Enough is enough. The rule for today is an early start and a march straight through to US 60, followed by a hitch into Buena Vista, 9 miles away. Then, three days' down time to wait out the heat.
I had to double back once when the white blazes of the AT suddenly became blue, the color of the dreaded Hotel Trail. The miles went by, up, down, up, down ... point 5 miles my *. It's obviously an insider joke, like the Icelanders' assurances to tourists that something will take only 45 minutes. Either that, or my climbing pace is nowhere near ready for those mountains shadowing the western and southern horizons.
The clock ticked down, and I started into the long descent off Mount Horeb (etymology: glowing heat, that Ten Commandments place) a little after 12 o'clock. Yes, stifling. Deo gratias.
At the end, though, US 60! And a day hiker who offered me a chilled flask of spring water. Another angel! So I went over to the side of the road, put on my best nice-guy appearance (given my four days on the trail) and watched the Jaguars and Buicks accelerate by as soon as they saw me holding up my thumb.
A North Carolina family with a converted van stopped, though, and delivered me to the Buena Vista Budget Inn. My first step after I dropped my bag in the room, I assured the registrar, would be a quick walk to the submarine sandwich shop, and then an equally quick return to take a nap. And so, I did.
Next hiking day Sunday, weather permitting.