Punchbowl Shelter to The Priest Shelter – 31.9 miles
Good thing I open my eyes when I do. Upon opening them, I think, “It’s awfully bright for 5 AM.” Well, it’s not 5 AM, it after 6! I quickly get my stuff together and I’m hiking by 6:30 AM. I’m off an hour late. Oh well, I guess my body needed the rest.
Yesterday I had noticed the bird nest above the inside of the shelter opening and the bird flying in and out. This morning, I pack and get going without even disturbing the sleeping bird above me. I’m annoyed to be getting out late.
Almost immediately I cross Blue Ridge Parkway and I see a small Styrofoam cooler and grocery bag. It’s 6:45 AM and I already have some trail magic! Inside the cooler are cold, yet very soft and melting ice cream sandwiches. I suck down two ice cream sandwiches and grab a large stack of Oreos from the grocery bag.
I am rolling again this morning. I catch up with Mudderfingers and Cool Story, who apparently didn’t get the early (3 AM) start they had wanted either. They remind me Fresh Grounds is doing trail magic at Hog Camp Gap. The sky is overcast and rain is threatening.
I get to the gap about 12:30 PM and see the tarp in the middle of the field. Oh man, this is the setup! I get inside just as the rain picks up. Within a minute of entering the tarp shelter, I have a plate of three hot dogs, fries, three banana pancakes, and a pile of green beans (because he wants us hikers to be eating healthy too.) He is such a generous and upbeat guy. This…is…awesome. He’s fast paced and high energy. He tells me Cloudwalker stayed here last night and he got up early this morning to cook Cloudwalker breakfast.
It is after 1:30 PM when I finally leave and I have eaten six hot dogs, three banana pancakes, french fries, green beans, 24 ounces of coffee, a dozen vanilla creme cookies, an apple, and Easter candy. I wish I had gotten here at the end of the day so I could eat more and not have to hike further. This pit stop is great. I take with me a banana and a large, solid chocolate Easter bunny.
I restart into the, now heavier, rain. The rain is really coming down hard for a while. The quantity of food sits well with me; I am satisfied and hiking well. The rain stops at about 5 PM.
I get to the Priest Shelter about 6:15 PM. I would have made it further had it not been for the late start and the long (1+ hour) break at Fresh Grounds, but it’s still a solid day at least. I guess I could have stayed there a bit longer.
When I arrive at the shelter, it looks “full”, but there is room for me. I think people think that just because they hang and spread out their wet gear that nobody will ask them to more it so that the shelter can sleep the full capacity of hikers. Then they are bothered/annoyed when asked to move their crap to make room. I cook, eat, brush teeth, pee, and fetch water (normal camp routine) and then finally get warm and dry in my bag about 7:30 PM to journal and sleep.
I will see Linds on Wednesday, so I’m excited about that. I am running low on food and the trail magic helped me stretch my food an extra half day (I think).