A Lazy 14.5

I rolled into the Wapiti Shelter around 6:30pm yesterday, after being rained on for a few hours. The forecast had the rain starting at noon, but three hours was plenty.

Thoroughly soaked and cold, I set about the usual nightly camp tasks. I fired up my homemade cat food can stove, now on its seventh year of service, and placed the pot of water on top. Then I stretched out my sleeping pad and began the twenty-two breaths necessary to inflate it. Four months ago, the task required twenty-nine breaths. I blew air into my inflatable pillow, and spread out my custom 950 fill down quilt.

I hung my rain jacket on a nearby nail, and pulled my beautifully dry fleece on, right over my soaked shirt. Instead of putting on wet clothes every rainy morning, these days I try to bodyheat-dry them before bed. Putting dry insulating layers over wet ones seems counterintuitive, but it works for Navy Seals, and with enough cheese in my belly, it works for me as well.

I stirred cous cous into my cookpot, along with the parmesan packet, a healthy portion of sharp cheddar, and coconut oil. The oil I found in a 12oz squeeze pouch, with a screw cap. It is perfect for backpacking, and coconut oil is more versatile than olive oil. In addition to helping bump up my caloric intake at dinner, it makes a great oral rinse, and it is great on burns and wounds. I’ve also been adding it to my morning coffee.

The shelters have been empty these days, and I’ve found comfort in performing these tasks with music in the background, or a podcast playing on my phone speakers. It makes the small three-sided cabins a little less lonely, and a bit more cozy. After dinner and stowing my food, I fell into a deep sleep. My slightly damp body finally warmed up in my sleeping bag.

The rain continued all night and into the afternoon. With so few days left in the trip, and so many good resupply options in the coming miles, I couldn’t justify leaving the shelter in a downpour. I had literally no reason to rush. I could do a full zero here and eat a whole day’s worth of food if I wanted to. As it happened, I slept until 9am

A section hiker named Short Break stopped by, and laughed to find me still in the shelter at 10:30am. Other than the usual morning relief, I never left my bag. He caught me mid-sentence. Another hiker had left a trail journal and a guidebook here, and I was nearly on the last entry. I put the journal aside and welcomed him into the space.

Short Break was soaked head to toe, but intent on making it to a new hostel about eight miles away. Weary Feet offered the comforts of both burgers and warm showers, a winning combo after hiking through a rainy day. I had seen a couple of their advertisements posted on the trail.

He assembled a few sandwiches in the shelter and we discussed Woodshole Hostel, where he stayed the night before. Then I mentioned the journal, and sure enough he found an entry on Guthooks from the owner. He read off the phone number to me, and I added it to my phone contacts. From reading the journal I could barely discern anything about its owner. Only direction of travel, southbound, was clear.

Guthooks is a paid app I still refuse to use. In this drought, some of my fellow hikers think I am running a major risk by refusing to use the water reports Guthooks provides. They’re a bunch of pussies though, usually the same people who carry Spot devices out here. In my mind, taking a .4 side trail and finding the water source is dry, is part of a thru hike. Not having all the answers and information is a blessing. Finding out is called “experience!” Otherwise I’d just sit at home and be content only to read books about this trail.

Similarly, my real beef with Guthooks, other than the $80 price tag, is the comments feature. I do not care about another person’s opinion of shelters, hostels, or resupply out here. If I want to know, I ask other hikes directly. The comments section undermines so many potential conversations. I’m old school, and ditching my hardcopy guidebook was difficult enough this year!

Regardless, it did put me in contact with the owner of the journal. I’ll be leaving it, and the guidebook at a country store tomorrow. A family member of theirs is visiting, and will pick the items up by car.

Short Break was getting cold, so he headed on. Somewhere around 1:30pm the rain stopped, and I decided to make some miles. The 14.5 to Jenny Knob Shelter went by amazingly fast. I rolled in here at 7:30pm. The hike was relatively dry, though now it’s pouring again. On the way I saw small flowing streams for the first time in weeks. All of my water has had to be collected from puddles lately. What a nice change!

I finished up a five hour Jocko Willink Podcast episode over dinner, and shot a few texts back and forth with Jelly. I’m very satisfied with the day. Tomorrow I am aiming for a 23 mile jaunt to the Jenkins Shelter. The day after that, I will be sub 300 miles to the finish! For now, I’ll let the drops on this steel roof lull me to sleep.

Rodo tunnels. Getting closer to home!

Honey Bun finished his flip flop in VA. I met him the other day during his last five miles!

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