about bear activity at the next shelter and decided then that I probably shouldn’t stay there but maybe I would wait and see who was there.

I continued up and over the mountain with no view and lots of rocks. My shoulders were killing me so I tried to rearrange the placement of my food bag in my pack. That helped some. Through the thick baby green forest I finally arrived at the spur trail to the Hurricane Mountain Shelter. 11 miles so far on my feet. I sat down to rest, snack, and think. It was only 230.

I saw on my map there was a campground 3 miles ahead and half a mile off the trail. They had showers but it was not supervised by any official entity. That bothered me as some partying fools could be there making racket or have an inclination to bother a single hiker. I walked to the side trail to the campground. It was only 2 miles til the road crossing to the next town: Troutdale. There was a hostel there that offered epsom salt foot baths and free breakfast and shuttling. That sounded better than unknown circumstances at the campground.

I began to play harmonica again to ease my anxiety about bears. I hiked on slower and slower up the big hill to the waterfall crossing. The bridge was out. I had to continue up another trail to a dirt road that put me out on VA 16. A road I had traveled frequently when I was living in Boone.

I reached the road relieved that I could finally stop walking. It was 5:15. I hoped for cell service and there was none. It was 3 miles to town. I started walking checking my phone every 5 minutes. Finally, after a mile my call went through. They had one room for me but the shuttle wouldn’t be out for another hour. I said I’ll just keep walking.

I choose not to hitch alone. My feet were numb. Another half a mile down the road a white SUV pulled over. It was an older lady and asked if I needed a ride. It felt safe so I hopped in. Turns out she was the pastor’s wife from the church hostel in town. She asked if I was going there and I said sheepishly I was going to the other one, the Sufi Lodge. She dropped me there with not much else to say.

I got there in time to take a shower and eat homemade chicken parmigiana with rice and salad. My favorite. There were about 4 other hikers there too. The lady of the house didn’t eat with us since she was fasting for Ramadan. The building looked like it was some type of medical clinic. Kinda weird but I had a room to myself. I was a little disappointed that I had to “hostel” so soon on a fair weather night but I had pushed too hard and needed it.

I walked a total 17.5 miles (16 official trail miles. A personal record. I feel like I’ve been hit by a dump truck. I’ll have to see how I feel in the morning before I make a decision about continuing. I may need an entire day off even though it’s too early for that. Rain is supposed to move in tomorrow too and I might just scoot on over to the church hostel since they are donation based. $45 dollars for a converted examining room is pretty step for my budget.

Mile: 504.1 – 520.1 (16)

Total: 34.7