So much has happened since I last wrote, but since we’ve been pushing so hard I haven’t had anytime to write. We’ve been getting into camp around 7:30 each night, which gives just barely enough time to cook before sunset. I’ll start from three nights ago, but might have to finish tomorrow.
Three nights ago, our last night before Hot Springs, Chris and I had our first close encounter of the ursine kind. I usually sleep with earplugs in, a trick partially learned from Chris, to ward off the nighttime jitters and to sleep through any of my fellow camper’s restlessness. But that night the weather was nice so I slept with my rainfly half-off and accordingly had to sleep without earplugs to listen for raindrops. A few hours after a fell asleep I wasn’t quite asleep, but not awake either. Half dreaming, I thought I heard someone walking around, but thinking back I hadn’t hear anyone get out of their tent. I realized it had to be some sort of wildlife, and something relatively big at that. My first guess was a deer, but as it approached it stumbled a few times and the weight of the impact convinced me it was a bear. I hear it head toward the bear cables, steel cables near the shelter where we hang our food not ten feet from my tent, and make a few halfhearted attempts to get our bags down. After about a half hour it wandered off towards the creek which, we surmised later, was where Chris had washed out his pot. While none of us actually saw the bear, some of my fellow hikers found scratch marks in the morning which confirmed our suspicions. So it was an exciting night to say the least.
The next day we had a short walk into Hot Springs, NC in the morning. We had heard rumors that there was an all you can eat buffet in town, so we rushed to make it in by 10, when we assumed it would close. There turned out to be no buffet, but there was a delicious, cheap, diner in town that served us a wonderful calorie intensive breakfast.
I spent the next few hours doing chores, buying food and socks, and sending some extra stuff home (I was able to strip 3.5 extra pounds out of my pack, which is a ton by backpacker standards). Chris didn’t have as much to do, so he left a few hours before I did and we planned to meet up at the next shelter 11 miles away. I lost track of time and didn’t end up leaving town until 2 pm, which gave me just barely enough time to make it to camp before dark. To make matters worse, the hike was pretty steep, definitely one of the harder sections so far and I was pretty tired from the 20 miles the day before.
I set off at a good clip, but I quickly began to struggle. I had gone shopping while hungry and had bought way too much food. I also tried to make my own trail mix, which actually turned out really well, but it was hard to keep track of how much I was actually making. I ended up with a gallon sized ziplock bag nearly full, at least 5 pounds worth. Way more than I needed for a 4 day stretch. I had something like 10 pounds of food total and that combined with the exhaustion from the previous day made the hike exhausting.
While I was struggling up the first climb I got more and more mad with myself for buying too much food and overloading my pack. By the time I was three miles in I was tired and furious. The climbs don’t usually frustrate me, they’re just an obstacle to overcome, but the fact that I made such an amateur mistake, particularly of such a large magnitude, really made me mad.
So in a moment of weakness I stomped off the trail, dug a hole, and buried half of my trail mix.
I wasn’t proud of myself, and still am not, but it was incredibly cathartic. The rest of the hike was not easy by any means, but it was bearable at least.
It’s getting late, will write more tomorrow if I can. I’m looking forward to a “regular” day, one where I get into camp at a sane hour.