One of these days I will actually finish the rest of my AT Journal! Please accept this continuation for today’s Trail Tuesday. You can read previous AT entries by clicking here.
Wednesday, October 4
B drank a lot of Wild Turkey last night. He has been officially trail-named “Turkey.” So fitting.
This morning was an experience like no other. I night hiked for the first time. And most of it by myself! We woke up at around 4:30 am after a great night’s sleep to the smell of coffee. We got dressed and bundled up and headed out for McAfee Knob.
When we got to the lot there was maybe 2 other cars. We got started right away so we could beat the sun to the summit. Kringle and B sped up ahead of me on the fire road route while I warmed up and hobbled due to my janky pinky toe. The guys were at a junction a little ahead of me and then we all hopped on the AT to start the climb. If I remember correctly it was about 2? 3? miles from that junction up. It was a blur.
Before they left me in the dust, either Kringle or Turkey hollered back, “Sorry about your short legs!” I cursed them a little. But I was fine, with my headlamp, the clacking of my poles, and myself. In the dark. Alone. Bears. Gulp.
I didn’t even notice as I had some work to do. McAfee is no joke. (Missouri and Illinois can’t seem to challenge us or prepare us for much!) (I’m just going to throw this visual here even though I’m not actually doing photos in these journal posts…but I will for Trail Tuesday’s sake!) Needless to say, I was racing time and the sun and I felt an hour behind the guys even though they were really only about 10-15 minutes ahead. I booked it up that damn mountain, cussing a little, talking to myself, sweating a lot.
I made it about 4 minutes after the sun actually rose, but it was still the most breathtaking and among one of the proudest hiking accomplishments I’ve ever had. 4 pretty hard miles, my first night hike and my first sunrise on a summit. I felt like a totally different person up there. I took some photos but really tried to relish in being the only 3 people hanging out on the most photographed location on the entire Appalachian Trail. It was a special experience. There was a chill in the air. I can still feel the breeze and smell the cold.
The way back. Wow. I had been ignoring my poor pinky toe on the ascent because, well, I had to go up and I had to get there fast. The way down we took the AT, instead of the fire road. (Kringle and I lost Turkey at the junction. He ended up taking the fire road down.) And down we went.Kringle is a volunteer ridge runner for McAfee Knob so he knows the trail pretty well. If it weren’t for him I may have lost myself a couple times! It was a fun yet challenging hike down and I was thankful for his company on this painful descent. My toe was throbbing, and I was exhausted mentally and physically. The way down was something. I came to the conclusion here that I think I actually prefer going up over coming down most times. The toes, the knees. Ouch. It was also there I decided my maximum of hiking multiple days in a row was probably 5 before I needed a good day off.
We finally met Turkey back at the car, he’d been there for about 30 or 45 minutes (I had the keys in my pack…oops!) and headed back to Kringle’s house to gather our things and have a quick breakfast. It was 10:20 am when we pulled back into his driveway. We hiked 8 miles round trip in about 5 hours, with a 30min break at the top.
We changed and packed up and I could smell bacon drifting down the hall. Another delicious Kringle bed and breakfast feast! Bacon, cheesy scrambled eggs and crunchy toast with local jam. (Kringle, you inspired us to get a toaster oven!)
We said our goodbyes after loading the car up. It was bittersweet; we had such a wonderful short 24 hours with our new friend. He took me on my favorite hike I had done all year and I will never forget it! Before we descended, Kringle snapped this picture of Turkey and me.I hope we cross paths with him again one day.
We had a 2 and a half hour drive from Catawba to Grayson Highlands State Park where we are camping the next two nights. The drive went surprisingly quick considering how tired we were. When we pulled in we saw 2 ponies grazing in the campground. Ponies already!
We stopped at the little camp store inside the park but decided we needed more sustenance than marshmallows and hot dogs for the next two days. We came to the conclusion that we first needed a cooler. Then we needed to stock said cooler. On the way we passed the Grayson Highlands General Store, so we decided to head back there.
I was so impressed with this place. The owner was so helpful and kind and although the prices were a little high, I was glad to support a small business and an excellent AT resupply store. There’s an inn above the shop and he let us hook up to the wifi while we waited for our lunch from the diner. All around, a great place. (We left an extra $5 with him for a little trail magic to a hiker that may be in need.)
It has been a long day. Tonight we will make a feast, cozy up in the tent and hike the Highlands in the morning.