21.5 limped miles today by accident due to an annoying mountain and lack of water.
An unusual day today. Up and out not especially early at 7:50am interested to see how the ankle held up. Not well was the quick answer. Happy Trails, who was in camp last night, passed me by and suggested I tape it up the same way a brace works, a figure of 8 around the ankle to keep the foot at a right angle to the leg. Great idea. I had a go using a roll of plaster tape I had kept from the bad blister days. It felt better, more secure. Also, the 800mg of ibuprofen was kicking in.
I headed toward Clyde Smith shelter for about 1pm, a mere 9 miles in 5 hours over fairly easy terrain. On the way I got an encore of the cricket parade I first experienced in the Smokies, where hundreds of crickets jump all around you as you walk making a sound like falling rain. The video below doesn’t really capture it but here it is anyway:
I had wanted to do about 18 today to leave just 13 tomorrow so I can go to Mountain Harbor hostel and B&B. As well as civilised lodgings they run a free shuttle at 5pm into the nearest town for resupply. I had packed in Erwin with the expectation of this resupply. Also this represented my only (slim) chance of finding an ankle brace before Damascus which was still 100 miles away.
I managed to get 1 bar of phone signal and brought up a description of good taping technique for sprained ankles and copied it. That used up half my roll of tape but it felt much better. More ibuprofen.
Cruise was also at the shelter having lunch, another camper from last night. His name comes from Cruise Control because he goes the same speed uphill as downhill, not quick but consistent. He told me that he had the same problem a few days ago and he was really worried but it cleared up overnight!
The afternoon was more interesting. First up was a stiff clamber up Little Rock Knob.
After dropping down to 3900′ we began climbing 6300′ Roan Mountain. The treadway most of the way was ok for my ankle, smooth, but the last 1000′ was all rocks and it was painful and slow progress. Same on the 700′ way down too. Heaven only knows what that part is like to traverse in winter when the rocks are icy and covered in a carpet of snow to hide them. There may have been some views available at the top but they were off trail and I was very conscious of time now.
There was only 1 place nearby to spend the night after the peak, Roan High Knob shelter which is 0.1m off trail at mile 376 but that would leave too many miles to make tomorrow and reach the B&B in time for the town shuttle thus forcing a zero. Now I might need a injury zero anyway but I wanted it to be an option not a necessity.
So I needed more miles today. But it was 5:30pm and the next campsite was listed as 3.5 miles away. Sunset is at 8:30pm so there was still enough time. On I went, cursing the rocky treadway out loud. More ibuprofen.
Now there was also no water having passed by the shelter. I was thirsty and dry (meaning I carry no water). No choice – 3.5 miles and all my problems would be solved. Yeah, not so much.
On the way to this mythical campsite we pass over Round Bald at mile 378.2 which provides the best views of the day, partly due to the late afternoon sun.
For once the AWOL guidebook was very wrong. The campsite was 0.5m off trail (that part was written so it could have been on trail with views 0.5m away but it turns out the camping area was off trail.). And no water. Now it’s 7:15pm and the shadows are long and the air is getting chilly.
Limp on. Next water source according to the guidebook is only 0.2m away – correct this time. It was slow and dribbly and Happy Trails caught me up also desperate for water having hiked up that extra 0.5 to try and camp and watch the sunset only to find no water.
I left Happy Trails collecting water and hiked on to the tenting spot 0.9m further on. I got there at 8:10pm as the sun is red and low in the sky. Tent up first, then throw the bear line to make it easier in the dark to hang the food bag.
At that point Happy Trails comes by. He is happy to see me. He doesn’t like to tent alone and the next shelter, where he thought I was heading for, is still 0.6m away and it would be dark by the time he got there. He put up his tent and we cook dinner together. He has just left the Army where he was a Captain. Impressive. Although I was in camp first you have to bear in mind he spent two hours today spontaneously helping the trail maintenance crew busy building an easier route first over Little Rock Bald and then Roan Mountain. He’s a really nice guy and we compare bear hanging techniques. He likes my method and may try it. I try using the Pocket Universe app which tells you exactly what stars and planets are above you but too many are blocked by trees. Soon the late hour forces us to retire.
A 12+ hour hiking day on a bum ankle has exhausted me. I hope I don’t pay too high a cost tomorrow. This has been the longest day distance- and time-wise and the most painful since days 1 and 2. Tomorrow is a shorter day and there is a promise of B&B luxury!