Bailey Gap Shelter, Va., NOBO mile 654.5 — The dawn broke cool with a warm note in the wind. The promise of a good day turned out not to be.
My pack slid over my shoulders with ease. This one, the winter newbee, squeaks as I walk. That a good signs that it’s breaking in. The shelter spring was dry, but not to worry, the guide marked water less than an hour away.
For the second day in a row, the morning sun high beamed me dead in the eyes. If the spring was marked, I didn’t see it. The next water was eight miles. I’ll chance it. Cool day and an easy walk according to my guide. That was almost true.
The trail was rocky and difficult. The ground was littered with branches torn away by the 50 mph wind gusts two nights before. The further I traveled, the worse it was. At one point I spent seven hours hiking four miles – climbing over, under, and around massive amounts of blowdown. The worst I’ve ever seen.
I was fortunate to find water in a tiny pond full of frogs eggs soon to hatch. Judging from the signs around it, it’s the local watering hole for the entire animal neighborhood.
The Captain’s zip line was obscured. I hope it’s still there. Fortunately, the next mountain over, the one I’m on now, is clean.
I’ve never been more physically exhausted on this hike, including the hard days last week. Tomorrow we strike out again with a chance of rain.