Tuesday June 20, 2017 (Day 48)
I rose early to the light chirping of birds and the heavy mooing of cows. There was a sharp cawing in the distance. I could sense the vibrations of the cow hooves on the grassy hills. I could hear snuffing of their snouts.
The morning is glorious and clear. Calves jump with jubilance, all four limbs lifting from the earth in unison. Oh, the joy of youth!
One attractive white cow came swiftly across the trail. I startled it and it clumsily ran sideways. I could not help but laugh aloud.
I had high hopes for the day. I planned to cover a lot of ground. I considered staying at the donation based hostel that was 26 miles from the Keffer Oak.
While collecting water from a shelter in the early afternoon, I met many hikers I knew. We all late lunch together. Most of the others were heading to the next shelter, 10 miles out. One group of two, however, also planned on getting to the hostel. This was encouraging. I would not make it there until dark and was not sure if that would be appropriate. It made me feel better to know that other hikers would also be arriving late.
I continued on. I stopped at the next shelter to gather water. The water was over .5 miles off trail, however; this was discouraging. I joined the group I had seen for lunch. They were fixing dinner. They offered me water so that I would not have to venture so far out of my way. I thanked them and ate dinner with them. I then set off once more. It was after 9 pm.
I had 7 miles to go. At this point I decided that I would stealth camp by the gas station instead of stumbling in to the hostel well after midnight.
There was a bit of climbing, but I was energized and motivated. As I continued to make my way towards Dragon’s Tooth, however, the trail seemed to climb up and then down and then up again, and move in a never-ending spiral. I felt like a mouse on a wheel; as if I was getting no where at all. The terrain all looked the same in the beam of my headlamp. I often asked myself if I had gotten turned around some how and was retracing my steps. I finally passed the Dragon’s Tooth spur trail and began the decent. Oh my, what a descent! I was not quite prepared for this. My trekking poles became useless appendages atop the sleek, slanted stone. I moved painstakingly slowly. I longed to be off the mountain! I longed for smooth dirt-laden terrain again!
Finally, well after 2 am, I came to the road. I triumphantly walked the .4 miles to the Catawba gas station to catch something resembling rest before they opened at 5:30 am.