I awoke to the sound of hikers stuffing sleeping bags and clothes into packs…swoosh, swoosh, swoosh. It was about 6:30. Breakfast was at 7. Tina’s breakfasts have become famous and at the top of the list in all the guide books. We all gathered around a big dinner table to eat. I picked out a small pack to put a few snacks and my rain gear in. 100% chance of rain.
Shock Top, Disco and I piled into Tina’s Dodge Caravan to make the 45 minute drive up the mountain to the trail. We hit the trail about 9:30 and I took off. I knew it would be hard to keep up so I wanted to get a head start. I didn’t want to hike alone today. We ran into a couple a few minutes in that Shock Top knew and they were within ear shot of the incident. They stayed in their tents. Disco passed us as we talked. I continued on for another 2 miles with Shock Top in sight behind me. At the first steep climb, I had to stop for a water break. I’m slow on the uphills. Shock Top is the opposite. She gains speed climbing up. She passed me half way up.
When I got to the top, there was a shelter and a beautiful view of Burks Garden. The rain and clouds cleared up just enough for me to see. Disco popped out of the shelter and we continued down the mountain. I stopped to fill up my water bottles and Disco hiked on.
I spent the next 15 miles alone, seeing occasionally a hiker or 2 walking the opposite direction. One of which was my new friend from Morehead City. I’ll call him Bob for his privacy. I was glad to see him and know he was safe. He was hiking with a younger woman and both had concerned looks on their faces as I passed. I asked them where they had come from and Bob said Marion. I didn’t ask any follow up questions as it seemed like they were ready to get a move on. About 2 o’clock the bottom fell out and the trail turned into a river. My feet were soaked within 20 minutes.
Anxiety was propelling me over the roots and rocks faster and faster ending the day with an average of 2.5 miles an hour. Stopped once for a food break at 4. I finally ran into the group of hikers that did the 10 miles of closed trail to the south. They were going 5 more to the next shelter. They were all very friendly and wanted to keep in touch. They were headed to Jenkins Shelter the next night and I hoped to meet them there. Soon after I ran into Patches. We were both glad to see each other. Patches told me who the were hikers that were involved in the incident. It was one hiker I had met Friday morning. I won’t use her name for her privacy. Patches said she ran 6 miles in the dark back to the highway for help.
With 3 miles to go, my feet hurt so much they were numb. I trudged up the final hill and into a cow pasture. The weather was clearing. I shuffled up the road to the hostel and plopped into a chair at about 6:45 pm. Shock Top started calling me 20 Too Soon. I agree, it was too much too soon.
Miles: 575.9 – 555.7 (20.2)