Day 71: SNP Day 6- An Epic Slack Pack from PBG

Day 71Pass Mountain Hut to Tom Floyd ShelterMiles Hiked: 23.6AT Milage: 968.6This morning I woke up after sleeping very little last night. My foot pain has been so bad I can’t fall asleep until after 3am and even then I wake up about once every hour with stabbing pains. My knees and hips ache a ton while I try to sleep as well, but it is always my feet that keep me awake. I sit up and try to massage them periodically and lift them to the ceiling to elevate them and stretch my hamstrings.Today my friend Lionheart who has his Jeep with him was supposed to slack pack me. He said he would meet me at Elkwallow Wayside between 9-10am. I had no service to text him to let him know what was going on this morning. I made it to the wayside at 9:15 am hiking as fast as I could. I left just before 7am and took about three hours and twenty minutes to hike 7.5 miles. I saw a deer on the trail, ate some black berries, and caught all the invisible spider webs with my face for the hikers behind me. Being the first person on the trail in the morning has its advantages but also its downsides. When I arrived at the wayside I didn’t see Lionheart but I did find an outlet to charge my phone for a little bit. I stopped into the grill to eat a second breakfast. I bought an egg and cheese sandwich, chips, and a soda. The chef threw in some extra has browns for me free of charge. I can’t believe how much food I can eat everyday and still be starving. Hiker hunger is nice because I don’t have to limit the amount of food I eat. It stinks because I have to carry a lot more food which is very heavy, just to meet my caloric needs. Its nice to stop into a store and get hot or fresh food when I can. I waited until 10:30 for Lionheart to show up but he never did so I left and continued down the trail. I found out a few days later that he didn’t get there until 10:45 am, fifteen minutes after I left. As you will find out, things have a way of working out anyways!When I left the wayside my phone was at 90% battery. I was excited to have a decent charge on my phone for once and I really wanted to call my mom. Because she is a teacher, she has the summer off and is pretty much always available for me to call her while I am hiking which is really nice. My boyfriend and dad are always at work during the day so I have to wait until night when I usually don’t have a phone signal to call them. I wasn’t getting service for a long time and I was really upset about it because I was so homesick I was just trying not to cry. About four miles later I got great service at an overlook of Hogback Mountain with a parking lot so I stopped to make a call. I talked to my mom for about an hour. I told her I was really wanting to come home and take an extra long break when I got to Harper’s Ferry, or the halfway point. My boyfriend was coming to visit me on the 4th of July anyways so I was already planning on taking three zeros. What harm would a few extra days off do and I already had a scheduled ride back to the trail. She convinced me that it would be better if I just stayed on and that coming home might make me even more homesick. I felt a lot better after talking to her, so I agreed that I might as well just stay on the trail. The main reasons I wanted to come home was to rest my feet but also see my family and boyfriend. I have been missing things about civilization that I usually don’t enjoy doing that much. I want to go to the movies, eat popcorn, and sit around on the couch watching TV. Before the trail these activities always sounded so unappealing to me. I think expending all of this energy every day makes me want to sit around and do nothing for a very long time.When I was on the phone talking to my mom, lots of tourists would pull up to the overlook, get out of the car to take pictures, and then drive away. One car pulled up with a bunch of people yelling and they got out coolers and took a seat. I thought they seemed like they were acting like some hikers I would meet out on the trail but I wasn’t positive. When I got off the phone they offered me some beer, soda, or snacks. I took a coke and a string cheese. The girl driving the car was a thru hiker named “Peanut Butter Girl (PBG)”. I realized that I camped with her at Calf Mountain Shelter right before entering Shenandoah. When I met her the last time, I thought she was quitting the trail. I learned that she went to see a doctor at urgent care for plantar fasciitis who took an X-ray to make sure her feet weren’t fractured, gave her some steroids, and convinced her to take a week off to help her heal up. She had already taken some time off before I saw her camping at Calf Mountain. While she took a week off, she rented a car and drove around Shenandoah National Park doing trail magic for thru hikers. She was going to slack pack a group of her friends through the whole park but they joined her in the car wanting a break as well. She told me that when she finishes the trail she plans to go back to hike the whole section that she missed in the national park with her family.When hikers skip sections of the trail by driving a car to another spot, this is known as “yellow blazing”. Sometimes it can be confusing to see a hiker again a hundred miles up the trail, that you were 100% positive was hiking significantly slower than you . If the hiker does not go back to hike the section they missed within the calendar year that they have to complete the trail, they are no longer a thru hiker. You can still go back to repeat the section outside of that year, but that would make you a section hiker or a LASH’er (long ass section hiker). My sister would be considered a LASH’er. It doesn’t matter how you chose to hike the Appalachian Trail whether it be the entire thing, or a single day hike. I am simply giving the definition of a thru hike to be: An honest completion of an entire trail within a twelve month period, without regards to direction or sequence hiked, or carrying a pack. As well as an explanation of what yellow blazing is. There are a few different types of blazing which I will probably explain in later blog posts. Another example is aqua blazing which is a common way to skip hiking Shenandoah National Park by paddling the Shenandoah River from Waynesboro, VA to Harper’s Ferry, WV.Since PBG’s friends never got slack packed she still wanted to slack pack someone in the park. That lucky person just so happened to be me. I was extremely thankful for this, especially because my other slack packing situation earlier didn’t work out. Not having to carry a pack when my feet were hurting this bad was a dream come true. I got slack packed a little over 9 miles to Compton Gap, another parking area. I left PBG a little after 2pm and arrived at Compton Gap at 4:50, ten minutes before I agreed to make it there. In order to make it there before 5pm I had to do a bit of running on the trail. After having a heavy pack weigh me down while hiking for so long it always feels like I can run without one which is exactly what I did. I mostly just ran down the hills. It was still challenging for me to keep a three mile per hour pace, even without my pack. It is funny how hard I still find slack packing to be sometimes. It does make it feel easier on my body to hike, but I find it hard to keep an average speed higher than my average speed with my pack on. Overall, I only hike slightly faster without my pack on, depending on the terrain. I stopped to take some pictures on top of Mount Marshall and I had to make an emergency bathroom stop which sucked because I forgot to bring my trowel (to dig a cat hole) and toilet paper with me. The only things I carried was my trekking poles which I didn’t even use, a water bottle, my guide book, money, phone, and GPS. I willingly handed over everything I have been using to live out in the woods to an almost stranger who was willing to help me out. Right before I met PBG at the parking lot I had to stand on the side of the trail for almost five minutes to let between 50-100 college students on some sort of day hike pass me. I was quite surprised to see this many people in the woods on a skinny path at one time. When I met PBG and her friends in the parking lot I saw some friends of my own who I thought I would never catch again! Luna and Broadweigh were both there receiving trail magic from PBG. I learned that Luna’s back was really hurting him now so he has had to slow way down and is struggling to keep up with his own group of hiking friends.After I got my backpack back, I thanked PBG a million times and headed on my way to the shelter for around two more miles. At the shelter was Frog, Braodweigh, and Hat-trick. I have enjoyed camping with both Frog and Broadweigh almost every night in Shenandoah National Park but I am also getting sick of being the only woman at camp almost every night, or so it feels like it. On top of that I’ve been struggling with breathing in the smoke of people (mostly Frog and Broadweigh) who smoke close to the shelter where I am trying to sleep. Ironically enough, I thought I was going to get a lot of fresh air by being out on the trail, which I do, but I have also never been around so much smoke from cigarettes in my whole life. I like them but I am also glad that I might get to spend time with new people the next few days because they are stopping into the next town early tomorrow I should lose them. I wish them happy trails, but I am excited to be out of the park and flying solo for a few days. My friends Flamingo, Cocoa, Flip, and now Locks who has caught up after being behind for almost 500 miles are behind me and I miss them a lot. I am hoping they catch up while I take my break on the fourth of July and I might try really hard to stick with them for the last half of the trail. They tend to zero a lot more than I do, which isn’t bad. I need to be better about taking intentional breaks, especially because my feet are hurting as bad as they do.The shelter that I camped in tonight, is just outside the northern border of Shenandoah National Park. I made it!Happy Trails!

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