Twig Adventures

AT Day 66: On the SOBO Train

Tuesday Sept 28th, 2021, 0615-1830 
Hilltop Hut to Calf Mountain Shelter, SOBO AT mm 1321.1
34.6 miles!
7220 gain, 7700 loss

I got a smashingly good start on this morning. It was a quick downhill to the first road crossing, where I elected once again to walk the road. The trail went off in the trees while I watched another sunrise across the valley from an overlook. These were plentiful all morning. I was also entertained gazing into and over the lush forests. The road allowed me to see the canopies, as well as the forest floor. I couldn’t get over how vibrant these forests seemed. Some leaves were just starting to turn but overall, everything was so very green.

I also enjoyed seeing the water trickling from the rock cuts along the road. There were little seeps and springs everywhere. One thing about all the rain earlier, especially the most recent storm that came through while I was off trail, it wasn’t hard to find water when I need it. This was a huge difference from other trails I’d hiked out west. The road was the most quiet I’d seen it, with only about 10 cars passing over 5 miles or so. Some deer ran across in front of me, snorting as they went. They seemed really upset. I guess they were used to seeing cars but not a walker.

Just when I was about to get back on the trail, a car stopped next to me and the driver asked if I was walking the AT. Given my status on the road, I sheepishly said yes and he handed me a bag of bite-sized Snickers bars. Growing up, these were my mom’s favorite thing but I never liked them for some reason. Now with my hiker hunger, I quickly devoured them, thinking they were delicious.

Back on trail, I crossed a large creek then followed it up a ways. Little did I know that this would be the last real creek crossing for some 20 miles. Forget what I was just saying about water being plentiful. The trail climbed steadily to the summit of Loft Mountain, where I caught up to 2 women, both SOBOs (can’t recall their names right now). We all arrived the Loft Mt camp store around 1030 am. By this time, I’d already walked 14 miles, which is probably an AT record for me for this early in the day.

Loft Mountain with some fall colors

This was the last camp store/wayside along the AT and I needed to stop to at least pick up dinner. I hoped to be able to buy enough resupply to get another 70 miles down trail, but the selection was quite limited, so I still needed to go into town the next day. I got some snacks and mac & cheese for dinner. There was also a lady I met in Harpers Ferry at the ATC headquarters, Frog. She was flip-flopping… I’d start to run into many more of these hikers south of HF, since that’s where many begin their flop south.

Later I came to Blackrock Summit, a rocky outcrop with good views in the early afternoon. There I got someone’s help in taking some glamour shots on the rocks, modeling my hiking dress. I loved my Purple Rain Adventure dress so much…I had to put in a plug for Mandy here. She gave me the dress to demo. Free or not, I’d sing its praises, shouting from the mountain tops. It had been the best outfit for this trail. I’d lived in it for months.

Shortly I happened upon some thru-hikers, a set of 2 couples: Taco and Paddles as well as Bugs and Char. They’d all been hiking together since the 100 mile wilderness, pairing up shortly after that. Trail romances. With all these new SOBO friends, I neglected to pay attention to the water situation. I’d planned to stop for the night somewhere around 28-30 miles, but realized that there was no water in the vicinity of this distance. I’d only filled one of my bottles way back at the campground and was already about empty. I had no choice but to go another 5 miles to a shelter where there was a spring. I’d set such a great pace earlier, I might as well go for a record day…almost 35 miles. I figured this might be the best chance I had on the AT, given how short the days were becoming.

Hiking with the group was very fun. They were a young and energetic bunch, full of stories and funny jokes. We stopped to admire a tree with an entertaining growth. I might have missed it had I not been with them. Some things are best enjoyed in the company of others…

Needs no explanation.

It was hard to keep pace for the last few miles. I was pretty thirsty and a bit tired. Again, I’d already hiked at least 8 miles more than everyone else plus had all the previous big days on my books. I had done 150 miles in 5 days…yes that’s a lot of walking in a short time. To give my feet a rest, I popped onto the road for a few miles. There I enjoyed a nice breeze and the late sun casting shadows on the valley overlooks. One sign even resembled my last name.

Jarman Gap…or could it be Harman Gap?

Of course a final climb to the shelter was last in store for my long day. It was graded and not the worst, just very rocky. At least the spring was running well. I downed a liter on the spot, marveling how there had been so much water in the morning, then none when I needed it in the afternoon. A long spur trail to the shelter was the final blow…just to find out that the area was absolutely packed with section hikers. There were no good tent sites left but only one guy set up in the shelter (of course the one snorer). It looked like it might rain, so 6 of us piled inside, taking over the place. The section hikers were probably annoyed at us showing up just before dark, then making noise to cook and get situated. Of course I was bothered by the situation of putting in such a long day, achieving so many miles, only to be outdone by all the people that had hiked much shorter days to get the best spots. There’s no reward for a PR day on the AT, except for maybe bragging rights. Squished in the middle of 6 smelly and shuffling hikers, I really wished that I was in my tent. I needed some quality sleep to recover from the miles but that was far from what I got. Oh well, that’s just the way things are sometimes.

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