June 20th Mile 727.5
This was probably my most difficult day on trail so far. Today made for my fourth 20+ mile day in a row. If the hike from the hostel back to trail, and side trails to water are included, this was over a marathon at 26.4 miles. If I had had my pack, I would have stopped much earlier, probably nine miles earlier.
We slack-packed today, hiking a section with only a daypack, our typical packs shuttled safely 25.7 miles ahead of us. Often, hostels will offer to shuttle you north with a loaner daypack, so you can hike a section southbound. They benefit by having you stay another night, and you benefit by still getting miles in, without your heavy home-pack in tow. I use the term “home-pack,” because that’s exactly what it feels like now.
While I enjoyed running the downhills in fast featherweight frolic, there was admittedly some separation anxiety as well. Towards the end of the day, where I typically stop where I please, I had nine more grueling miles to cover instead. No options. Worse, every place with decent food would close by ten. I felt very boxed in, and while some purists frown on slacking, I can tell you that miles are miles. It hurts either way.
Nevertheless, our boots hit Daleville around nine. Firebird was kind enough to wait for me, while the others went ahead to secure lodging. Turtle Goat, Ladybug, and Firebird are beasts of hikers. I’m the slowest, and coming to terms with that. I feel there is balance in it, after all, I saw Dragon’s Tooth bathed in moonlight last night.
As always when rolling into town, food was the objective, and to the food we went. The good barbecue was closed for the night, but thankfully Pizza Hut was still open. We each walked out with a large, and devoured them in the hotel. The cashier was kind enough to supply water cups for each of us, and plates, which were never used. Real thru-hikers eat their pizza from the box, often outside of Walmart or gas stations…
I found my pack safe, pink loofa intact, and thus I took a shower, enjoying the novelty of taking two in one day! I’ve never gotten so filthy during a single day on trail before, and I enjoyed being baptized back into civilization. That is how I think of all my showers now; a rite practiced to make me fit for off trail interaction.
Turtle Goat wanted his own place, and I know that feeling all too well. Firebird, Ladybug, and I are bunked for the night. All of us have errands in town tomorrow, so it should be a short day on trail. My body and feet are wrecked, but I’m glad today was so tough.
I have a bed, food in my stomach, and my home-pack stashed safely nearby. I’m with my friends, and miraculously we made it through without injury. I had some realizations coming down the third mountain today, which may give me a direction after the AT. Too far away to think about that now.