AT miles hiked today: 12.1
Total AT miles hiked: 90.7
Wow, I didn't mean to hike that many miles today, not even with a push to Franklin. I know better than to play "catch up, keep up" and I told myself today that I would listen to my body. So, at 3:30 when I was sitting with No Doubt and Matt at Deep Gap, I thought I might stay at the Standing Indian shelter, or maybe camp on the summit, if I felt good to keep going. The summit is 2.4 miles from there, the shelter is just under a mile.
Then this group came down the trail and said there was somebody camped by the water who might be on drugs or crazy, anyway he was high on Jesus and he freaked them out. I remembered a story from another 2012 thru hike attempt. The woman went to the water and when she came back to her pack and the shelter, this guy came out of the woods and said weird and scary things and followed her when she left. She quit the trail after that.
I wonder if this was the same area and the same guy. The group gave us ice water (yay!) and Matt went up Standing Indian Mountain first, then I went, and No Doubt was last. I went fast, fueled by the second lunch I had just eaten and with a lighter pack from dumping my trash in the bins there. Also adrenaline, probably. I got to the shelter in 30 minutes and passed right by the guy as he came towards the trail. I was faster than he was. He was pretty close to the shelter though, and there was no way I was going down to "his" creek to get water or to stay alone there at the shelter, so I left a quick note in the register and went on. I had about 3/4 of a quart of water left and some in my water bladder. I headed up to the top of the mountain, where I planned to camp and hopefully take sunset and sunrise pictures and make a somewhat dry camp.
I hiked all 2.5 miles in an hour and a half. Uphill! That was the first time I felt like I might be getting my trail legs. It felt almost easy, even though I huffed and puffed and ran out of water in my bladder system. I knew I still had the water from the group, so I was okay, though I would have liked more water.
At the top I saw a couple of side trails that I followed, hoping for a view, but they didn't pan out. Then I saw another trail, much more heavily used, to the right, and a sign ahead. I went to the sign and it mentioned another trail but not the campsite. I followed the AT a bit more and it started going downhill. That's when I realized I had probably passed the campsite and the summit and my photo opportunities. But on the AT, if in doubt, I just keep following the white blazes. So I kept going, knowing there was water and camping further down. I had considered this campsite as my best case goal, so I aimed for it, with the benefit that the guide says there is water here.
My feet took a pounding on rocks today, and I found my very first blister at my second breakfast break at Muskrat Creek Shelter. It was tiny and had already popped itself. My feet were screaming at me soon after I started down the mountain, but I promised them a soak in the cool water.
I got here at 6:30. It took me only 3 hours to hike 5.3 miles, a new record for me. But I didn't find any water. I dropped my pack and followed a blue blazed trail for a while, assuming it went to water, but I got the creeps and couldn't hear water and I felt weird leaving my pack so far behind me so I gave up and came back to set up camp. I still took my nightly bandana bath, though, and left a few sips for morning. There's supposed to be a stream a mile down the AT from here. When in doubt, move on, right?
I just heard coyotes hooting outside. Or monkeys? Hyenas? Actually, I think it was owls. And tonight for the first time I left the rainfly open. It has been very hot in my tent lately and I've been sleeping in my silk liner with my sleeping bag as a quilt. I feel a bit exposed and daring and I can see the moon from my bed. Next thing you know I might cowboy camp, inspired by Cherry Pie, but probably not on my inflatable pad and down sleeping bag, so nevermind.