Sunday, May 29, 2016

Day 36: big days

5/26 small stream past Jenny Knob Shelter
568.6 - 602.5 (33.9 miles)

You know when people say oh my god thruhiking, that is just so amazing. I think there's this glamorous picture in their heads. But no I'm grubby, sticky, tired and on an emotional roller coaster most days. Last night was one of those glamorous nights. I set my tent up sloppily in the dark and lay down thinking my tired body would have no trouble sleeping. Instead it was a night of horribly broken sleep, very strange noises, rodents literally scampering underneath my tent and an endless bloody nose. Needless to say I as in a rush to go nowhere this morning.

I stumble down less than a mile to Walker gap and a much appreciated spring and then start the 8 miles or so of ridge line walking. While not any huge elevation changes its a constant rolling affair and I'm pouring sweat at 8 am.

I've become used to the constant rustle and squeaks of birds, chipmunks and squirrels in the leaf litter. So imagine my surprise when I see a giant black butt disappearing and 4 of the smallest black bear cubs I have ever seen beating a hasty retreat up a tree. I have no desire to make mama feel threatened and leave with a quickness but what a treat! I can just see her head peeking over the edge of the trail and it's not hard to put some distance between us.

The ridge is hot and I'm not moving quickly. No breeze is making it tougher and everyone I meet talks almost incessantly of all the lovely types of chafe appearing.

After the first ridge the day falls into a pattern, drop down grab some water climb up and follow the ridge. You can feel that there are open areas and big mountains but all I can see are tiny glimpses. Thankfully the breeze starts to pick up around 11 making it much more pleasant out.

There's even a short section of road walking. Ny first time walking over a giant highway on this trail. Plus as I'm walking out in the open a couple pulls over, takes my picture to show their friend who hiked last year and make me a sandwich before driving off, all in under 5 minutes. I'll admit I think I looked more confused than anything but it was a treat.

The other strangest thing today was the noise. It started this morning when I thought I heard rain, only it was clearly not raining because everything was dry, and the webs across the trail were way more out of hand than usual. It took me a surprisingly long time to realize it wasn't spiderwebs but caterpillars and they were everywhere. Constantly dodging lengths of silk and floating caterpillars while pulling them off my clothes. It became useless trying not to step on them although I still did my best. After talking with some hikers the consensus was the noise was caterpillar poop because it was constant but not visible among the falling chewed up leaves and rogue caterpillars.

Everywhere the leaves are munched and I started listening to an audiobook just for a break from the noise. Not a bad experience just strange and unexpected.

As the day cooled I finally hit my stride and was having a great time. Plus I knew I wanted water having skipped a source about a half mile off trail so it was going to have to be a longer evening. Pie had been praising night hiking and with the temperature and my feet in favor I was happily trucking along.

Around 9:15 I thought I had found my spot, scoping out a flat area by headlamp. My light hit glowing eyes and we both froze, I was hoping deer, not a deer. Why see just 5 bears in one day 6 is a much better number? I think there were cubs nearby too because the next twenty minutes were plagued by bears calling to each other. If you don't know this noise Google lost bear cubs, it's unsettling and pretty human sounding. All in all I found water and a flat spot and was all tucked in by ten. Night hiking was fun, bear startling not so much. I'm still undecided on night hiking for now.

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