I left the truck stop in Atkins Virginia and the wintery weather behind as I headed back out on the trail under blue skies and a warm wind. The blustery white world was replaced with lush green. I traveled through farm lands, over rolling hills filled with cows and along gentle rivers. The trail was lined with wild flowers I haven't seen before, not that I know what any of them are, but the flowers just jump out at you in stark contrast to the world around. I felt like I was stopping every few minutes to take a picture of a some new pretty flower.
I'd like to say that I tackled the mountain easily, but in reality I was a sweaty panting mess. What awaited me at the top though was magnificent. It was a strip of meadow with views all around under fading light, the pictures I took will never do it justice. I think without the exertion expelled to make it there it might have just been another bald mountain top, but I know only those who have toiled and sweat will see this amazing sight.
As I approached the shelter I also noticed dark clouds closing in. Chestnut Knob shelter is located directly on top and in the middle of the meadow with no trees for at least fifty to one hundred feet. The good news was that it used to be a ranger station so it had four walls and even a door. The bad news was that it had bunks enough for eight people and I was the fifteenth to arrive. When the first crack of thunder sounded though none of that mattered and everyone made room. When darkness came I set up underneath a wooden bunk. It reminded me of the sleeping quarters on board a ship in the navy, where if you try to sit up quickly in the middle of the night you would knock yourself unconscious.
That night it rained harder than I have heard on this trip so far and the lightning was dangerously close. When morning arrived it was still pouring. All fifteen of us just idled in the shelter trying not to get in each others' way too much. Around noon it let up and I left, happy to be out walking again. The trail was soaked and in spots it was just an unavoidable puddle that you had to tromp through. In the evening I stopped at Jenkins shelter, only ten miles from the last, but down in a valley so the storms that were coming would be less severe. I set up my tent outside and laid down for the night.
The next day was an easy walk of ten miles into Bland Virginia where I went in with a group and had subway sandwiches and lemonade. We didn't stay too long in Bland so we hitched back to the trail and started walking again. That is when my stomach started rumbling.
I reached the top of the first climb out of town and immediately had to run off the trail in order to use the facili-trees. Not pleasant. The first shelter out of town was only a mile or so, but I thought that I could make it to the second one that was ten miles away. Another brilliant decision on my part. My pace slowed to a crawl as my stomach gurgled. I think that I stopped every mile or mile and a half to dash off trail and evacuate the water that was now pouring from my bowels. I knew I was in trouble when i ran out of toilet paper and I still had three miles to go before the shelter. To make matters worse the sun had just set. I tried to appreciate it because it really was beautiful, but I could only think of getting to the shelter and borrowing someone's paper.
I basically ran into Jenny Knob shelter with clenched cheeks, dropped my bag, quickly told everyone my situation and then ran to the privy where I unleashed a torrent of horrible sounds and smells. After I was done I returned to the shelter area were a guy named "Chance" gave me some Imodium. He said, "It'll plug you up, but it will feel like you are giving birth out of your butt in a few days." I didn't care at that point, I just wanted to stop crapping. I set up my tent and went to sleep without eating.
I made it through the night without an issue and thought maybe the issue had passed. I set off down the trail early in the morning, but set a short goal of six miles where there was a road crossing and a gas station with a food store. I felt okay walking, I had no emergencies that demanded I stop. When I got the the store though my stomach was not doing well. I sat at a bench in the food store for about an hour or two before I made the decision to call my father to pick me up. He showed up less than an hour later and rescued me. I fell asleep shortly after getting back to his trailer and spent the rest of the day without incident.
The next day was not so dry. I didn't have a baby out of my ass like I was told would happen. Instead it was many trips to the bathroom with nothing but liquid. I really don't know how my body can turn something to disgusting water when it was completely solid only an hour or so earlier. I stayed the entire day at the trailer for the most part, but it was not restful.
As I write this I am preparing to head back out on the trail where I left off. It is only a day and a half hike to get back to where the trailer is located so I feel like I can handle that. Plus, I got a whole package of toilet paper. Uggh.