June 7th 2018
Lost mountain Shelter – Old Orchard Shelter (mile 509.6)
23.5 miles

Total miles: 511.4


I had a terrible nights sleep. I dozed off around 9:30pm and woke up coughing my guts up thinking it was the morning already and it was only 11pm. I coughed all night long. I tried to suppress it by swallowing a lot, until my eyes were watering, but it was no good, I had to cough. I also had to get up around 1am and have a wee. At least I am doing what the pharmacist told me to and keeping well hydrated. 

In the morning it was a struggle to get up. I wanted to leave early but my body had other ideas. I got up and about and I coughed so much that I nearly made myself sick. At least things felt a little looser though and my cough was rattling a lot. I apologised to people for keeping them awake with my coughing. Someone said they didn’t notice. Another guy said that he was wearing earplugs and Awesome said it didn’t bother him he was just concerned as to whether I was ok. 

I packed up and left at 7:30am. I checked the sign and started walking. After about 5 minutes I see some people coming towards me. It’s Salty and Pi. They ask me why I’m walking south. What?! I walked the wrong way out of the shelter. I could have sworn the shelter was on my left yesterday, but I was really spacey at the end of the day. I looked at the sign before I left but I obviously didn’t read any of the words. I was annoyed with myself but at least it was only 5 minutes. It could have been a lot worse.

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There is a 4 mile uphill to begin with and I definitely felt like I had less snot today but breathing was still really hard. In fact it hurt more today because everything was so sore from all the coughing. My ribs hurt and my actual lungs felt sore. Of course my throat was really sore. 

I plodded my way up the climb. A guy was always just in front of me and I later found out his name is Sweat Hog. He’s a section hiker and he is a very sweaty man! I was going at less that a 2 mile an hour pace and I was finding it so frustrating because this wasn’t difficult terrain, but the difficulty breathing was really hindering my progress. Eventually we made it to the top and it was a lovely open area with 360 views. We met a couple of southbounders and a northbounder called Shepherd. A little while later we were joined by Short Shorts. I stayed up there for a few minutes to appreciate the views.

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So many people just ahead of me

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When you ask someone else to take your picture

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I carried on and leapfrogged a bit with Salty and Pi, who kept congratulating me on the fact I was still going in the right direction! The trail is really nice for a while and is quite mellow through the forest and then you drop out onto a road. And guess who was there. Buzzy! 

Buzzy had stories of carrying Pebbles food and doing back to back 35 mile days and going to Damascus twice. I could make sense of about half of it! The German girl arrived and the French guy Bones. She said she had hardly slept at all last night because she though there was a bear around. She always asks me how I am when I see her, she’s really nice. 

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We hike together for about 10 minutes until the trail starts to go uphill and I have to slow my pace so that I can breathe. I had to do a few snot rockets this morning to get rid of the snot but I didn’t have to do any all afternoon so maybe things are looking up. I think I feel better than I did yesterday. 

I catch up to Salty and Pi who are stroking a wild pony! I’m so glad they were there, and it’s the second time they rescued me today as had I been on my own I would have freaked out when it tried to lick me, but it was already licking Pi all over so when it came over to me I was prepared. I wasn’t prepared for how much it tickled my kneecaps. It was an odd sensation and now I am covered in pony slobber. 

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I hiked with them for a little while and we saw some more ponies, a cute little baby one who liked to give us a lick and a little nibble a couple of times! The mother wasn’t interested she was busy eating the grass. 

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Watch the video on youtube to see how tickly their tongues are!

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As we carried on into the Grayson Highlands State Park and it was so beautiful. Every step brought something new to look at, a new view and a new beauty. There were so many awesome looking campsites. The rhododendrons were in bloom which I think were the first I’ve seen in flower. I was really slowed down by stopping all the time just to look around. There was a big group of people looking at some ponies and there were more ponies around, one group with a tiny looking foal which wasn’t being treated very well by its mother as she kept trying to kick it! 

There were lots of rocks to go over which made progress slow. This part of the AT is a big loop around which means lots of miles, but there is a shortcut you can take to cut off the loop, but it also cuts off the Grayson Highlands which you’d be crazy to miss because it’s one of the most beautiful areas of the trail so far. 

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The 500 mile marker is also there, so that’s something to celebrate, and the Fatman squeeze is there too, which is a narrow rock formation that isn’t difficult to ‘squeeze’ through. Maybe if you’re a fat man it might be tough. 

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I caught up to Salty and Pi who were taking a break as there feet were beat up from all the rocks. The last part of that section is super rocky. I decided to just carry on. I had a goal and with my pace today I was on track to get there around 7:30pm which is later than I would have liked. As the afternoon went on I was starting to feel better and I am hoping that this thing is on its way out.  The trail dips down into the forest again and then comes up out into the open for a bit. I saw a couple of deer up there before going back into the forest again. I considered camping a couple of miles before the shelter on the top of a hill, where the shortcut rejoins the AT, but I didn’t have enough water so carried on to the shelter. 

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The last bit was all downhill but it was so rocky I was still going slow. Buzzy blazed past me, running over the rocks! It took me 12 hours but I made it there. Over 23 miles and I felt like shit all day. Not bad. I saw Gatsby and Sweat Hog and I couldn’t work out how they got there without passing me. I knew I was in front of both of them. Then they told me they had taken the shortcut. It never even crossed my mind to do that. Plus they missed one of the best bits of the trail. 

I got my tent pitched then sat at the shelter with Buzzy, Gatsby and Sweat Hog while I ate my dinner. I forced down a knorr pasta side which was gross. There was a guy from Quebec there who gave me some strepsils. Oh they were so good. I wish I had a lot more of them. Nearly everyone I’ve met today has tried to give me medicine. It’s nice that people are so willing to help, but I’m already taking stuff so I haven’t needed it. I did almost cough up a lung after dinner though. Everything seems a lot more loose now. I’ve also had a lot of people diagnose me. I’ve had pneumonia, bronchitis, allergies, a cold…

Buzzy was his usual whirlwind self and ate his tinned spaghetti and smoked a bit before heading back onto the trail to get in another 5 miles in the dark. I didn’t get in my tent until ten to nine, and I still had to do all my chores like blow up my air mat and get changed into my sleep clothes. As a result all my stuff is very haphazardly chucked into my tent which makes me slightly uncomfortable as normally everything has its place and I know where stuff is. 

Lying down makes me want to cough instantly, I just hope I don’t spend half the night coughing again. I’ve definitely been through peaks and troughs today but going to sleep is something I’ve not been looking forward to. 


Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 30

 

 


 

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