On Day 23, I did 18 miles to a swanky shelter with a cocktail table built around a tree. I got there at 1:30 so I could have gone further, but again, I made the decision to not push my body after just getting back on trail. But I felt good the whole way. My knee brace has really been helping my knee. It probably also helps that we haven’t had many steep climbs and descents the last couple of days. Not many rocks yet either. I hope they never come!
I brought a book from home and that has been helping to pass the time in the afternoons and evenings. There’s not much else to do except talk to the others in the shelter, try to dry out all my damp belongings and eat. So, I do my fair share of all these things. I’m almost done with my book, though, so I’ll need to pick another one up in the next day or so. Some people leave books they’ve completed at the shelters so maybe I’ll get lucky and find one that looks interesting.
The talk of the day was the imminent thunderstorm that would last until Sunday. Because it sounded so bad, I decided not to tent and to instead sleep in the shelter. Of course, it didn’t start raining until about 5 am, and even then, it was mostly just some crummy drizzle. The rain, combined with a headache, definitely made it hard to get out of bed, though.
I finally got up around 7 and slowly started packing up my things.
I met a guy named T Squared a couple days ago who said he had been back on the trail for a week or two after being off to visit his wife for a week. He told me that he was really struggling to get back into the groove of things.
Then, last night, I camped with Jester (the documentary guy) who asked how my transition back to the trail was going. I told him so far, so good, and then he recounted how he took a week off earlier in the year and had a really hard time getting back into the swing of things.
When I struggled to get out of bed this morning, I knew that my time had come for my post-break slump. My headache made my stomach a little tender, so my trip to the extra-disgusting privy was gag-inducing. I tried just breathing through my mouth, but I swear I could still feel the ammonia burning my lungs. I ended up breathing tiny breaths trying not to vomit and using my shirt as a filter over my mouth. Somehow, the smell of my own disgusting body sort of helped.
I walked about 7 miles cursing the rain before I came to a sign that stated that a town was 2.4 miles away from the AT. Normally nothing could make me walk a round-trip of 5 miles off trail. I passed the sign and kept walking. And the rain seemed to get stronger. Finally, I stopped under an underpass and considered my options. I could walk to the town and stay in a hotel, or I could walk 11.5 more miles to a shelter where I still wouldn’t be dry. I chose hotel. I walked back to the sign and then made the 2.4 mile trek to town on an old rail line.
So, I’m laying in a hotel bed right now. I just did my laundry in the bathtub and my shoes are sitting on the heater, which makes the whole room smell putrid but makes my shoes dry. It’s a fair trade-off.
They’re calling for flash flooding tonight, and it’s still down pouring. However, it’s supposed to be a beautiful day tomorrow. I’ll continue my hike (with dry shoes!) then.