June 10 Mile 579.
I glided downhill like a torrent, bounding over rock and root. I abandoned my pack on trail with some level of nonchalance, because I had a more serious issue to contend with. The air was still, the sun persistent, but I had to keep going. I thought up a few contingency plans, but if this didn’t work out, it was going to be a major blow. Desperately I kept listening, and finally I heard it. Water.
I emptied my last bottle seven miles south, and to my peril, ignored a water source there. I thought I had a mile before the next stream. I was wrong, and the sun made me pay for it. The air temp pushed close to ninety. Being without water, and knowing you have to hike for it is rough. Worse is when you arrive at a water source after seven miles, and the sign reads:
“Spring .5E, Wet Weather Only.”
It’s been very dry, which till now was a blessing. Still, I got what I needed and made the half mile trek back uphill to the AT. I made a note that it was flowing at the current date and time, and put it in a Ziploc. As I was taping the bag to the sign, Firebird walked up.
“How’s it going?” I asked.
In the calmest whisper of a voice she responded:
“I’m so fucking full of rage I might actually start seeing red.” Then she smiled sweetly. Firebird’s a bit scary when she’s angry
“So… Do you need any water?” I sheepishly asked.
As it turned out, she had just rolled her ankle for the fifth time that day. The rocks in this section are horrendous and unstable. Between her knee acting up, an accidental double mail drop, and a few gear failures, she was having one hell of a week. Mind you, she’s a complete badass, so I heard her out and carried on.
I started hiking, and a few minutes later I heard an angry, booming, howl/growl/scream/shout. I sat down on a nearby log. I closed my eyes, rested my chin on my trekking poles, and waited.
Soon she caught up, and asked if I heard her. We’ve all had those days. If you don’t make a noise like that from time to time, you’re not on a thru-hike. Ankle roll number six.
Our best guess was that we were two miles out, and we decided to hike this last bit together. I haven’t had much one on one conversation or hiking time with Firebird, and I’ve always been a bit intimidated by her to be honest. We both tend to hike solo, but the conversation managed to flow.
We hit the side trail to the shelter and I saw Turtle Goat and Lt. making dinner. It had been a couple days since I had seen them. It was a great end to my tough 22 mile day. I sprinted to the shelter and gave them burly man-hugs (it’s a trail family thing).
Lt. fell on the rocks three times, and had a close call with a Timber rattler. Even Turtle Goat, the strongest of us, was wiped. It was late, almost nine, and I found myself frantically trying to do all my camp chores at once. Firebird saw this, pointed to the bowl of mac and cheese I kept abandoning, and told me flat out:
“This is the most important thing, everything else can wait.”
She was right. I sat my ass down and started eating. One more day accomplished on the AT. One more evening eating dinner with my tribe. Present. Thankful. Everything else can wait.