Appalachian Trail – August 3, 2013
Climbing straight up a mountain first thing in the morning is so unfair! I started my climb up Barren Mountain immediately after hooking a right out of my side trail from the hunting camp. Both fourth Barren and whatever number Barren that followed were knee crunchers. I picked my way straight up through slick, wet roots and over sharp, pointy, wet rocks to reach the top and then picked my way straight back down. The trick is to avoid the rocks and roots, but that would require flying, and I only do that when hiking near ledges. It only takes one misstep on these climbs to end your hike, so I was careful. I’m in my forties. I have less bone calcium, I’m told. I did fall twice, but both times were near the bottom when I got a little overconfident and tried to skip over rocks a little too quickly.
There was some great river hiking, and I spread out at some falls to dry out my gear and eat lunch for an hour. Falls are one of my favorite water features on the trail. The roaring water’s peacefulness and constant movement calm all of the “chatter” in my head. I have always enjoyed almost any type of water, especially sleeping near it, although waking up with wet gear is not ideal.
I met several northbound hikers. There also appeared to be several thru hikers hiking or slack-packing sections. Tin Cup stopped to chat for a few minutes. I find that most of the older hikers enjoy the social aspect of the hike and often stop to talk. Some of the young ones do, but those have only been the southerners…go figure. I, too, am a sometimes chatty, south-of-the-Mason-Dixon hiker.
I took another short break up on one of the Barren Mountains. I think I was on 32, although the guide only had four. Some great views made the climb worthwhile, and like a large lizard, I sprawled and sun-worshiped at every opportunity. As I heard other hikers approach, I would quickly convert my heaving sprawl to a stoic, thoughtful pose, appearing well-rested as others passed, only to sprawl again as they moved out of sight.
I finally left the ridges and headed towards Wilson Falls, where I spotted some campsites down by the water, off to the side of the trail. I had just begun to set up when I saw another hiker approaching. She asked me how far it was to Wilson Valley Lean-to. I told her it was at least 4 miles, that she would be night hiking, and that she was welcome to camp down near the water since I saw multiple sites. She said she would put on her headlamp and keep hiking, so I wished her luck.
I bent over, continuing to set up my tarp, and smiled as I heard her returning down the trail. She shouted that she had changed her mind and cut down the hill to the sites. There is always safety in numbers.
The hiker’s name was Somer, and she was also from CT and had gone to school in SC. You can almost always find connections with people, and it never ceases to amaze me how small our human world is in the wilderness. I, too, now lived in CT and had gone to school in SC. We sat and chatted as we ate dinner, and I learned that this was only her second or third backpacking trip, and she had chosen the 100 Mile Wilderness. I love initiative. This was definitely a challenging section for someone just beginning to backpack, but I expected Somer would finish.
I cooked dinner and ate quickly as she was still setting up camp. It began to get chilly, and the mosquitoes were feasting, so I wished her a good night and headed for my shelter. I fall asleep in dark, get up at first light, and can already feel myself getting sleepy around 8 PM. I spent a little time nursing my feet before going to sleep. With all the rain and having them stay wet all day due to tromping through mud continuously, a few sores and blisters needed to be tended to. They usually dry out overnight, and I noted that they were beginning to toughen up.
I listened to the rustling and clinking as Somer moved around her camp. I enjoyed the solitude of backpacking solo, but I also appreciated the occasional comfort of knowing another human was nearby.