The last week has been a strange one. After leaving hot springs, I went a little crazy. My legs turned into little hiking machines. I did a couple 20 mile days, some very quick miles, and in turn my body is telling me to slow down! I have a bit of a strain in the front of both ankles, which I am pretty sure is shin splints. My Achilles tendons are also speaking up a little. The knees are also tender. I think I better stick to 15 mile days a bit longer.
Weather has been crazy too. On April 22, I got up early to begin my day. I accidentally didn't seal my water bladder well enough, and ended up spilling a liter of water inside my backpack and tent. It was the wrong day to make this mistake, because as it turns out, we would have to walk in a rainy cloud all day. We could only see about 15 feet ahead through the thick cloud, and it got very cold. I actually had ice crystals on my rain jacket. I was getting pretty concerned about hypothermia. Temps were forecasted below freezing, and expecting snow. 10 miles into my planned 29 mile day, I decided it was time for a new day. I was wet, cold, miserable, and on the verge of tears. I needed to get myself off the trail. There was a road crossing at about 15 miles where I could catch a shuttle to a hostel. I made the call, and now I had a little over 2 hours to hike 5.6 miles and make the 4 o'clock shuttle. The trail was a muddy and slippery. I went as fast as I could, and even jogged the flat parts, trying to pick up speed (not a good idea with a 35 lb pack on your back. My knees hate me for that part). I made it to the road crossing ten minutes after 4. I popped out of the woods to see a man standing beside his car. "I made it!", I said. He looked at me and said, "you need a ride?" I realized that this man was not my shuttle. My shuttle actually came early and left already. The man in front of me explained that he is a taxi driver, and was just leaving cards with his number at the crossing. He apologized that he wasn't in his taxi, but his regular car. He didn't expect to be picking anyone up.
Crap! Should I take a ride from this guy? Is he gonna try to kill me? I called the hostel to verify that they had indeed left me and it would be 45 min before they could come back. I was cold enough to be shivering at this point. I was soaking wet, and the rain just got worse. I examined my situation. The driver was severely out of shape (consistent with someone who drives for a living, right?), and he had another older guy with him who seemed to have a bad hip. I thought to myself, "I'm in pretty good shape. If these guys try anything, I'm sure I could take them both". I slid my pepper spray off my backpack strap and slipped it into my pocket, threw my pack in the trunk and got in the car. The guy went on about how god must have put him in that spot just to help me out. Meanwhile, I opened the GPS on my phone, knowing exactly where the hostel was. My right hand in my pocket with finger on pepper spray trigger, and my left hand controlling my phone. I was able to see he was taking me down the right road. Whew! He only charged me $10, and the hostel would have charged $25. I was scared to death, but I decreased my risk of hypothermia. Crisis averted. (Just so I'm clear kids, it is not safe to get in a strangers car! Don't do this at home. This was a very specific circumstance). I arrived in the hostel store entrance just as my first tear since getting on trail arrived on my cheek. The hostel was full. The guy across the counter said, "Honey, why don't you go take a warm shower, so you can feel better, and we will figure something out for you". I ran into Snail in the shower room and got a much needed hug. I also got talking to the lady showering in the next stall, and realized it was my friend, bright flower. Once I was clean and warm (and much happier), I went back to the office. They told me they got something fixed up for me. It wasn't a regular room. It was back by Grims room (the guy who runs the hostel with uncle Johnny) it had been used for employees before, but most recently was a storage closet. It had a bed, a TV, VCR, a really worn out old small couch, and a microwave. Grim put clean sheets on the bed, and brought in a space heater, and a DVD player with his personal collection of DVDs. The room wasn't very clean, but became very cozy for the night. I nicknamed it the Harry Potter room. Grim also had a little puppy who proceeded to scratch on my door until I let him in and cuddle for a while. The next day, Grim drove me to Spivey gap, where I had exited the trail the night before, and I hiked the 11 miles back to the hostel in the snow. I met up with Balls and Sunshine, and enjoyed their company for the last half of the hike. It only took me 4 hours, and grim called me a crazy Viking. I was moved into a regular cabin that day. Funny thing is that the bed in the closet was more comfy than the one in the cabin. Haha! For the following three days, me, sparky, and voltron slackpacked and stayed in hostels. Slackpacking is when you only carry a small day pack with necessary food, water, and gear for the day. Sparky's brothers were in town, so they would drop us off at one point on the trail and pick us up at another, then take us back to the hostel to have a warm shower and bed. This was great for us because the weather has been so bad. Many hikers have been held up in hostels.
I didn't get much sleep last night worrying that I wasn't going to be able to walk the next day. Fortunately, though I was a little sore, I was able to walk just fine. We had an excellent breakfast made by Mary who runs the hostel (and B&B in their cute country home) I ate Irish oats, eggs, French toast with honey and walnuts, sweet roll, strawberries, pineapple, blackberries, whipped cream, hash browns, tea, and orange juice. I think it was the best breakfast I have ever had in my life! The regular B&B guests were probably in awe at how much us hikers could eat! Hahaha!! After breakfast, I decided to hike on as long as my shins could take it. Voltron decided to take a slow day with me. We hiked 13.6 miles at a slow steady pace. It really helped that the trail was not as difficult as the last week has been. We took several breaks, and are camped out at a cozy spot right alongside the trail. I could have chosen to stay at the hostel for a zero day, but had planned on doing that at the next hostel as I was receiving a package which contained some permethrin to spray all my clothes. Permethrin is an insecticide to keep ticks away, and I will do this every 6 weeks.
We just have 11 miles to hike to the next hostel tomorrow, and then I can give my body a much needed rest!