Conditions: 50s, Wind, Rain, Low Visibility (100ft)
Distance: 13.1 miles
The rain started last night. It's still raining. Over 20 hours of rain. Sleeping in a tent in the rain is like being inside a microwave popcorn bag. Pop. Pop. Pop. The chaotic, but constant sound of rain drops hitting your tent. I didn't get much sleep.
On top of which it was cold. I slept in my rain gear for extra insulation. And it was incredibly dark. I literally could not see my hand in front of my face. Eire. Of course my mind began to wonder. I'd hear ground noise. I imagined a huge jurassic bear heading toward my tent. Ridiculous. I eventually fell back to sleep.
I set out in the morning with “Shifty” and Kyle. The two guys remaining from the group of four thru-hikers. We decide to push hard through the rain and get into Franklin for the night. “Shifty” and I had a mail drop in Franklin and planned to resupply Monday. Pushing the extra miles meant a hot shower, soft bed, and the chance to satisfy some food cravings.
We did the first 5 miles in under 2 hours. I'd say those trail legs kicked in. We stopped for a full lunch at a shelter and a chance to get out of the rain. We caught up with “Colonel” and another couple that was finishing a round trip weekend hiking. The “Colonel” was hiking a few hundred miles of the Appalachian Trail after his son had hiked it years earlier. He stayed in the same shelter as us from the night before. We gave him the trail name “Colonel”, as he was a military man. Not sure if he liked it or not. But sometimes you don't choose your trail name.
During lunch we noticed a dramatic incline on the topography trail map. A virtual right angle. It didn't disappoint. It was nearly straight up. Some of it was trail stairs, most were boulders. I packed the hiking poles and used my hands for climbing. Definitely an extreme for the Appalachian Trail - tackle a vertical rise in the cold rain, with a 40lbs pack, after fatigued from the morning miles. Get serious.
The rest was a pretty gradual up and down through the forest. The trail crossed 2 roads today. We decided we'd try to hitch-hike at the first, and continue to the next if we had to. I slowed up after the incline. The guys went ahead and by the time I came out they were already loading their packs in a car. A girl researching trillium for her doctoral thesis was heading into Frankin. In addition it was a rental car. So she didn't care we were muddy, wet, and stank.
We got dropped off at the Budget Inn. Everyone mentioned this place. And the second I arrived I didn't know why. It was one of those old stucco one level motels that hadn't been maintained, much less updated since the 1980s. They offered no special amenities for hikers. Seems more like they were exploiting them. There were several places in Franklin and I'm sure anyone of them would have been better. Yet, compared to sleeping, shivering in the mud, it was fine.
We got cleaned up and set out for some food. We decided Mexican sounded the most appetizing. Unfortunately all the recommended places were closed on Sunday. “Shifty” saw a Mexican grocery and we assumed we could at least buy chips and salsa. As we walked up, I noticed tables in the back. We entered and no one spoke English. I could tell the guys were uneasy. I muddled some Spanish to the man at the counter about chips and salsa. “Sí. Sí.” I told the guys, they had what we wanted. After ordering and consuming a Mexican Thanksgiving, the guys said, “Good call, Bootstrapper”. The man told us to come back anytime and nudged the checkout girl rubbing his fingers together, indicating that we spent a lot.
We left and headed to the grocery store down the block. A good thing we went after dinner, otherwise, I would have bought much more food than I did. I decided to mail most of my dehydrated meals back. Instead I would pack with more comfort food. I picked up some summer sausage, tortillas, tuna, and a mixed bag of mini candy bars.
I finished packing for the morning and cleaned my tent. I also called my Mom since it was Mother's Day. I know she was glad to hear from me. Cell phone reception was better than I expected on the Appalachian Trail. But short of a few quick texts, we hadn't talked since I left last week.
The day was coming to an early end. We had gotten a quick ride into town and everything we needed was within walking distance. Walking distance – that term has such a far range now. Today marked 100 miles and a week on the Appalachian Trail.
I am ready to be back on the trail.
~ Bootstrapper – 0111
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