May 28th 2018
Hogback Ridge Shelter – No Business Knob Shelter (mile 337.6)
20.7 miles
Total miles: 347.6


I slept surprisingly well. I learnt from the night before and I didn’t zip up my sleeping bag. I was worried about the snorers but I think I must have been too tired to notice anything. 

People started moving around at 6am and All I could do was lay there. I couldn’t make my body move. Eventually I dragged it out at 6:30am and began a very slow pack up process. I gobbled up my cereal bar and loaded all my snacks for the day into the snack pocket. It rained a lot over night and it was a bit drizzly this morning so I started out with the trash bag and the umbrella. 

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I didn’t need them and after climbing very slowly up the first hill and getting distracted by newts or salamanders or whatever they are, I stopped to take them off. Just before I did that I was hiking along minding my own business when a loud hiss came from the side of the trail and it was followed by mad flapping of wings. It frightened the life out of me and I let out a little scream. I thought the hiss was a snake at first but it was this bird going nuts. I think it was a grouse or something like that but it wasn’t happy. It was flapping and screeching its way down the trail in front of me until it eventually moved off into the forest where it continued to scream. My heart was beating wildly and it took a while for it to calm back down. That woke me up. 

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A guy called Squirvert passed me. I had met him this morning when I noticed he was over by the hanging bear bags getting his down, and I shouted at him to bring mine over too. That’s how lazy I was feeling this morning! When he came over and gave it to me we introduced ourselves. Squirvert had to be one of my favourite trail names this year, at least it’s unique. A blend of Squirt (a grapefruit soda) and a brand of whiskey which I think he said was called Lord Calvert. 

As I was stopped to remove my rain gear red shirt guy passed me and I continue to crawl up the hill. I wasn’t feeling that great this morning. Very tired. Plus a bit queasy and my bowels felt funny, as if I could have explosive diarrhoea at any moment, but really it was just a lot of wind which would be released throughout the day, which didn’t help the nausea much. I think it might have something to do with the cheese I ate yesterday which has been in my pack for a while. I felt a general lethargy which probably comes from general exhaustion. 

But if you keep putting on foot in front of the other you eventually make it to the top of the climb and you magically start to move more quickly. The trail then descends to Sams gap where you cross under interstate 26 and then of course you climb up away from the road. Every time there is a road there is a climb after it.

I climbed up slowly and I was surprised to see red shirt guy at the first ‘top’ which was a pretty clearing. He was talking to some day hikers and we ended up all hiking along together for a little while and chatting. As the trail started to climb up I lost them as I got slower. The weather was starting to take a turn for the worse and I passed red shirt guy as he was stopped getting some water. I caught up to the day hikers and they had said to me that they had been chatting to Moon about giving him a ride to Erwin, the next town, from the road where their car was parked. Moon? Who is Moon?! Then I realised, it’s red shirt guy. I finally know what his name is. I said thanks but I had a plan and I will get to Erwin tomorrow anyway.

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I let them go on ahead of me as we climbed up to Big Bald and I couldn’t decide if it was raining or we were just in a cloud. I hiked on for a while in the drizzle and there came a point where I decided to put up my umbrella. Moon passed me and he’s carrying an umbrella too, he said it wasn’t raining enough for him to put his up yet. I’m glad I went with mine because the weather just steadily got worse and worse and there was no mistaking the rain coming down now. 

I crawled my way to the top of Big Bald and I saw Moon and the day hikers stood at the top chatting. Bugger that. It was cold, windy, exposed and very wet. After crawling my way to the top of the hill I blazed past them all and practically ran all the way to the shelter. Things that make me hike fast: bad weather, excess emotion, the promise of soda. I was even moving fast up the hill. Just before the shelter this massive golden retriever came bounding at me and nearly knocked me over with excitement. I would have loved to have stopped to play on a good day but I had to keep going. The weather just kept rolling in and the trail had turned into a river again. I was sploshing my way through the puddles and the mud, single minded in my mission to get to Bald Mountain Shelter to get out of the rain. 

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There were a few people there when I rolled in. Squirvert, a guy I’ve not met yet and an older lady. The older lady was spending the day in the shelter waiting for the rain to pass. I’ve heard that this is some tropical storm that’s rolled in so sitting it out may not be the best idea – she may be there for days. Keeping moving is the best way to stay warm. She is thru-hiking, but she is only doing 8 mile days. When Moon, who arrived a little after I did, suggested she probably wouldn’t get to Maine this year she seemed surprised. I think some people just don’t bother doing their sums. If she continues at 8 miles a day and sits out all the rain then she won’t reach Maine before Christmas. I guess she had better get some winter hiking gear. 

I wasn’t feeling that hungry but I forced myself to eat stuff. I ate my remaining tuna packet which I would regret later on as it repeated on me all afternoon. We were chatting to Squirvert and he has poison Ivy rash all over his legs. He said he knew he had a reaction to poison Ivy and he has tried to move it off the trail when he’s seen it, but he still has it all over his legs. It looks nasty. The good news for me is that he said I would have definitely come into contact with it by now so it looks like it doesn’t affect me. 

I was starting to get really cold so I decided to get moving after a half an hour break which is something of a luxury! I went with leaving my waterproof jacket on, expecting to take it off later, but it was actually a bit chilly. I put on the trash bag, popped up my umbrella and set out into the rain. It was really raining hard. The other guy in the shelter left before me, I found out later his name is Travis, and he just toughed it out without any waterproofs on at all. I get why people do that, because they just sweat anyway, but I think I would get too cold. 

I had 10.6 miles to do to get to the end of the day shelter and I knew I was just going to do those miles straight without stopping. I hate stopping when it’s wet. I was on a mission. A mission to try and get there before the guys, well before Travis and Moon. Squirvert left before me and he’s too fast. I thought if I managed to beat them I would have a chance at getting a space in the shelter. I was quick on the downhill, even through the mud and the puddles. I noticed earlier that Moon is very cautious on the downhill, still trying to avoid getting his feet wet. There are some days when you are just going to have wet feet so going right through the middle of the puddles is the only way to go. 

I knew I was quicker going down and if I could just maintain a reasonable speed on the uphills then I would be ok. The rain was persistent and every time the wind blew it caused an extra heavy shower as the big drops fell from the trees. It was pretty miserable at points and I remember thinking that it’s really not that enjoyable and questioning why on earth I was doing this. There was so much water everywhere but I was managing to stay reasonably dry. The trash bag was mostly protecting my shorts and although the sleeves, particularly the left one, of my raincoat were wet, the rest of me was dry – apart from the sweatiness. 

After you have been walking for 3 hours is the constant rain and your feet are like little swimming pools, your feet tend to get a bit sore. Everything swells and things start to rub. I just continued on as quickly as I could push my body to go. The rain started to ease a little and every time I thought it might be stopping it came in again. I made the mistake of rubbing my face with my bandana which had now taken on a rather unpleasant odour. The first chance I got I rinsed it out in a stream, which wasn’t hard to find. There were streams running all over the place. I was desperate for a wee and I ended up having to just go right in the middle of the trail. I managed to go without removing my pack and without anyone seeing me! 

I checked the gps with 2.8 miles to go. I decided I needed some motivation so I played some music out of the speakers and sang along out loud to get me going. It worked because when I next looked at the gps I was praying it was going to say less than 2 miles and it said 0.8 to go. I was flying along! 

There was no water at the shelter so I stopped at a stream 0.2 before it and filled up my bladder which meant I had to haul 2 litres of water up the last 0.2 of a mile which was a cruelly steep uphill. It was a nice sight to see the shelter and there was no one it in! Squirvert had set up his tent and there was another person there in a hammock. It was about 5:30pm when I got there, 10.6 miles in 4.5 hours of solid rain. I was happy with that. 

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The hammock belonged to a girl called Low Gear who is doing 10 mile days. She classed herself as part of the older crew who are doing low miles but when I found out that she was 36 I disagreed that she was part of the older crew! We sat at the picnic table and had dinner together with Squirvert and Travis when he arrived about half an hour after me and then Moon arrived about half an hour after that. 

Low Gear said she was going to bed because she knew we were all faster than her and there was no point investing time in getting to know us because she’ll never see us again! Harsh but fair! 

There is no privy at this shelter and she asked where the toilet area was. We suggested somewhere that she couldn’t be seen. There is a shovel here and she said she was only doing a number one but she would take the shovel so she could bury her toilet paper. NO! I cried. Pack out your toilet paper!! I was a bit overzealous with my pack it out speech, but she packed out her toilet paper so win for me and win for the forest! 

I remained feeling a bit off all day and I was stupid to think I could eat a whole one of those knorr sides but I cooked it anyway. I managed a bit but I got sick of it very quickly. I offered it around but there were no takers, so I’m packing it out and getting rid of it in town tomorrow. it’s kinda heavy, but as my food bag is practically empty I shouldn’t notice it too much. 

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Travis decided to hike on which I found surprising. He is trying to get in 20 miles everyday. The rest of us got ready for bed as no one wanted to hang around. Low Gear put her food bag on the roof of the shelter! Not sure that’s the most sensible idea but there you go. Moon and I are the only ones in the shelter. He was really noisy last time we were in a shelter together but I have encouraged him to be on the diagonal with his feet in the corner furthest from me so hopefully it will be ok tonight! 

As I’m writing this the wind has really picked up and things are landing on the roof which is quite loud and will probably wake me up with a fright in the night! 


Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 20

 

 


 

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