Day 7

After a terrible nights sleep in the Lindamood School House (a mouse and was rummaging in the trash can all night) Disco and I hit the trail by 7:30 groaning about our exhaustion. We were planning on 13 miles today. It still hadn’t rained but the dark clouds were rising. We walked the 3 miles to I-81 and stopped at The Barn restaurant to eat breakfast.

Robin Hood stopped us outside the door. He said he had bad news and told us there had been a stabbing up the trail a few miles. The next 10 miles of trail north was closed by the police. The perpetrator was a guy that had popped up in Tennessee in April and threatened several hikers with his machete. The hiker community thought he had moved along back home to Massachusetts.

At the moment I sat down at a table to try and process the news my friend Melanie (trail name Peanut) called. I jumped up to take the call outside. She had heard the news on Facebook and I assured her I was ok. I returned to the table where Disco had ordered a plate of toast and eggs. I looked over the menu but didn’t feel like eating. I ordered some homefries and thought about what to do. I read Patches’ entry in the log book at the restaurant. “4pm: I saw Sovereign here with his dog walking outside” she wrote. I texted Patches and Sweet tooth to see if they were alright and they were. Another group of hikers were there processing the information too. The hostel owner at the Quarter Way Inn, Tina called to check in on me and I assured her I was ok. Tina said she would come and get me if I needed. I called Lucy, Cecil, and my parents to let them know what was going on and whether or not I should go home.

Shock Top arrived in a shuttle from Marion at about 9. She tried to start hiking that morning but the trail was closed there too. She was glad to see me and I was glad to see her. I assured her Patches was ok. She said she would have been at that campsite if she hadn’t gotten sick in Marion. I ate a few potatoes listening to folks talk about what they thought happened. A forest service official showed up to to let us know that the trail would be closed for the rest of the day and the suspect had been caught earlier that morning. There was one casualty and another injured.

Disco, Shock Top, Robin Hood and his crew planned to go to the hostel for the night and so I decided to go with them. The hostel shuttle showed up about 1 and we took windy dirt roads up and over mountains for about 45 minutes to the Quarter Way Inn.

I picked a bunk and headed for the showers. I put on loaner clothes and put my hiking duds in the laundry. The Quarter Way Inn is a remodeled farm house in the eastern part of Rich Valley near the small community of Ceres.

The hostel was full that night with about 20 hikers. The hours dragged on as I listened to other hikers trying to figure out who was involved. I thought back to the hikers I had met yesterday. They were all going further up the trail that night. There are no shelters only tenting sites in that stretch of trail which was why I planned on walking straight through to the hostel. The energy was low and sad. We were all shaken. We were grieving and we were heartbroken. Other hikers encouraged me to keep going. The trail is a safe place.

It had been raining on and off all day. At 7 the hostel owner Tina brought out some homemade cheese cake for us all and her Mom offer shoulder rubs. It had been a long day.

Disco was looking for folks to split a shuttle to do a 20 mile day hike back to the hostel the next day. I thought, I could do 10 but not 20. Shock Top decided to go for it too. The other group of hikers were planning on hiking the 10 miles that was closed. I did not want to hike that section of trail anytime soon. In an effort to stay with friends I liked and trusted, I decided I would try the 20 mile day hike north back to the hostel for another night inside and with company.

Mile: 542.8 – 545.6 (2.8)

Total: 60.4