Total miles = 12.4 including water stops
I felt like Anne of Green Gables sitting in front of the general store at the NOC this morning with my pack, waiting for the place to open, waiting for my shuttle driver, waiting for the butterflies in my stomach to quiet down.
Ron Brown is one of the most well known shuttle drivers in this area, and he’s an encyclopedia of AT knowledge and was willing to share it ALL with me. Some of it was super helpful and some of it made me question my ability to climb a steep hill. I’m so glad I met him and would recommend his services to any hiker out there!
The day was actually quite lovely with a breeze in spots. It felt weird being dropped off and just heading into the woods, but as soon as I got going, my nerves calmed down. Not many views because of all the tree leaves, but the flame azaleas are blooming throughout the woods, along with lots of other flowers like trillium, Solomon seal, cohosh, and so many more. The birds were singing their ever loving heads off and I had a really close encounter with a scarlet tanager. She had nesting material in her beak and was no more than 6 feet away. I watched her until she flew off to her nest. I also saw a black and white warbler up close, and they are just so stunning. More than once I was really bummed not to have binoculars with me.
Today was a hard day even though the trail was relatively tame. I busted my face and immediately lost confidence in my ability to handle the trail. I fell and my backpack propelled me forward straight onto my face and my nose took the brunt of it. Holy hell. Blood was dripping everywhere. I was trying to get off the ground, thinking, “well, I’ve done it now!” as blood was getting on everything. I felt my nose, but couldn’t tell if it was broken or not. Since I’d just passed a stream, I put my packtowl to my nose and headed back to clean up and assess the damage. My knees were scraped, but they felt fine. Dear God, please tell me I didn’t just break my nose and ruin my whole hike. I washed all the blood off in the stream and kept going back to wash more off. I gently blew my nose and a massive clot of blood came loose. As I was sitting down with the icy towel on my face, three retired guys came walking down the trail and decided to hang out. So I had to explain I’d just fallen and was still bleeding. I felt like a bloody fool, is what! This is the worst hiking injury I’ve had to date. So, I sat there and the bleeding diminished and finally seemed to stop. I sent a “don’t be alarmed” message to Rob, which alarmed him very much, and thankfully I was able to call him a short way down the trail. Hearing his voice made me feel like I was going to be ok. I shoved a tissue up my nose and kept going. Only 4 more miles to the shelter…
As time went by, my face didn’t throb or feel worse, so I took that as a good sign even though my nose was still occasionally bleeding. It doesn’t feel great, and I’m getting a lovey bruise, but the whole thing could have been so much worse.
Nature has a way of humbling and reminding us how separate we’ve become from her. Walking over mountains isn’t something that comes naturally to us because our daily lives exist in a series of tiny climate controlled boxes on paved streets. Even though I hike regularly, I still feel very vulnerable in this space because one misstep can end an entire, well thought out, carefully planned journey. Tomorrow is going to be a challenging day with several large climbs and descents. I plan to take it slow and handle it the best I can.
I got to the shelter and no one else was here, so I decided to camp. It feels good having my own space in my tent. I cleaned up and decided to start cooking. Another hiker came in, trail name Big Red, and we talked for awhile. He’s thru hiking and we seem to be on the same schedule for the next couple of days. I’m glad he came because it was so nice to have someone to talk to for a little while after a day of being alone and dealing with an injury.
I’m happily snuggled in my tent and some other people have come in, but I’m not getting up. I need to settle myself so I can eventually get to sleep. They have a dog named Sherlock. I like them already.