Aiming for an 18 mile day I hit my target but only after finding out what a near-flat elevation profile can mean in reality.
I got a good jump on the day by leaving camp just before 7:30 and enjoyed the cool misty atmosphere as the trail went steeply up 600′ immediately and then right back down 700′ just to get me warmed up for the day’s main event, a 2100′ continuous climb over 4 miles to Chestnut Knob shelter.
To tackle this challenge I turned to my two main boosters – my MP3 player and half a shot of 5 Hour Energy. I figured 2.5 hours of extra energy was about right. Unfortunately my MP3 player was nearly out of juice – I couldn’t have charged it properly in Atkins – but I felt the shivers run down my body as the caffeine drink took effect and I powered up the steeper first half at an impressive rate.
Halfway up I passed a resting John Doe who I first and last met in Erwin TN along with his girlfriend Bugs Bunny, she of poopy backpack fame. John Doe was alone now because she hurt her foot and is having scans to see what the damage is. He is carrying on hiking and she will skip ahead and rejoin him when better. Apparently she is now called Jane Doe after she found John was carrying an engagement ring to use at some point along the trail.
The second half of the climb was much easier but it had started to rain at this point and I was still an hour from the shelter so I was pretty wet when I finally arrived at 11:30am.
Chestnut Knob is a concrete shelter with an actual door, albeit with open windows, so is a pretty nice place to hide out from the rain and wind. At 4410′ it is the highest point the trail hits until New Hampshire.
Inside were Bro and Remedy who had spent the night and hadn’t fancied starting out yet due to the weather. Remedy remembered me from Standing Bear Farm, 325 miles back!
After I boiled water for a small Mac and Cheese pot Bro asked to borrow my stove so he could fry up some sausage. They use an alcohol stove and you can’t easily fry things gently as they only go full blast. Generously they then gave me some to go in my Mac and Cheese. We all found the sausage brand amusingly bizarre: Larry the Cable Guy Summer Sausage.
John Doe came in shortly after me and ate lunch but was happy to go back out in the rain a good 45 minutes before me.
I got a 4G data signal due to the elevation and published my blog post from the day before and generally took my time to give the rain a chance to stop. Ironically I only put my rain jacket on once I was inside the shelter to keep warm – the long climb up meant it was too warm to need it outside.
About 1pm the rain had stopped leaving just a cool mist (fog? What’s the difference?) making an atmospheric shot of the shelter easy to capture.
Now I began the exciting part of the day. Where the long climb meant doing only 8 miles by lunch there was now 10 easy looking miles to tackle this afternoon, albeit with no water available for the last 9. The AWOL guide showed it to be practically flat. Long story short: 9 people at the days end shelter were all perplexed as to how hard these miles had been. A combination of rocky terrain and a series of small but real ups and downs made everyone underestimate this section.
I ran into two on-trail snakes today – one, a milk snake about 14″ long held his ground, coiled up and threatened me. Bless. The second, unidentified, was about 2′ long and did the usual slither-off-trail-and-glare thing.
Reaching Jenkins Shelter at 5:45pm which is at mile 575.7 according to AWOL and 576.1 according to Guthook, Renaissance and John Doe were starting dinner and Wicked, a ghost hiker who had steamed passed me earlier, was already finished. Over the next couple of hours we were joined by Engineer, Saint Rick, Shawn, Big Cheese, The Major and John.
Everyone noted how difficult the afternoon had been when the guide made it look straightforward. The Major was feeling nauseous and faint so set up his hammock and went straight to bed. Hope he doesn’t have norovirus.
It was also noted at length that I cooked and ate half a packet of Knorr Rice Sides and others, such as Saint Rick, ate two packets, i.e. four times as much food. I just don’t feel any hungrier than at home, less so even. Maybe I should force the issue.
Although everyone else stayed the night, Renaissance, as is his wont, left after dinner to do another few miles to get up to 20. Before leaving he told us how he had met Nick Nolte at the start of his hike when near the filming of A Walk In The Woods book. As he’s from LA he didn’t think much of it.
I was happy to hit my target of 18 miles today. My feet quite enjoyed being squelching wet most of the day and only got really sore in the last 3-4 miles.
My big targets from here are to complete 1000 miles by the end of June, then 1500 by the end of July. That would set me up for the final 687 nicely.