Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Damp

     My father was about to give me a ride back to the trail when I spotted this neat looking caterpillar sitting on the side view mirror.  I stopped and snapped a picture and then got in the car.  Two seconds later a man at the RV park was waving his hands at us and I knew immediately what he was signaling.  I left my backpack leaning against the back of the car and forgot about it when I saw the damn caterpillar.  There was only minor damage when we backed up, man, I am such a ditz at times.



     When I started up the trail again it was warm and beautiful.  The mountain laurel were blooming everywhere at lower elevation and I felt strong and healthy.  I made up to the ridge line in no time at all.  My body felt so much better than it had only a few short days ago when I was suffering from horrible stomach issues.  I had met three or four other hikers who were suffering or had suffered from the same problems.  Some had been hiking right through the upset stomach and just dealing with it.  I am happy I took three days off to recover because I was feeling better than ever.  My guidebook  said that I would be walking along this mountain top for several miles with little elevation gain or loss so I practiced extending my stride for long periods, just to see if I could.

     I wove through forests and high meadows drumming out a steady beat with my feet and trekking poles.  I caught up to a couple that I had been seeing for a long time named "Flowers" and "Daisy".  We stopped and talked for a bit and they told me that "Skunkape" and "LeeBob" were just ahead.  They said that they were all going to a place called "The Captain's".  He was a guy who let hikers stay on his property and camp, I had no real destination in mind so what the heck, I decided to stop there too.  I took off hiking again and shortly ran into "LeeBob" and "Skunkape".  I told them I would see them at "Captain's" and  kept on chugging.  I was making great time and was really enjoying the warm day.  I stopped for a bite to eat on a big rock and was joined by a cute little bee that wanted to suck the salt off my fingers.

     Near the end of the day I made it to the river crossing where on the other side "The Captain's" house lay.  The coolest part of going to the "Captain's" is the method in which you cross the river.  I waited for the others to show up and we all crossed one at a time.  On the other side we set up our tents and hung out talking until night fell when we all turned in.


    Sometime during the night it started raining.  When I woke up and broke camp it let off for a bit, but not long after I started hiking for the day it began drizzling.  I slogged through the light mist all day and ended pretty early at War Spur shelter.  I was just lacking motivation to keep going on so I stayed in the shelter with about four other hikers.

     The next morning I headed out under overcast skies.  The trail took me over cow pastures with beautiful views of the farms in the area.  The wild flowers in the fields were so high that I didn't even need to crouch down to take a picture.  I just stood up, snap, oooh there's a nicer one, snap, ooh look at that one, snap.  I wish I knew their names because they are so distinct and I keep seeing the same ones over and over.  Sometimes I see one, but wait until I see it with a dramatic background to to take a picture.  It is probably best that I have been hiking alone, I am either trying to test my strength and hiking fast, stopping constantly saying "Ooh, pretty flowers", or feeling unmotivated and doing short days.  Like I said, I am a ditz at times.


Catnap and Keiffer Oak
     After the pastures I ran into "Catnap" and "Danu" a guy and gal who stayed with me at "The Captain's" and the last shelter.  We hiked a little bit together and came upon Keiffer oak, the second largest oak on the AT at eighteen feet around and three hundred years old.  It was gnarled and huge.  I took the picture with "Catnap" at the base, but I had no chance of getting the whole tree in the shot.  When I left the giant oak I crossed one more field and then was back into the woods.  As I was making my way up the mountain I heard a loud CRACK in front of me.  I looked up just in time to see a very large branch come crashing down ten feet directly in front of me.  Timing is everything, a little earlier and I would never have witnessed it, a little later and I could have been smooshed.  Oh well, back to hiking and looking at all of the flowers.  There were so many that it looked like a dusting of snow on the forest floor.

     I stayed at Niday shelter that night where some generous soul left a bunch of beers in the creek for weary hikers.  I took two and ate my dinner of re-hydrated mashed potatoes.  Before the sun went down the sky opened up and I retreated to my tent to stay dry, there I stayed until dawn.

     I left camp and headed up a mountain that I don't know the name to, but at the peak had a nice memorial to Audey Murphy.  He was a WWII vet who was the most decorated soldier that died nearby.  He received the Medal of Honor, I think the Silver Cross, I think about 5 or 25 Purple Hearts, and I think the Congressional Medal of Bad Ass.  There was a little bench perched on an overlook that I sat on and drank in the view.  It was a really calm and peaceful place.

     I descended that mountain only to go right back up another.  This one was headed steadily up and then along a rocky ridge.  Slowly the rocks got larger and more difficult to negotiate.  When the ridge ended it was at an amazing rock ledge called The Dragon's Tooth.  I dropped my pack and scaled the rock spire until I was sitting on the highest point.


 
  The path down from The Dragon's Tooth was crazy steep.  Going down was a series of large boulders that I had to sit on my butt in order to reach the next foot hold.  The process was made much harder by my large backpack that is always throwing my balance off.  I was pleased with myself when I reached the bottom and only fell twice.  When I emerged from the woods I met up with "Skunkape" and "LeeBob", we decided to go down the road to a hostel for the night.  It was nice enough and all, but was no Wood's Hole.  It was basically a guy's three car garage that he threw some couches and cots in and allows hikers to crash for the night.  I might be bitter because one of his dogs decided to serenade us all night with a song that went something like, "Bow-wow-ow-owwwwwww!!!!"  Just when I thought he was done he would start up again with another verse.  The song went all night long too. I really do have to hand it to the dog because he had the energy to go on and on and on.

     When the roosters started screeching at daylight I knew it was time to go.  I packed my stuff up and headed outside.  There the dog was sleeping peacefully outside the door.  So I got real close and "BOW WOW WOW WOWed" him awake.  Then it began to rain.

     I headed back out on the trail as the rain lightened up some.  It wasn't long until I made it to MaCafee Knob, the place that is supposed to be the iconic photo spot where you sit on the rock ledge under blue skies and gaze thoughtfully into the distance.  "Catnap" and I arrived there just in time for there to be no view, just a shapeless cloud.  We figured we would hang out up there until it cleared for a moment.  Then it began to rain.  We retreated from the rock ledge and took cover under some large boulders down the hill a short ways.  An hour later the rain let up some and we went back up to the view.  The next two hours were spent going, "Yup, I think it is clearing" and then it would rain.  "Yup, it's definitely letting up some."  Finally around eight o'clock at night we took overcast pictures and headed a mile down the trail in the pouring rain to the nearest shelter.

     When we arrived we thought we were the only ones there until it got dark and the real residents showed themselves.


    At day break I packed up and headed out early by myself. I planned to meet my father sixteen miles away and I wanted to get there as early as possible.  I set a quick pace for myself and before long I was on Tinker Cliffs.  It was an amazing rock outcropping minus the clouds I had last night.  I took a quick picture and kept moving.  About two miles from the cliff I started hearing an odd noise.  It sounded like a swarm of bees, except different.  It was just a steady droning that seemed to move from one place to the other.  It got so loud at times that I stopped moving so I could try to identify it.



     As I got closer to town it got so loud that it was hard to hear my footsteps.  I passed a couple of power lines and thought that maybe that was the cause, but as I moved away from them I kept hearing it.  When I popped out into town and met my father, the sounds of the busy road had drowned it out.  Hmmm. Then it began to rain.


~Frenchy

9 comments:

  1. Glad to hear you are enjoying your adventure. Thanks for sharing it with us!

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    1. Thank you for reading it, I feel like everyone is with me as I plod along.

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  2. It sounds like birds to me.

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  3. Probably the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program. Or chemtrails. A parallel universe? Or the illuminati.

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    1. Illuminati, I didn't think of that one.

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  4. Frenchy:
    AT synchronicity or serendipity, perhaps?
    Tonight, I just happened to be reading “As Far as the Eye Can See” by David Brill who thru-hiked the AT in 1979. In Chapter 11 on page 145, I found this:
    “On our second night on the trail, for instance, I heard an eerie drumming sound that resembled the noise of a basketball being dribbled with increasing tempo on a carpeted floor. I heard the sound again and again over the next few fays, though neither Dan or I had the slightest notion of what it was. We learned later that the dribbling sound arose from a male ruffled grouse, beating the air with its wings to attract a mate.
    “Several days later, as I ambled along a tranquil stretch of trial lost in thought, a sudden explosion of thundering wings jarred me to attention. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted two birds the size of large game hens beating their wings and flying erratically through the trees. Their black, brown and tan feathers provided perfect camouflage, and when they lit in the trees several hundred yards away, they virtually disappeared into the background colors of the wilderness.”
    Could these be the sounds you heard?

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    1. Wow, he is a lovely writer. I know this is late, but it turned out to be cicadas. I've never heard cicadas like these, I'm used to a droning sound that gets loud then ebbs rhythmically.

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  5. Great journey so far, I have enjoyed reading. That pic of you at Macafee is one of the best I have ever seen. I love the fog all around you.

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    1. I am amazed at how good the picture came out, I wonder if it would have looked the same if I had it snapped as soon as I got there. Sitting on the knob for 2 hours waiting for the clouds to clear was kinda fun though.

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