Dismal Falls

June 13 Mile 623

Today was only a 14.4, and a bit of a rough one at that. I’m nursing two heel blisters, which robbed a lot of my speed. Blisters will numb out after a few hours of hiking, thankfully. My shoes came with “rock plates” – essentially hard plastic inserts that go under the insoles. I’m going to give them a try tomorrow. I’ve been very impressed with how the Altras grip on rocks, but I need a stiffer sole to keep the foot pummeling to a minimum. Virginia is anything but flat or smooth thus far.

This trail will kick the shit out of you on every level, make no mistake. Turtle Goat and I talked about that yesterday. He and I boogied out of our resupply point before the others, trying to make camp early. Like Firebird, he and I don’t get much one on one conversation in. He’s usually gone before I’m up in the morning, and can rock four miles an hour all day long.

We had a mile road walk and a full hour at Dismal Falls to chill before the others arrived. Several in our group have been really negative lately, and it was nice to discuss it openly. One thing I’ve become far more adept at during my time on trail, is avoiding negativity in general. Turtle Goat and I have never thought about quitting since we started. We both came onto trail with the exact same rules in place though. Never quit on trail, never quit during weather, and never quit on an uphill.

“Happiness is not always comfortable.” This is something I heard last year, and it’s become a personal mantra of mine. So many issues out here are as simple as being hungry and tired. We’re still three-year-olds when it really comes down to it.

I very nearly told Shortcut to go fuck himself when I first met him, because he kept asking me about my stove setup. I had just hiked eighteen miles, so I was wet, hungry, and tired. All I wanted was a bowl of mac and cheese and to be left the hell alone. After I ate, my demeanor completely changed, and we’ve been friends since. The trail is about mitigating and growing past those kinds of situations.

I’m exactly in the place I should be right now. I feel as though my every life’s interest has prepared me for, and is culminating within, this single journey. I’ve wanted to do this since I heard about AT at ten years old, I just forgot about it for a long time. How different my twenties would have been had I remembered.

This morning I woke at the top of the falls. Most of the crew had gone back to Trent’s Grocery for breakfast, but I decided to sleep in. Firebird was sitting on a rock and sketching in the morning sun. I bent down and dunked my head into the water, comb in hand. I had breakfast nearby, on my own sunny island of rock. It struck me how exactly at home I felt in that moment. What a home to have, even for a short while.

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