(Please see previous post for the first day of our hike).
There were good points to the second day of our hike … and not-so-good points. I actually took no further spills for the remainder of the trip, a huge positive when you are already limping your way, up and down mountains. On the other hand, I smelled putrid. But then again, so did everyone. This is a good thing, as your own hiking odor is so pungent that you cannot actually smell anyone else–nor they you. A strange but true comfort of the woods.
We left the Priest Shelter around 7:30 am for the day’s 17 mile trek. Thankfully, the terrain was generally smooth rather than the more-often-than-not-copious-boulder-fields one finds themselves crawling over, under, and down on the Appalachian Trail. The trail itself today took us up and down mountain saddles approximately seven times. None of the climbs or descents were extensive, for which my knee and I were eternally grateful. One thru-hiker we passed in the midst of a valley said, “You know, its either uphill or downhill on this trail–no inbetween.” True, in fact, or so it seems to a backpacker’s weary legs. The nice thing about thru-hiking is that, once you arrive in VA, you have your physical conditioning pretty well intact. Section hikers, such as ourselves, are not so fortunate. You can run, you can walk with a pack on, you can go up and downhills–but there is no better preparation than several weeks of doing it. If you are only able to hike four to seven days at a stretch, you are likely going to be in some sort of pain most of the time (this goes for the middle agers–I suppose the twenty-somethings bounce back a tad more quickly).
We ran in to a ridgerunner–Mike–about half way through the day. Ridgerunners are usually volunteers, either of the local trail club or the Appalachian Trail Conference. They are harbingers of good faith, and watchful eyes for people in trouble or people making trouble. You do not see them very often, but when you do, they are a welcome sight. Mike gave us the run down of what we could expect and where the scenic views were for the rest of the day’s hike. He made sure to point our attention to a large tree growing out from a boulder, about a mile down the trail. It made for an interesting photo, which I’ve included in today’s gallery.
Our day ended at the Cow Camp Shelter. Nothing fancy, but a very decent shelter. Dave S (whose trailname, by the way, is “Antman”) had arrived well before us. In his company was an older gentleman who called himself “Statesman”. Statesman was in his late 60’s, recently retired from teaching high school and university biology. He looked like a biology professor–round spectacles, curly hair, thin and lean-bodied, and somewhat quirky–I did not take his photograph. Statesman was looking for some peace and quiet. He seemed a gentle soul, out to bother no one, and social enough–but rather private. So I respected that. He tented by the stream, even though it stormed voraciously throughout the night until nearly the time of breaking dawn.
We awoke to some owls chattering like three women in beauty shop. A beautiful alarm clock sound which I am fortunate enough to frequently fall asleep to most nights at home. It was amusing–you could almost visualize them talking to one another, somewhere up in the high foilage. We completed our morning chores, bid our goodbyes to Statesman, and trod off for what was supposed to be our shortest and easiest day of the hike.
Sometimes things don’t work out the way you visualize them.
More soon. Hike on.