… Miles, that is! [posts are not in chronological order]
It could have been awful. It could have been dismal and brutal. Instead, I happened to share this part of the journey with a delightful young woman and we both had a riot!
Getting up Albert first required traversing a long stretch of trail that snaked along between a dripping wet rock wall on our left and a pretty much sheer drop off on our right. That’s where Rosie found me … standing there marveling at the living rock wall of green with water dripping down. Such incredible beauty! Such marvelous magic! There I was … trying to capture this glorious sight with my camera for you, dear reader, and having a hard time seeing through my own tears. Have you ever seen something so wondrously beautiful that it brings you to tears? That’s where I was when Rosie came up the trail, head down watching her every step, carefully picking her way between mud and rocks. We’d met briefly the night before at a shelter so we said hi and hiked on together chatting a bit as we went. Occasionally I’d pause to look out over the increasingly impressive views to our right and declare them utterly glorious! Rosie looked up each time and agreed.
In some places, the trail itself was an 18″ wide stew of black mud and wet rocks. Often the trail would turn and rise sharply to the left and our only available steps were the tangled roots of a tree leeeeeaaning far far out to the right, somehow defying gravity over the drop off below. Root, mud, root, mud, water, water, rock, mud, root! When we stopped long enough to lift our eyes from the trail, our views over the adjacent mountains was spectacular!
At one point, the trail leveled out and moved away from the cliff we’d been following and meandered through a rhododendron forest dipping lower and lower. Rosie chatted away about her family (who she dearly missed), her future (which she was quite unsure of), and of her decision to leave the trail at Winding Stair Gap a few days ahead. I pointed out that by the end of that day, she would have completed 100 miles of trail which was nothing to sneeze at! I looked up through the forest to a tall mountain ahead ….. and saw this itty bitty teeny tiny little structure at the top. I pointed it out to Rosie. Surely THAT was not the tower we were climbing up to!?!?!? WAY UP THERE??? Noooooo way! Whose brilliant idea was this??? I laughed hysterically … very much like I did when I first walked into Rock Ventures back home in Rochester and saw what was ahead of me. Rosie probably thought I’d gone mad but on we hiked! We would tackle the monster Albert together! A south bound hiker approached and we asked him if there there would be hand over hand maneuvers required and he assured us there was not … only to be careful of the wet places.
He was mistaken! Well … coming down the mountain SOBO, hand over hand was not required HOWEVER … going up NOBO … Yeah it was! What could we do? We hiked on! Err …. climbed on. It was not like wall climbing; our path was not vertical. Not quite! There were, however, many places where we needed to take a minute to plot our route up a section and then carefully go up using hands and feet together. Through all this, we swore (mostly me) and laughed (both of us). Some of it was nearly smooth rock to simply lean into and hope our shoes gripped well. Some of the trail seemed to be assembled of random boulders wedged together. These required gripping rocks and pulling ourselves up to the next boulder. Occasionally, we’d stop the scrambling to catch our breath and survey our surroundings. Damn! We were climbing a mountain! CLIMBING! We heard voices from above … We were nearing the top! As we emerged from the final bit of brush, there if was … The fire tower we’d seen from below!
To mark our 100th mile of trail, someone had spelled out 100 in sticks! Rosie and I dropped our packs and hurried up the stairs for our reward … such a view! We’d done it! We climbed Albert Mountain … and we had a terrific time doing it!
… quit. My last 2 miles yesterday, I wanted to quit. As I got to the lovely shelter, I wanted to quit. While chatting w nice section hikers around the toasty fire, I wanted to quit. As I used the wobbly smelly privy before bed, I wanted to quit. When I woke to a glorious golden morning, I marveled at the beauty but still I wanted to quit.
It 6.8 mi to the next shelter and its already 10:30am. At my speed, I won’t get there till 6pm. This should be easy by now and it’s not.
I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss my dog. I miss my community. Being such a slow hiker, all groups pass me by. I don’t have a hiking family. Is this another Lesson in being alone? 😥
The sunshine is welcomed and warm as I sit at the crazy tilted cement picnic table. I hear the rushing stream downhill, a woodpecker off in the distance, and the slight rustle of wind stirring the leaves. Along the way there will be 2 places w cars/ parking … and potentially a ride into town.
Will I still want to quit?
… I was … well … I think this is what happened.
At Carter Gap Shelter, the shelter was full but there was a lower half finished level with a 4′ wide wooden platform do I opted to sleep under the shelter. It looked flat and level. really. It did!
I set up my sleeping stuff and made dinner along with the really terrific bunch of folks there. We had a sweet little bonfire before we all hit the sack around 8.
Now I’d heard stories of shelter mice running across people’s faces in the middle of the night but I was smart and pulled my buff all the way up over my face for protection. This had the added benefit offering my face warm. That night, it got really really cold.
Suddenly … Something happened! Slip! Slide! CRASH! What? What?
I’d gotten myself all the way down yo the bottom of my bag …. and the bag was upside down with the hood in front … and my arms were pretty much pinned to my sides in the mummy bag … and and and…. trying to get arms up over my head to unzip the upside down bag … zipper stuck … can’t see a thing … dark in a sleeping bag under a shelter at night with something over my should face. TRYING to do all this without waking up the people sleeping over my head!
O M G !
I managed to free myself, crawling through dusty dirt … trying to not crawl over the piece of metal corrugated roofing that I’d rolled into.
My headlamp was not nearby but by light of my phone, I managed to reassemble my bed on the supposedly level platform and crawl in once more. As I drifted off, my bladder decided to wake up.
I could only laugh!
… I began the morning by having breakfast with 3 other lovely hiker friends, AYCE Sunday brunch at Shoney’s. Biscuits & sausage gravy … yum! Our waitress kept razzing us in the friendliest ways and we threatened to kidnap her and haul her off on the trail. I took with me 2 colored hard boiled eggs from the buffet.
Leah was driving Renee and Buttercup to Winding Staircase Gap and me to Deep Gap so everyone could resume the trail where they’d left off. As Renee and Buttercup were unloading, I realized I’d left my maps and guide book at the hotel. No fears … I simply photographed the needed pages from Renee’s book. 😉
I thoroughly enjoyed the ride with Leah. We were FB friends but hadn’t really gotten to know each other before this so as we took the windy twisty forest service road back to Deep Gap, we got to talk. Arriving at the parking lot, we were surprised and delighted to see to
Trail Magic happening! The “Omelet Angels” had 3 E-Z ups and 2 kitchens going! This was their 22nd year of doing this on Easter morning! I’d just finished a hefty breakfast so declined an omelet but gladly accepted the offer of a hearty sandwich on home made bread to go. Mmmmmm!
Leah and I said our goodbyes and I was on my way. My immediate goal was Standing Indian Shelter where I would eat my sandwich and then head on to the summit of Standing Indian Mountain (ele 5498′!) where I would reward myself with Easter chocolates sent to me by Karen L. The shelter was an easy reach and several hikers and I shared stories as we ate lunches and snacks. I continued on.
The misty drizzly fog slowly turned to a steady soft rain as I eased into switchback after switchback. 741′ ele more in 1.5 mi. Eventually I realized it really was only going to rain harder and denial was not going to keep me dry. I had to pee. Perfect opportunity to put on my DriDucks rain pants, yes? There was no one coming from either way, so I dropped pants and peed right there in the middle of the trail which was quickly becoming a running stream. As fast as i could, I hoisted my britches, grabbed my rain pants, and leaned against a tree struggling to get each wet muddy hiking shoe into the pant legs without filling the pants with said mud. And here come 2 men hiking down hill toward me. From the switchback *above* me. “Oh hi!” LOL
I continued on plugging away, now quite a bit more protected from the elements. The trail climbed, climbed, climbed. I hike a whole lot faster in the rain! Ohhhh….. my belly rumbled! Something from the AYCE buffet was not sitting well. I was at the summit of Standing Indian Mountain! And it was pouring! My guts declared a sudden emergency! Now, dearest readers … Try to imagine wearing full heavy pack with pack cover, the toilet paper is inside the pack under the cover; you’re wearing rain pants, shorts, AND tights …. and it’s raining so hard you’re nearly breathing water.
And the situation is URGENT!
I’ll spare you the nitty gritty details other than to say that it was a moment I’ll never forget!
I sat on a wet rock and ate the head off a chocolate bunnie.
And hiked on.
I don’t see another soul on the trail; the rain never once let up. Three miles later, I was loosing light as I came into the Beech Gap tenting area. Not a soul was there, but I wasn’t sure I’d make it another 3.5 to the next shelter before dark. I camped completely alone for the first time. The rain let up ever so slightly as I set up the tent as quickly as possible, making good use of the awning feature to pile my soaked gear under. It was a challenge to keep wet and dry stuff from touching. I would need to bear bag. this would be extra heard in pitch dark so wandered in search of an acceptable tree branch. I tossed and set it ready to haul up my food bag when I would be ready later. Sitting cross legged in the doorway of my tent, I cooked curry noodles with chicken for dinner and washed it down with hot spiced cider. For dessert, I ate the butt off the chocolate bunnie. Yum! It was time to hang my food bag so I slipped on my camp crocs (lovely little red ballet style Crocs) and headed out into the rainy fog to locate the already hung bear bag. And could not find it! Anywhere! I wandered back and forth and back and forth for what had to be a good 20 min, finally giving up. I slept with my food by my head figuring if a bear was so hungry that he’d come around a human in this deluge, I’d just give him the bag!
It’s important to note that throughout this entire day, not once was I angry or discouraged. I was excited to camp 100% solo in the pouring rain!
That night was my best nights’ sleep so far 🙂 At one point, I woke to see a glimpse of moonlight coming through my tent and I knew the morning would bring sunny skies. I drifted back to sleep so very happy!