Day 69 -May 15 2017 -21.6 miles – Mile Marker 688 to John Springs Shelter
It was a hot but rewarding day. The day started out with a 1500 foot climb up Brush mountain. The humidity was already high and I hiked without my shirt on. The way my pack stuck to my skin let me know that I wouldn’t be able to hike shirtless very often.
At the top of the climb we met up with Zeus and Flashfire. I put my shirt back on and the four of us walked for about a mile together to the Audie Murphy monument.
Audie Murphy was the most decorated veteran of World War Two. Famous for his book, that later was turned into a movie, “To Hell And Back. ” He had died near the location of the monument in a plane crash in 1971.
The monument was basically what I was expecting it to be. What I wasn’t prepared for was all the items placed around the monument. There were pictures, dog tags, military medals, and assorted items that were left there to commemorate other fallen soldiers. The items had obviously been placed there by surviving family members and friends. What had been a memorial to one veteran had become a memorial to many.
For some reason seeing those newer items hit me harder than any world war two memorial could. The newer items that were placed there were in memorial of guys younger than I was. They were people from my generation. I could say that it didn’t feel fair that these young guys were dead and gone and I was out having the time of my life in the woods, but that’s not quite right. Life is neither fair nor unfair. It was a feeling I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
As I was sitting at a nearby bench pondering my thoughts, Flashfire asked me how the War Memorial made me feel. She, coming from Germany, didn’t have feeling one way or the other about the Audie Murphy memorial. I said that the Audie Murphy Memorial was a historical item. The other items represented wounds that have not yet healed.
The trail going down the mountain was much easier than the one going up. It was obvious that most of the people hiking up to the monument were meant to go up the way we were coming down.
Once we got down one mountain it was time to go up another. On the way up we had a view of the mountain we had just gone over. The top looked just like the elevation profile in the guide book.
After a few shorter climbs we arrived at the side trail for Dragons Tooth. It was also the 700 mile marker. Stoat and I exchanged high fives and went down the side trail to check it out.
The Dragons tooth was several stone monoliths that stood in top of a mountain. The soil all around it was very sandy and it was easy to picture to rocks as teeth jutting out is sand colored gums.
We saw a guy sitting on top of one of the “teeth” and he pointed out a way to get up. So we dropped our packs and went for a quick climb.
The teeth were quite narrow and a misstep could be deadly. There was a 25-30 foot drop on one side and a several hundred foot drop on the other.
When we got back to the AT, Stoat and I were talking about something related to how much food we had left. He said, “I have enough food to last until we get to town tonight.” I said, “Uh… Were not going to be in town until tomorrow night.” This caused him to freak out a little. All in one breath he said something like, “What-do-you-mean-tomorrow-night-Im-not-going-to-have-enough-food-you-said-I-thought-ahhh.” Then he turned and ran down the trail. I stood and laughed for a minute. I knew that between the Tramily we had enough food to get him through an extra day. I was trying to tell him that but he ran away before I could say anything. By the time I started hiking again he was long gone.
We knew the trail went down from Dragons tooth but we didn’t know it went straight down. For about a mile the trail consisted of rock ledges with ladder rungs installed in rock on steeper places.
I eventually caught up to Stoat and we made our way down the mountain.
The rough terrain slowed everyone down a lot. By the time the Tramily met up at the bottom we were ready for a break. We crossed a road and there was a creek nearby. The four of us stopped to cool off in the shade and get some water.
When Zeus and Flashfire learned about Stoats food shortage they let him know they had some extra food. Between the three of us he would have more than enough.
The heat had sapped our energy and we were dreading the next ten miles we had left to hike. Just then a pickup truck pulled up and a man and two dogs got out. When he found out we were thru hikers he offered us cold sodas and Little Debbie snacks. Trail Magic! Just when we needed it the most!
The guys name was Steve and his wife was hiking the AT. She was a veteran and was part of the Warrior Expedition. He was running support for her. He would meet up with her every few days at road crossings to help out any way he could. While he was waiting he would give out trail magic to thru hikers.
While he was talking to us he brought out some folding chairs for us to sit in. That was the icing on the cake. It may not sound like much, but a comfortable chair is not something thru hikers come across very often.
After taking a break and refueling our sugar supplies we were ready to go.
For the rest of the the day the trail brought us through hilly farmland. Some of the climbs were deceivingly steep. When the trail went up a hilly open field it was hard to determine the grade because there weren’t any points of reference.
Somewhere along the way we came across an inspirational sign. It was pretty amzing how good a nice little sign could make us feel.
When we were about a mile from the shelter Stoat and I met a couple who had been jogging. They told us of their arduous ten mile jog. We just smiled and congratulated them. We didn’t want to sound like jerks so we didn’t tell them that we were finishing a 21.6 mile day and that we had been hiking over 700 miles. We were thinking it though. Does that still make us jerks?
By the time we got to the shelter everyone was ready to be done for the day. We set up camp quickly, ate, and called it a night. We planed on waking up around 4am in the morning to try to see the sunrise from the most photographed section of the trail. McAffes Knob.
My shoes were completely shot by the end of the day. The holes were getting even larger and sand was getting in. Causing my pinky toe to start to blister. One more day until town.