This article originally appeared on The Trek, which you can read here.
The shower and nights sleep in the Hostel was refreshing! It felt a little easier to face the soreness and strenuous hiking, today. The dehumidifier they had running in the bunk room seemed to help me sleep and breathe easier despite some sinus issues. Overall, it was definitely worth it. Thanks Mountain Crossings!
I tried to partner with two German hikers for today’s hike but they were ready to go earlier than expected so they left while I shipped about 3lbs of unnecessary weight back home. I ended up finding a hiking partner after all in an upbeat older woman named Renee. Although she isn’t thru-hiking, she has plenty of time to hike and insists she is “just walking”. She told me she hikes too fast and the “full throttle” pace probably wasn’t sustainable. So we partnered up and I became the pace car.
The first half of the day wasn’t too bad and Wolf Laurel Top View was great for the moderate climb to get there. Somewhere just after that we were walking along and nature brought another surprise. I heard a noise and turned to see what it was when a huge noise burst from the bushes and a large Grouse flew straight towards me diverting at the last second. The hen ran around quickly amid the bush. I think she might have been trying to lead us away from young birds. Thanks for the scare and the laugh, bird!
Renee and I had lunch and by the time we were done we picked up Hannah (from the Virginia crew). Apparently she was typically a full throttle hiker too, but foot problems have been plaguing her current hike. She had made some adjustments at Neel Gap and was hoping she was on the mend and feeling a little better. At this point i became the pace car for both ladies. It honestly felt nice to have some company while hiking. I didn’t think I would mind hiking alone but looking back I felt much happier with someone to talk and laugh with.
We came out across a road into Raven Cliffs Wilderness, a short, brutal climb straight up and straight down. The view was pretty “meh” for the difficult climb. Two out of two feet agree: I’ll pass on a hiking this area ever again.
Shortly afterwards, we got water at Hogpen Gap and then crossed the road into yet another Wilderness area. There we found some trail magic: a water station. Since we just filled up, we left the water for the next hikers that might come thru. Good on you “Big T Adventurer”!
The girls shared some funny stories along the way including one about a wilderness trip where a random dude named “Rick” showed up out of nowhere in a banana hammock and nothing else. Renee had pics to prove it! Apparently she was taking a picture of a black snake (yes, an actual snake) near a waterfall and this guy shows up randomly and ended up requesting his picture to be taken. She did and … well, see for yourself below if you dare. Behold “Rick”…
We died laughing and joked about it later at camp making Renee spit out her toothpaste from laughing too hard. Good times!
I’ve also been surprised at the number of campers we find at each night’s camp site. Tonight we camped by Low Gap Shelter and I don’t think there was an empty tent site out of the 6 or more tent areas. It seems like everyone who left Neels Gap was headed to this site. With a shelter, plenty of tent sites, a running creek and a privy, it seems to be the most logical stopping place.
For dinner I ate the Big’un burrito from PackIt Gourmet and WOW – that’s in my top 3 best hiking/camping meals. Definitely recommend it as it was just about like eating Chipotle in the middle of the forest. Seriously.