Friday September 3rd, 2021, 0605-1800
Telephone Pioneers Shelter to Canopus Creek, SOBO AT mm 769.5
25.2 miles plus 1 mile to and from the deli
5167 gain, 5302 loss
The day started off cool enough for me to put my puffy on in the morning. But I took all layers off before I began hiking, knowing there was an immediate climb. We passed a feature called Nuclear Lake just as the sun came over the ridge. It was pretty. The names comes from when a plutonium research facility was located on the shoreline. I didn’t drink the water.
Mid morning, we walked half a mile down a road to get breakfast sandwiches at a deli. We really wanted pizza but the pizza place didn’t open until noon. We lingered too long as usual but considered this our lunch break for the day. Stellar and Picky wisely packed out sandwiches for dinner but I still had too much food in my pack to justify this.
I had a bad spell after returning to the trail. My right big toe joint was really hurting and of course my mind dwelled on it for hours. It’s something that’s been bothering me for years now but I’ve been worried that it’s getting worse. Walking for days in wet shoes has really aggravated it. Something about the added weight of soaked shoes and socks, plus the restricted movement due to the heavy socks, just isn’t good for my feet. There was still plenty of water on the trail in the morning, though things were continuously improving as gravity took its toll. There were also a lot of blowdowns to negotiate. I was moving slow and fell way behind the guys.
They stopped to rest at a shelter, where I caught up. Stellar was rattling off destinations for the end of the day, with total mileage numbers in the high 20s. He was trying to convince Picky of doing such big miles but he really needed to be asking me. I guess he assumed I was capable, as I usually am. But the way I was feeling, I’d be lucky to get 20 miles done this day. This is why I was leary to hike with him. He’s set a much higher pace and made bigger days to make up 2 full days of hiking over my already fast pace. So I knew he’d be pushing things if we hiked together. My body was telling me that I needed to stick with hiking my own pace. This worked for me for over 500 miles in the beginning.
As I walked through the afternoon, my shoes mostly dried and my foot felt a lot better. Another aspect of hiking a shorter day is that I need to budget some time in the evenings for stretching and foam rolling. I’ve been neglecting this crucial body maintenance. It’s so hard to find a suitable place since it involves basically laying on the ground. Usually there’s no space in a shelter, it’s too wet and muddy, it’s raining, it’s rocky, etc etc. There’s always an excuse. I could be stopping mid-day at the shelters or even quiet roads to do a session. But not if I’m always trying to keep up or not wanting to hold anyone up. This is the dilemma in having hiking partners.
Late afternoon, we came to a highpoint on Shenandoah Mtn, with views to the east and north. A group of 3 guys were hanging out, playing music. They claimed to be the very last NOBOs, bringing up the rear. I’ve heard several before them claim this title, so I’m pretty sure we’ll see a few more even after this.
The day ended up being pretty high miles anyway. There just weren’t the best options around Canopus Lake, a recreational area that was sure to be packed for the upcoming Labor Day weekend. So I just kept walking, ending up in a beautiful grassy riparian area away from road noise. We crossed a million roads all day, so traffic noise was pretty prevalent. We’re in a very dense population area, after all, so the trail feels less and less wild as we move south. It will be like this until we get into Pennsylvania or Virginia. But at least for this night, I felt like I was far removed from society and had some nice grass to do my exercises on. Nevermind that I was rolling around with all the ticks that are going to give me Lyme disease again. Can’t win.