Conditions: High 60s, Sunny
Distance: 18 miles
We dug deep today for 18. We're calling it Beast Mode. The young group of thru-hikers arrived at camp late last night. Like me, they hoped to hike to Tray Mountain shelter but ran out of time and energy. This morning I banded together with them to get back on schedule – Plumorchard shelter. It would be an all day 18 mile hike with over 4,000ft of elevation change.
The plan was worth it for a few reasons. First “Sidewinder” and “Beast” (father/son group from Day 3) were stopping at the Georgia/North Carolina border. I needed more miles. So I needed a new group. Second, something about being on schedule keeps your mind right. One less concern on the trail. Finally, I wanted to know what high miles felt like.
Hard. I was constantly eating and using the electrolyte mixes. When you push that hard food equals energy. And you're using every bit. I ate a huge lunch. It was the first time I was close to feeling full. I snacked often. But shortly after each, I'd hit a wall. In the real world, you rarely think of food as energy. Normally it's a ritual. Something you do at noon or the evening. On the trail, you skip a meal and your setting yourself up for exhaustion.
I caught up to the guys from the younger group at the last road crossing in Georgia. There was another 3 miles with some elevation change. Relative to the day it was nothing. Yet, it was also the end of the day. I had already gone 15 miles over similar elevation to Day 2. 15 miles is normally as far as I go in a day. I told the guys I'd like to hike with them the rest of the way if they were willing. They let me take point and set the pace. We hit the shelter a little after 8:00pm. It took all day. With the exception of a few short breaks, I'd been hiking since 9:00am. Given my state and the time, I opted to sleep in the shelter. It's saves time both at night and in the morning. I may regret it, most are critter invested. Right before bed, “Red Fox” came hollering into camp.
There was some trail drama today. “Cloud”, the girl from the younger group, was having serious knee pain. At lunch, “Red Fox” decided to wait for her. He had an eventful day yesterday. He left his mess kit in the back of the pickup when they hitch-hiked into Helen. He had gone on a solo mission to get it back. “Red Fox” rolled into Cheese Factory around midnight boasting his 31 mile day. Today he wasn't boasting. He hurt. So waiting for “Cloud” also meant a break for him. In the end, “Cloud” went into town to get her knee checked out at the next road crossing. “Red Fox” high tailed it to catch up with the remainder of his group.
Tomorrow I'll cross into North Carolina. Now that I'm back on schedule it'll be a 16.5 mile day. North Carolina maintains a higher elevation. So their peaks are taller. Standing Indian Mountain tomorrow is 5,500ft. The highest on the trail so far. Hopefully I'll feel fine in the morning. I chose a heartier dinner – Spicy Sausage Pasta. A small comfort. “Runner” and “Speedy” were at the same shelter. They offered some vitamins targeting joint pain. Between that and a good night sleep, I'll make the miles tomorrow. I have to.
~ Bootstrapper – 0101
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