Marion to Atkins. 11.6 miles.
Nice easy day hiking, little ups, little downs, mild weather. Crushed the miles in 5 hours hiking with a guy whose real name was Cornelius Rumblejunk, made my day! On the way I passed an old school house that you could look around, I was loving the punishment list!
I wanted to stay in Atkins, but the only motel was fully booked, literally no room at the inn, so I ended up shuttling back to where I started my day in Marion. Best decision ever, I got a motel room, a giant pizza and it rained all night!
Atkins to Knot Maul Shelter. 14.3 miles.
Because it rained all night long the trail was bog. It was so muddy I either slipped and slid or it was so sticky I couldn’t move my feet. There were three major uphills to battle today, the first one was short but very steep, fresh morning legs meant I coped well. The second was long but well graded and very enjoyable (what? Who am I?). At the top was a milestone I seriously never expected to see, let alone stride past, the quarter way marker!!
The third was steep, long and at the end of the day which was pure torture. The terrain was so varied today, I spent time in the woods, on ridges and walked through open fields with wildflowers and cows, it could have been Devon.
Knot Maul Shelter to Chestnut Knob Shelter. 9.7 miles.
I was dreading today’s hike, the end of the day was a mammoth 4.5 mile uphill. The first 5 miles of the day passed unremarkably except for the fact that it rained even more in the night rendering the trail a slip and slide again, I have got myself a groin strain from gripping so hard.
And then it was time to climb, steep and continuous. I actually had a really proud moment when I outpaced several hikers who were in my age bracket, I usually only overtake the over 70’s. The view from the top was incredible. The shelter is a fully enclosed stone building which I decided to sleep in as it’s freezing up here at the top, but even as I write this I can hear the mice scurrying.
Chestnut Knob Shelter to Stealth campsite. 15.1 miles.
Today was a weird day, the weather was perfect, blue skies, warm in the sun but a cool breeze, but the trail was not! There was a long stretch of about 10 miles with no markers or indicators to tell me how far I’d hiked. My mind played tricks on me, I would rest after what felt like eternity, convinced I’d walked at least a mile, but when I checked, barely 10 mins had passed and I’d maybe walked 0.1 mile. I upped the anti in the afternoon and plowed through the miles and was rewarded with a great stealth camp spot right next to a river crossing with mini falls. I soaked my feet and ate my dinner with a great view and I am reminded just how lucky I am.
Stealth campsite to Bland. 8 miles.
Everything was a blur today. I nailed the 8 miles in way under 4 hours knowing my reward was food, food, food. At the road crossing I managed to get a hitch into town with a guy I’m lovingly calling a redneck who informed me the next section of trail is well know for copperhead and rattlesnakes (deadliest snakes in North America). His passing piece of advice was, if I get bitten and suck the venom out, don’t swallow it!!! No sir I won’t!! I’m in town for less than 18 hours and I intend to enjoy every glutinous minute of it!
Bland to Jenny Knob Shelter. 11.7 miles.
Today was hot and humid, such a change from the cold and wet I’ve been engulfed in recently, it felt more like a jungle. I was covered in sweat all day but grateful that the trail is drying out.
There has been a strange outbreak of caterpillars, they are everywhere, hanging from the trees, I looked down at one point and I had 4 on my shirt, later I found 2 in my hair and countless on my pack but, even with these tiny hitchhikers all over me I still managed to pass the 600 mile marker.
Jenny Knob Shelter to Wapiti Shelter. 14.7 miles.
Last night was the first night I didn’t sleep in socks! Yay!
I was really looking forward to today as I had a great pitstop at a waterfall to look forward to and it didn’t disappoint. After just 8 miles I was happily eating my lunch in the glorious sunshine, feet in the river, watching water cascading over the falls. It was perfect, I spent over an hour relaxing and didn’t want to leave.
I had just 7 miles to hike in the afternoon over relatively easy terrain. I have discovered that no matter how many miles I hike whether it’s 5 or 15, the last mile of the day is torturous, so I was relieved to arrive at camp for the night. Tonight has been one of my favourite at a shelter so far, there are only 5 people here, all great company, laughter and stories were shared and the absence of trail Bros was extremely refreshing.
Wapiti Shelter to Woods Hole Hostel. 8 miles.
I woke up this morning not feeling great, stiff neck, sore throat, you know the rest. Took me a while to pack up, lacking energy, good job it’s just a short day today. Unfortunately it started with a huge climb, very steep and rocky. It completely whipped me. Luckily there was a cracking view from the top where I sat recovering for over an hour.
I only had 4 miles left to hike but completely misjudged my water needs and subsequently I ran out with over 2 miles to go which made the hike nearing on miserable. I arrived at the most magical, rustic hostel, caught up with some trail friends and ate a great feast. During the night my health rapidly declined to a miserable state, so I am now in town nursing a full blown cold and my very typical hacking cough, hoping to kick this bugs arse with lemsip and fresh orange juice.