Conditions: High 50s, Cloudy
Distance: 19 miles
Trail legs. I read about them when researching the Appalachian Trail. People talk about “when I get my trail legs”. They are when you can hike the trail dawn to dusk, day after day, and crush miles. I got mine today.
I wasn't too sore this morning after 18 miles on Day 5. My left Achilles was stiff. I felt a sharp pain when I misjudged a dip yesterday. I could tell it was a little swollen this morning. It took a few miles to loosen up. During which I was well behind the thru-hikers. It wasn't a big deal though. Everyone hikes at their own pace throughout the day. We leap frog and typically end up at the same place for the night.
I did notice “Red Fox” fell behind. When he caught up, he complained about his ankle and knee. He decided to “bail out” at the border. I could tell “Cloud” dropping yesterday played a factor. It's infectious. Each time someone talks about anything off-trail it's a downward spiral. The next time the trail crosses a road you think how easy it is to get a ride into town. You can sleep comfortably, take a shower, eat a full meal. You have to put that all out of your mind. You have to stay out here. Although I'll be in town in a few days, it's to pick up my mail drop. Then right back to the trail.
There were several people that also stopped at the border. Not sure what it was about North Carolina. I quickly found out. The trail immediately changes. There were more switch backs. The path was rockier and criss-crossed with laurel roots. Elevation stayed above 4000ft and reached 5500ft for a while. I must have strong ankles. I rolled them several times today, fortunately without injury.
The day went fast. Even though we got an early start it seemed to be 3pm instantly. And I had already gone 12 miles. I walked alone most of the day. I caught up with an older couple. They were hiking to NOC (about 30 miles up the trail). They were actually at the shelter before and decided to stop for the day at the current shelter. 4pm is too early to stop. I believe they were worried about the rain.
I kept going with intentions of stopping at Beech Gap campsites around 16.5 miles. I got there right before 6pm. No one was there. It was a poor site. It felt boxed in by the trees and had a mud puddle for a water source. Not to mention right behind the white blaze was a North Carolina Bear Sanctuary sign. The combination left me feeling uneasy. I didn't want to spend my first night alone in this place.
I noticed a note on the trail marker.
We pushed on to Carter Gap shelter. Hope to cross paths down the trail.
I broke out the map to see the distance to Carter Gap shelter. A little over 3 miles. The first 2 were basically flat and the last 1 was over a 700ft elevation. It was 6:10pm. I could make it. I ate a handful of trail mix. Then I returned to hiking the trail.
I arrived about 20 minutes after the guys. They were surprised and glad to see me. Two other guys were in the shelter. They were hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail whenever they had time. This time with a goal of 400 miles in a month. We all ate dinner and hung our food bags. I decided to set up my tent instead of the shelter. While the shelter is easier, my tent holds up well in the rain and provides some personal comfort. Plus I've been lugging the weight, so may as well use it.
The goal tomorrow is to get as close to Franklin, North Carolina as possible. That way I can get in and out for my mail drop and still get good miles for the day.
I will know tomorrow if I truly have my trail legs or if 37 miles in two days is the end of my physical ability.
~ Bootstrapper – 0110
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