May 21st 2018
Russell Field Shelter – Double Spring Gap Shelter (mile 196.8)
16.4 miles
Total miles: 205.6


I slept very well. I popped an Aleve PM which probably helped. I think I only woke up once which was very different to all the other nights. I didn’t even notice any mouse activity. This was probably because the mouse had been busy building a nest in one of the girls packs. 

She had her pack hung up on one of the nails and when she took it down in the morning and opened it up the mouse ran out. She screamed of course which is a very normal reaction and when she unpacked her stuff she found a nest with four little mouse babies. She put the nest on the ground and the little mouse ran backwards and forwards collecting her babies. 

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I don’t mind the mice. I’m not keen on the thought of them running over me, but when I’m asleep I don’t know anything about it. If they chew through any of my stuff however…

When I woke up my hands felt like they were on fire from all the itching. I scratched and scratched and I noticed that the backs of my hands were covered in bites. There were about 20 on my left hand and about 30 on the right. And kudos to the bug who managed to bite the skin on my palm, that one was particularly itchy! A couple of the guys checked the bites over to make sure they weren’t spider bites (gross) but there were no puncture marks so it was just an evil little bug. Or several evil little bugs. One of them gave me an after bite wipe and that really helped to take the itching out. I also had a whole bunch of bites on my neck and some on my face. I took an antihistamine which sorted me out. 

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I haven’t really been drinking enough so I applied my old trick of drinking a carnation breakfast drink (a choclatey drink powder that you’re supposed to mix with milk but is palatable just mixed with water) to get more fluid into me. That and a nutrigrain bar were my breakfast. 

I wasn’t in a rush to leave this morning. I knew I only had 16 miles to do to get to the furthest shelter because Mt Collins is closed and the one after was about 27 miles and my legs and feet haven’t quite got that in them yet. So today really was a bit of a stroll through the woods. 

I started out feeling a bit chilly and I put my puffy vest on which I knew was a mistake, because a minute down the trail I was too hot and stopped to take it off. The first climb of the day took me up to Rocky Top, a sub peak of the main peak – Thunderhead mountain. I was surprised at how nice the views were and for a few moments I felt like I had popped out from the trees and I was actually on top of a mountain for a change. There were some grassy meadow type areas and beautiful views. I thought about stopping for a little break and a snack but I thought, no I’ll carry on to the top top. Bad idea. The top top was just a tunnel of bushes with no views so I just carried on down, ate my Twix at the bottom and carried on. Not enough snacks today. One Twix, one bag of skittles and one tiny bag of fruit snacks. 

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The weather couldn’t make up its mind today. The sun came out and it was boiling and I was sweating and gross. The sun went behind a cloud and it cooled off and became a bit chilly. It sprinkled insignificantly for about 5 minutes. 

I made it up to Derrick Knob Shelter where I decided to stop for lunch. I was the only one there for a while but I was soon joined by a couple of northbound AT thru-hikers, Chef and Tuck. They are on the same schedule as me wanting to get finished by the first week of September, so I have a feeling I’ll be seeing more of them. They started three days before me. 

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A couple of southbound section hikers joined us and Jean-Pierre arrived a little later. Jean-Pierre is a funny guy. He doesn’t believe in trail names and will only call me Alex! I ended up staying for an hour and a half which was a luxury, I never stop that long for lunch! I ate my tuna and crushed up crisps. That was all I had. 

Eventually I moved on and the hike wasn’t too bad to begin with. Then it got hot. Really hot. I drank the last of my water and for the last 5 miles of the day I didn’t have any. I tried to do a little video and my lips were sticking to my teeth. The bugs, which hadn’t been too bad for most of the day, were horrific for about half an hour, to the point where I just wanted to scream. I was moving so slowly on the uphill parts because it was so hot and I was so dehydrated, I stopped a few times just to take small breaks. 

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I leapfrogged with the guys a bit and I pointed out some turkeys to them, they were just strolling through the forest. Massive turkeys. They took a break and I went ahead of them, and by this time I just wanted to get to the shelter. 

Then all of a sudden there was a bear about 5 metres away from me just hanging out munching on some leaves. I got my camera out. Yelled hey bear a few times and banged my trekking poles together. This bear did not give a shit that I was there. He just carried on eating his leaves. He was really beautiful. I stayed and watched him for a bit, yelling hey bear a few times to let him know I was there. He got up and moved and I quickly moved on. I was only .2 away from the shelter. 

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When I arrived there were a bunch of people already there and they told me that a bear had just run off with someone’s rain fly from their tent. It wasn’t the same bear I saw. They showed me a video of it and it was massive. About twice the size of the one I saw. So there are at least a couple, we think maybe 3 bears, around the shelter tonight. 

A few more people arrived and there are 15 of us here tonight. Thirteen of us are inside and two crazy fools have decided to put their hammocks up outside the shelter. I have hung my whole pack on the cables tonight, but there are lots of packs inside the shelter so it probably doesn’t make any difference. The packs are referred to as ‘bear pinyatas’ and the hammocks are ‘bear burritos’. 

There are some really nice people here tonight and when I said I had to find the water because I had been without for the last 5 miles some people gave me theirs, then another guy filtered my water for me! Result! I drank about a litre straight down, and at this point I am thankful for filters because the water was really brown and full of sediment when it came out of the creek. I ate my ramen noodles tonight, mostly because they would give me extra fluid and they are really salty so they would help replace all the salt I lost from all the sweating. 

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I had eaten and set up by 6pm so I sat around and chatted to everyone. There was one girl there who was really quiet so I asked her if she was ok. She said she was fine but didn’t really like talking to people much and she wasn’t expecting there to be this many people so she hung out on the outskirts. 

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One man made a fire which was great because one, it kept the bugs away, and two, I was not responsible for it! It was so nice to sit around the fire and chat about random stuff. What, you missed the wedding?! This seems to be everyone’s favourite question for me at the moment. One guy charged my phone off his battery pack as he was hiking out tomorrow anyway. 

About 7:30pm it started raining really hard and the temperature dropped significantly. This is definitely the coldest night on the trail so far. One of the hammock guys went out to his hammock and we heard him yell so we rushed out there. Not to see if he was ok, it was so we could get a look at the bear! (And to see if he was ok, of course.) He was quite far away in the woods but we could just see him moving about. We also saw a few deer roaming around the camp, not afraid of people at all. 

When I started to see my breath and the rain had dampened the fire I decided to go and get into my sleeping bag. It was just after 8pm so I thought that was an acceptable time. Others were already in bed. I’m not sure what will happen with the bear tonight, but I feel that there is safety in numbers and enough guys who want to be macho, so I think we’ll be ok. 

Oh and as I was writing this I noticed I have walked over 200 miles. But to be honest it’s not really going to be significant until I get to 1000. 


Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 13

 

 


 

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