I packed up my bunk by 6:30 and headed downstairs in time for 7 o’clock breakfast. My body was still zinging from the 20 miles the day before. My thought was to take the shuttle back up the VA 623 and hike 5 miles down to the next shelter and wait for Robin Hood and his group of hikers. On the 45-minute ride we remarked at the dark clouds ahead. It was chilly too at about 58 degrees on top of the mountain. My plan was to rest for a few hours at the road crossing to give my feet a chance to stop hurting. But the weather was not as nice as the first time I did that and so I re-evaluated my options.
Tina suggested I ride back down to the hostel for a zero. Neil was a recent arrival that rode up with us to do the 20 slackpack and I could catch a ride back up with him the next day. I hesitated because I didn’t want to loose my group of friends and I was ready to move out of the area. After a few minutes at the top I decided it was too cold to be stationary for an extended period and I decided to go back to the hostel. I choked back a few tears as I watched Disco and Shock Top walked north. I couldn’t keep up with them anyway.
On the way back to the hostel I asked Tina about her southbound thru hike in 2009. When I got back I made myself a frozen pizza and began writing about the past few days. It was lonely at the hostel without my new friends. I stared out the window to the south at the ridge of the AT that I wouldn’t be hiking.
Two hikers Black Widow and Wafflebottoms were still hanging around after a late night traveling to Bristol to see their friend who was the wounded hiker. Black Widow told us she was going to be ok. No vitals were hit. She was in good spirits and hoping to hike the trail next year. She didn’t want people to quit the trail because of this incident. They had been hiking together for the last month and a half but that night Black Widow decided to stay with Robin Hood’s group 10 miles south.
Black Widow hiked through the scene yesterday with Robin Hood’s group. She described the site having red flags stuck in the ground and floss strung around trees. Looks like the authorities didn’t clean up everything. Just listening to the description made me shiver. She showed a picture to Tina.
Black Widow and Wafflebottoms were very kind toward me and we exchanged numbers. They wanted to know where I would be getting back on after Trail Days. By noon, they were both gone to hike to the next shelter north. It was time to move on and move through.
There is obvious risk in hiking the AT. I take it seriously. I’m not out here because I’m not afraid. I’m out here to learn how to deal with my fear and anxiety. The kindness I’ve been shown by other hikers in the last few days has helped me feel taken care of and confident that the trail is a safe place.
I didn’t go back outside all day. Rainy and cold. I was glad to be resting but anxious about sitting still. I saw Tina leave with trekking poles and a trash bag some time that afternoon. She was gone until dark. Her mom later told me she had gone to clean up what was left at the scene.
I cooked one of my camp meals for dinner and sat with the rest of the guests. I soaked my feet in Epsom salts while Neil made it back from his 20 mile slackpack. He asked me what my name was and I told him people were calling me 20 Too Soon and Research Assistant. Neil said Research is a cool name. So I decided then I would be Research. We decided to watch the Goonies before bed. It actually put me a little on edge. I finally hit my bunk at 11 pm. Which is like 2 in the morning for a thru hiker.