Even with twelve hours, my favorite hiking breakfast, and a dose of vitamin I, the second day is always toughest for me.
The upslopes seemed longer (they weren't -- The Priest climb from the north is one of the tougher ones in Virginia). The late morning heat was soaking my shirt and socks with sweat. I misplaced the top quality headlamp my trail angel loaned me. (I found it later.) Day hikers on their way to Spy Rock and trail runners buzzed by me, and my calves and thighs ignored the water and saline gel tabs I was gulping down for their aid.
With the distance to my target shelter (water supply) uncertain and the noontime heat wearing me down, I saw a trail sign pointing downhill to "Porter Hill/Rock Spring". The spring part sounded especially good, so I promised the white blazes that I would return and followed the trail down ---
Into a quiet paradise. Trees filling an otherwise unforested bowl with green glowing shades, light breezes, a small creek running out from a giant granite boulder. No one else.
So much down and dry wood that I had to start a fire, something I rarely do while hiking alone. Fires do draw on that magic of our distant ancestors' huddling around the flames that pushed back the dark -- something calls.
And just at hikers' midnight, a fellow trekker of my age shouted a hello as he came down the trail into this Brigadoon. He grew as excited as I was as he looked around, andnwent back up to get his pack and the younger couple hiking with him. I kept the fire going, collected my scattered bags of stuff and hung the edibles in my bear bag.
They arrived with a German Shepherd, who made a beeline for the spring. Roxanne then came over and quickly approved of my butt scratching skills, much too her support team's relief. Introductions were made, and we all started into their rituals at day's end.
The elder confessed to me that he was trying a hammock on this trip, but found it uncomfortable for sleeping. They are heading from Pennsylvania to Georgia, expecting to arrive in November, he said ... hiking with their dog requires them to avoid National Parks with bears, a small blessing this time as it gives them a reason to skip the weather in the Smokies.
|We'll leave the light on for you|
Tomorrow, first resupply. Good thing, I am down to my last homemade meal.