Spring Mountain Shelter to Hogback Mountain Shelter – 30.1 miles – “Don’t be a Wuss; Hike Like a Champ Today”
I wake to my alarm at 5:30 AM, but it still takes me almost an hour to get on the trail, nearly 6:30 AM. I have (need) a big day to meet Debbie in Erwin tomorrow. The mantra that comes to mind early this morning is based on what Linds had written on the envelope of the card she gave me when she dropped me off at the Metro, “Don’t be a wuss.” Immediately, it gets extended to, “Don’t be a wuss; hike like a champ.” And I move today! There is a tough, extended climb this morning, followed by a difficult, rocky, rough climbing part about 11 AM. I have 15.4 miles in by noon and my legs feel good. I stop at Jerry Cabin to refill my water and eat.
I am cruising again on flatter terrain in the afternoon. It is a good day and the blisters on my heels are starting to come around. I need to start hiking with my regular stride, using normal foot/ankle movement and push off. I’ve favored them the previous week and used my poles a lot. More legs, less poles.
Late in the day, there is a lengthy climb to the shelter. I arrive at the shelter about 6 PM, 11.5 hour day, to about 10 people eating dinner together around the picnic table. As is normal when meeting hikers, they ask my name and when I started. They basically think I’m a stud having only been on the trail for about two weeks and just put in 30 miles. It feels really good to have a big day.
Rainpants and his friend are from LaPlata, MD. He is an entertaining guy. There is a guy who ran track at University of Maryland and we talk for a bit. He ran Boston a few years ago. Apparently, being unemployed allowed for much training. He is hiking with his girlfriend. There are also a couple guys from Germany and one from Quebec. Pyro, from Germany, his pack is something like 70 pounds! Rainpants is a good time and is having fun with Pyro because Pyro can’t speak English when he’s high, so he just grins.
I’m heading into Erwin tomorrow. Hopefully for laundry, food, shower, and my mail drop at Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel and Outfitters. It was a gorgeous day and looks like it going to be a nice night too, so I’m cowboy camping. I hope I’m able to spend more nights under the stars.
The two Maryland hikers and the three foreign guys head out after they eat. Maybe I’ll see them tomorrow at the trail magic that was advertised with a sign at the side trail for the shelter. Since the trail angel won’t be there until 8:30 AM, I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet. Leave early like normal and miss it or get a late start in order to eat some breakfast.