12-7-12

Days since my thruhike began: 233
AT miles hiked today: 17.2
Total AT miles hiked: 2151.7
Miles to complete my thruhike: 32.5

I woke up to see a lovely pink sunrise from Rice Field Shelter. Of course there was plenty of wind but it wasn't as cold as yesterday. I went to the privy and had a surprise. There were no walls or roof. There was a toilet on a platform completely out in the open. I went up the steps and sat on the toilet seat to enjoy the view, but I would have preferred walls and a roof. What if it was raining like it was last night? You might as well dig a hole out in the woods. Almost. I often leave the privy door open for the light and view anyway, but I prefer more protection from the elements, and a little privacy when I do my business.

We couldn't find water this morning! The spring three miles down the AT was a muddy puddle full of leaves. Then I found a small drip of water coming off a rock but couldn't get my bottle under it, so I kept going down the trail to the stream marked in the guidebook, but it was buried in leaves and was dry. I dug around in the leaves and couldn't find any water. Uh oh. I realized we might have to ask for water in town. We both needed water badly, especially before the climb up to Angel's Rest. We had been rationing water since early last night and I was dehydrated again.

I hiked on and came around a bend and heard something big rustling in the leaves down by the dry creek. I thought it was a bear maybe, but it was Eagle Eye. She had gone digging in the leaves as well, but had better luck and found a little trickle of water. She used a rhododendron leaf to aim the water into the bottles and we took almost an hour collecting and treating our water. We realized we would be arriving after dark at Woods Hole so we called and let them know we were coming and we might be late. They said we could still come.

Just after we got our water we met Kevin, a section hiker who is 80% done with the AT. He said there was a nicely flowing stream a couple more miles ahead of us, but our guidebooks didn't mention it. Oh well, at least we did find water. Then a thin, tanned hiker came from behind us with a big smile and an Australian accent. His trail name is Swami and he is amazing. The AT is the last of twelve trails he pieced together across North America. He has been hiking since July of 2011 and when he finishes the AT, he will have hiked about 14,500 miles in a year and a half. I am in awe.

We finished chatting and Swami quickly hiked ahead and out of sight. We followed the trail into the town of Pearisburg. It follows some of the streets and isn't marked very well. We got confused and a little lost in Pearisburg, and I'm glad it wasn't dark or it would have been more confusing. There was a big climb up to Angels Rest but the trail was mostly smooth. I took pictures of the view as the sun set and then we hiked as fast as we could in the gathering dark. The sunset was blood red along the horizon in front of me, and I only saw it because the trees were bare of leaves. We made good time, especially for night hiking. The weather was nice and I was very grateful to not have a cold wind blowing. Swami caught us fifteen minutes before the Woods Hole road and we talked and walked and all arrived together. He had lost his camera after going into Pearisburg and had gone back down Angels Rest and back into town to look for it, or he would have been a couple hours ahead of us. He finally found his camera under some dry leaves partway up Angels Rest, at a place he had stopped for a break the first time going up.

Neville and Micheal at Woods Hole had prepared a wonderful organic meal for us and we visited over the yummy food. Then we started the laundry and shower process. There were fluffy, soft robes in the closet to wear while doing laundry. Ahhh, what luxury. My bed was soft and comfortable but we stayed up after midnight talking with Swami so none of us will get much sleep. I have so much to learn about long distance hiking. I feel like a beginner who knows nothing next to Swami, but he is willing to share what he knows and isn't judgmental, and I have a slight case of hero worship.