In the morning, I am 100% not feeling it – the exhaustion I thought would hit me yesterday was apparently on some sort of delayed timer, and I feel I’m doing some impossible thing by trying to resist gravity. But there are miles to make, so what’s a thruhiker to do?
There are 32 miles to make, to be precise, if I want to both make 30 miles and sleep at a water source. I’m gonna try to make it – it’s good to have goals – but as always, it’s good to be flexible, too.
Once I finally get moving, I feel… better. Not great, but better. My mood is not-insignificantly lifted by the fact that the first water carry is short-short this morning – I’m toting a liter to make it two miles to the Hyatt Lake Campground, where fancy things like taps with potable water exist.
When I arrive, it is indeed as fancy as I think it will be – and there are a few people still sleeping, camped around it. I’m as quiet as I can be as I load my pack down with more water for the next bit of walking.
It’s contouring around Hyatt Lake as the day grows hotter:
And then there’s a fair bit of up to be had. I come across a short stretch of trail that reminds me of the surface of Mars, though with some trees added, for character:
At the top of the climb, there’s a viewpoint, and my body needs my attention re: some necessary functions – I travel up the viewpoint trail a ways and make my way the requisite distance off of it before I go dig a hole dig a hole dig a hole. I’m halfway up the trail already, so once I’m done, I head to the top, do some internetting. I’m up there longer than I want to be, but it’s fun to bound my way down the trail.
When I come down, Pineapple’s there, on the still-working internet. Womp womp. At least I got some views. There’s also a section hiker there with a puppy, so I get to coo over a four-legged friend for a bit. I leapfrog with them as I continue on, still satisfying my internet addiction. I turn it off, settle in to podcasts as I continue to walk.
It’s actually kind of boring today – we’re either in the trees, with no views, or everything is so far off as to be visually underwhelming. It’d be nice just to be outside if it weren’t for the building heat.
The Aqueduct, once I hit it, is nice to look at, but supposedly contaminated; Grizzly Creek, just a bit further on, I also decide to skip – I’ve got enough water to make it to the piped spring from here, and then it’s only an 8-mile carry to South Brown Mountain Shelter and a well. There are folks hanging out there, though, so I chat for a minute before moving on.
The piped spring is off-trail quite a bit, but pretty nice; there’s a tentsite just right off trail that I curl up in, watch the hikers I passed pass me. It’s getting hotter, hotter – thank goodness the trail’s in so much shade right now.
I walk on, walk on – the heat and the woods make the scenery from one mile to another melt into sameness, makes the walk so much longer than it should be. The ordeal’s only interrupted by an information station on a pipeline that’s meant to run through this section of trail:
And then, the turnoff for the South Brown Mountain Shelter.
In the shelter, protected from an absurd number of bees/wasps/flying sting-bomb squadrons by flaps, there is watermelon, Gatorade, soda, M&Ms. I avail myself of a Gatorade – I have to be dehydrated – and some M&Ms, for the sugar. I’m about to leave when the stockers come by to restock it with beer, too. They offer a beer; I politely decline, what with the dehydration. I offer to help them; they politely decline, although I make sure they take a donation. They do this every day, and they’ve got a schedule to keep – they’re off before I am.
I get water out of the well with an old-school pump, relying on nothing but luck to avoid getting stung. There are even zebra-type wasps, black and white and striped in a way I’ve never seen before1. I wonder if they hurt more, but, thankfully, I don’t learn first hand. I ponder cooking here, but my foray into their territory has brought some of them back to the picnic table, and I’m not interested in pushing my luck any further than I have to. I move on.
On wards, onwards, trying to see how far I’m going to get today. There’s a listed site at 26 and another at 32, but taking a look at the topo, it seems feasible that there could be a place to sleep at 27, and another at 28. I’ll just have to see how far I make it.
I sit for a break on a fallen tree that’s been cut to allow trail access; I’m not there for five minutes before the heat overwhelms me, and I have to throw my pack down and lie down on this log. I’m covered in sap but I just can’t move. All I can do is be vaguely conscious of the thought that I’m pretty sure I’m melting, in between sips of water. It feels like I’m there for an hour, but only 20 minutes have gone by before I feel better. Sticky, but better. Well. That’s nice.
It’s into trees that break up lava fields, including a field which contains a fallen tree – seemingly out of nowhere – that’s nearly as wide as I am tall. I can’t quite fit under it, but my pack can, and I haul myself over top of it. Luckily, most every other downed tree’s been taken care of.
I find a site at 26 miles in, and decide, after more map scrutinizing, to roll the dice; I find a site at 27, and I’m pondering whether or not to roll the dice again when Pineapple rolls up. She says there’s supposed to be a site at 29 – a site that can fit one person. We’ve encountered sites that can “only fit x number of people” in the past, and that x is usually an underestimation of the inventiveness of thruhikers. We’ll probably both be able to fit. Probably.
Onwards, through more lava fields, more views:
The site that we find is tiny – an actually-only-one-person site. I walk about a quarter of a mile more without my pack to see if there’s something a bit further on, but unless we want to sleep on pointy lava, up in a tree, or walk a few more miles, that’s our home for the evening.
When I return, we talk about cowboying, but the site is covered in ants and there are mosquitos to boot – neither of us want to deal with it, so I set up my tent, as it seems more conducive to housing two people. We eat and crawl in; it’s craigslist-style cozy as hell, but we both fit. That’s good to know if Spesh and I – he’s meeting me in a couple of days – need to squeeze ourselves in together. I conveniently elide that he’s significantly taller and broader than Pineapple as I settle in to sleep.
Date: August 19 • Start: 1738.7 • End: 1767.6 • Day: 28.9
Notable Accomplishments: A walk in the woods • Found Pineapple at the end of the day • Ate enough
 Which I’m now about 80% sure are Bald-faced Hornets – any entomologists in the house?