Que the 6 o’clock bustle. My final morning at the Quarter Way. I was feeling okay but still sore and tired. Neil and I planning to hike together 16 miles to Bland where there was another hostel where we could slackpack. Somewhere over the last few days I decided that my conditioning period was over and I was ready for hiker speed so 16 didn’t seem like a big deal especially since I had done 20 two days before.
After another amazing breakfast, I paid for my stay and thanked Tina for the safe, welcoming and warm space to process the hard news of the weekend. We hopped in the van for another 45 minute drive up the mountain. It was a cool and windy day again. I put on my rain jacket and wind pants to keep warm.
The first few miles were slow. We stopped for lunch at a shelter 5 miles in. Neil is from New Orleans and is a dermatologist who went to Harvard. I liked Neil and was glad to be hiking with him. We met a triple crowner (someone who has hiked the AT, PCT, and CDT) at lunch named Cache 22. He was from California. He asked us how far we were from the incident. “6 miles” said Neil. “9 miles” I said. It’s still weighing heavy on my fellow hikers minds, mine included.
We decided to try to make it to the Brushy Mountain Outpost before they closed at 6. We’d have to pick up our pace to 3 miles an hour. We had 11 miles to go. I started speed hiking right after lunch. Later at a break, Neil said he could hardly keep up. He also said, “The mountain doesn’t kick your ass, you do.” Point taken.
I started to slow down as the day went on. 16 miles is quite a ways. I caught up with Bob (the hiker I met 4 days ago) about half way and I managed to ask him about where he stayed the night of the incident. He stopped me to tell me his story. He had camped 5 miles south that night with another hiker. In the middle of the night he heard a call for help and he and his neighbor helped the wounded woman a mile back to the road for help. He spent the next day in the sheriff’s office in Marion. I thanked him for his bravery and for telling me his story. We remarked at how incredible the woman is that survived. We continued hiking and I pulled ahead on the uphill. Neil was far up the trail by now.
A few miles later I caught up to Neil having a snack. Each step was painful. We continued on together and arrived at the outpost at 5:15, just in time to catch Patches finishing a hamburger. She was surprised to see me. I ordered a cheeseburger and fries and called the hostel for a pick up. Bob joined us too and we discussed the greatest lady singers of country music.
Neil and I hopped in the shuttle and Bob stayed at the outpost to camp for the night with Cache 22. The hostel was a 15 minute drive and in an old church building. There was one big room with about 10 beds and a huge flatscreen tv. I went out to make a few phone calls. Cecil said he might drive up tomorrow to hike with me for the next 3 days. That would sure help me ease back in to sleeping in the woods. One of the hikers there came out to let me know they had fixed me a plate of pasta. I thought that was awfully sweet. I quickly ate as Talladaga Nights was ending. It was late and I was, once again, exhausted. I threw on my sleeping cloths and plugged one ear.
575.9 – 591.7 (15.8)