June 20th 2018
Cove Mointain Shelter – Marble Spring (mile 778.3)
24.1 miles
Total miles: 795.2


We all had broken sleep. There was something moving around in the forest. I suspected it was a deer from the noise it was making, or maybe several deer. I saw the other put their torches on and have a look around. They’ve got this covered. I’ll hear if it’s anything more than a deer. It’s a deer Short Shorts yelled. I knew it. But the rustling still made it hard to sleep. I can’t remember the last night I got unbroken sleep. 

I also had creatures inside the tent with me. I felt things crawling on me. I managed to kill a couple of things, whatever they were, but there were still some creatures lurking about. I assumed they were ants and tried to ignore it.

The other reason it was so hard to sleep was because it was so ridiculously hot. I went to sleep in just my tshirt and shorts, but I did pull my sleeping bag out in the early hours and I draped a corner over my torso. I wasn’t particularly cold but it felt odd not having anything on me. My 10 degree Fahrenheit (-12°C) bag is totally unnecessary here! 

Eventually morning came, well, 5:50am. I refused to get up that early and closed my eyes again until 6:30am when the need to poo got me out of my tent. The need to wee didn’t because I was so dehydrated. I noticed there was a horrible bug, which I think was a spider, in my tent, and when I tried to encourage it out of the tent it jumped. Gross. So when I couldn’t encourage it out I had to squash it. There were bugs everywhere at this campsite. Another massive spider had set up camp in the little vent on my tent fly and a grasshopper jumped off when I was packing up. 

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I left just after 7am with Short Shorts and Par 3 and Pickles were still sleeping in their tent. After only 0.2 of a mile Short Shorts decides to stop and take a break at a lookout. I knew I had to keep moving today if I was going to make it. Plus it was about 3 miles to water and I needed to drink a lot. I still had a tiny bit in my bottle but I don’t like to be completely out. 

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A short while later Short Shorts comes up and tells me about a campground that sells food and soda. It would involve walking off trail down a road, and then we could rejoin the trail further on. Same mileage, slightly different route. I was sold. 

When we reached the road there was a big group of people there. Hikers. They were surrounding a truck which was laden with goodies. We each got given a slice of watermelon. One of the guys is being supported by his father who is driving around to trailheads and roads and bringing him food and treats. No wonder this guy has accumulated a rather large trail family! Magic at every road crossing, and they were all drinking beer – at 8:30am! 

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Short Shorts jumped in the creek which had a big swimming hole. I’m not a massive fan of swimming in things like that so I just filled my water bottle with rather undesirable water, knowing that all those people have jumped in there! I didn’t really want to drink it even though I was so thirsty. 

We left them drinking their beers and we road walked to the campground, paralleling the AT. And what a great decision that turned out to be. Those three miles down to the creek were basically all downhill and the road walk was easy, we were saying we should have gone there last night, but the store would have been closed by the time we got there and we would have had to have paid to pitch our tents so it worked out for the best. 

Happy to see the store open we got milkshakes and burgers and I got a soda. A root beer. My first root beer of the trail, bringing back fond memories of Eeyore and Root Beer Sue. I wasn’t expecting much from a campground store but it was wonderful. Such a good burger, it was actually made there I think and the edges were cooked to a crispy perfection. It was just the right amount of greasy and the lettuce was fresh and crunchy and I have this thing of enjoying tomatoes in my burgers now. Normally I pick them out but now I ask for them. The milkshake was good too. Chocolate of course. Thick and cold and delicious. 

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I felt so full and a bit sick after all of that but I also felt very good. I didn’t want to move. It was hot and I was full and the store sold dollar soda cans. We saw there was a pool and they said we could use it as long as we signed a waiver thing. There was also a lake thing with some inflatable slides. Short Shorts was straight in there but I was hesitant. First of all it was a lake which I’m not that keen on, and secondly I didn’t want to be hiking while dripping wet.  

Eventually I jumped in because Short Shorts looked like he was having too much fun. I went on the slide and he said “wait you’ve got a horse fly on you turn around”, and then he smacked me really hard! He killed the horse fly and thankfully it hadn’t bitten my because they give really nasty bites. I went down the slides a couple of times, nearly giving myself third degree burns sliding down the pvc, or whatever it’s made from, in just my knickers! 

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I didn’t mind just putting my hiking shirt on over a wet sports bra, but I had to put dry knickers on. I don’t like walking with a wet bum. I packed out a soda for the journey and we went on our way back to the trail, down a dirt road with a few houses, which seemed like quite a strange place to live, then up a little side trail back to the AT. Not only had we not cut off any miles we hadn’t cut off any climbing either because the way back to the trail was steep! 

I passed Short Shorts pack on the side of the trail and figured he much be off getting rid of the burger and milkshake already. When he caught me up he asked me if I had seen his water filter on the trail. No I hadn’t so he must have left it somewhere. So now he has no filter. He could use mine but I’m sure he wants to go further and faster than me today. 

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There was a big climb up to Apple Orchard Mountain and it just seemed to go on forever. I was being so painfully slow and I though that this may be the last time I see Short Shorts. I’m sure he will be flying up here. I thought after eating all that food and taking in all those calories I would be going quicker than I was but it was the opposite. I was so sluggish and lethargic. 

I crawled my way up. I stopped half way to drink my soda. Any longer and it would have been too warm. It was so good. It didn’t give me a boost though and I just continued crawling my way to the top. The heat is such a killer it was 29°C at 7am (about 85°F) and now it was about 33°C (in the 90s). The bugs were all over me. So many in my eyes and ears and the buzzing ones which drive you to madness. 

I heard some distant rumbles of thunder and the sky became very dark and the temperature dropped a bit. I just had time to grab the brolly and slip into my rain kilt before the heavens opened and the rain came down in its typically heavy stormy fashion. I’ve swapped out my 50 cent trash bag rain skirt for a $60 Zpacks glorified trash bag. Hopefully it will last a little longer than a normal trash bag. I was able to slip it on, slide it under the bottom of my rucksack and slip the top over my ‘fanny pack’. I tightened the drawstring and everything stayed nice and dry. 

I was a short but intense shower and I stood still while the wind was blowing the rain sideways but I had to get moving again because I was getting cold. I could ditch the brolly after a while but I kept the kilt on because of the drips from the backpack. The trail flash flooded and became a river so although most of me was dryish my feet were in little puddles. As soon as it stopped raining and the sun came out again it felt like it was hotter than it had been before it started raining. The humidity had turned up a notch. 

I eventually made it to the top where there was a giant weather station and then I began the descent down the other side. Not far down you go under a rock called ‘the guillotine’. It’s a rock suspended between two other rocks. I might have missed it had it not been listed as a thing on the app. On the way down there are a couple of outlooks. I stopped at thunder ridge overlook and saw how hazy the landscape was. There was a heat haze hanging over the hills and valleys. 

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I kept checking the time. I was moving fast but I was still on track for an 8pm finish. I was finding the downhill hard today. My whole legs just felt tired but especially my feet and knees. I felt like they could give out under me at any moment. 

I saw quite a bit of wildlife this afternoon, a baby deer, a toad, a salamander, a rabbit and I think I saw a Cardinal, a beautiful red bird which is the state bird. It flew away too fast for me to document it. Thought for the day, how do the bugs not drown in the big downpours??

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the guillotine

It was a long struggle to get down to the road crossing where I would only have 2ish miles left for the day. I was really surprised to see Short Shorts waiting there. I thought you’d be long gone, I told him. He said he took the Blue Ridge Parkway for some of the day, and that mean he missed that awful climb! He did get really lucky though because he met some ladies at the parking area and explained that he had lost his filter. The gave him theirs, plus a water bladder! It was his lucky day! 

He said he felt a bit broken and he was only going to go to that campsite so I would see him there. We climbed 1.1 miles of uphill just to get to Highcock Knob, which has no views, only to got straight back down again for 1.1 miles, ending at the same height we started at. There was some great trail maintenance going on on the way down. 

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I was really done now. I was more than ready to stop walking. Today had been long day with about 7000ft of uphill. At the campsite there were two other people there already in their hammocks, probably to get away from the bugs. 

We went to collect water from a delicious clear cold ground spring, set up camp and got in as quickly as possible to get away from the bugs, although there was a huge spider inside my tent, so I must have carried him the whole way today. I shook him out. I got my t-shirt on and I didn’t bother with dinner because I’m just not hungry. I snacked on cookies. 

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It’s 9:50pm now and I am really struggling to keep my eyes open. I keep drifting off mid sentence and forgetting what I have to stay!

I am exhausted. Every part of my body hurts, even my upper body from using that water slide thing today, but especially my feet and legs. I have bites all around my sock line. A bite so painful on my leg I couldn’t let my shorts touch it. Short Shorts said it was a zit. I don’t think it is. Short Shorts has butt chafe. That’s why I don’t like to walk in wet stuff. 


Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 43

 

 


 

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