Tuesday Oct 19th 2021, 0700-1620
Kincora Hiking Hostel to Mountain Harbor B&B, SOBO AT mm 1797.8
5460 gain, 5170 loss
I woke to the alarm clock of Boots puking up a hairball on the sofa. I reacted fast, throwing her off so she could retch on the floor next to Mud instead. Good kitty. Cats, you know? We were off early in the dark. I was eager to get miles done, while Mud wondered why we needed to leave so early in the cold if we planned just another marathon day…yes 25 miles is like an easy day for us but more realistic given the lack of daylight. I always like to get miles in the bank early because you never know what can come later. In the Rockies, rain, hail, lightning and even snow show up in the afternoons, so early starts are just a habit I find hard to break. We’d have none of those conditions this day. It was an absolutely perfect fall day, with comfortable and even warm sunshine mid day but a very crisp evening. Sweater weather. So delightful!
We carefully navigated Bob’s porch, wary of the coons and bear that he feeds, then walked past the sparkling frost in the fields. My bare hands quickly became numb. Later I called home to request a pair of gloves be mailed a week down the trail, along with my warmer Therm-a-rest. This was getting real. And to think that I’d been giving Mud a hard time about his heavy-ish flannel in Damascus…he’d been wearing it every day since. What did I know? A long and steady climb to a ridge helped us warm up. Shortly I was stripped down to just my fleece.
We rolled along nicely for miles, immersed in conversation. It’s amazing how fast the trail goes by when hiking with other people. We caught up to Puddles, a long-ass section hiker (LASHer) at around 12 miles into the day. She educated us on who was ahead and just behind, mostly names we didn’t know. We’ve been mostly catching up to new people this whole journey, so we’re unfamiliar with the names ahead. In talking with owners of the hostels, who see almost everyone come and go, the consensus is that we’re at the very front of the SOBO bubble. I started at the very back. I know there are a handful a week or 2 ahead and even some that have finished but they’re in the minority, I guess.
To put things in perspective, I’d just heard from Sam, a guy I summited Katahdin with. He’d been moving at a good, steady pace, just passing the 1000 mile mark the day I was leaving Damascus. I’d gone 750 miles more in the same amount of time. Mud joked that we’d been going exponentially fast, coming up with formulas in his head to calculate the rate Sam would have to travel if he were to try to catch us before the end. AT math. Mud had probably been musing over such formulas for himself when trying to catch up to me.
We stopped for a lunch break at Mountaineer Falls Shelter. We found Bachus there. He and Puddles took off after just a short while, which served to give us rabbits to chase for the afternoon. I probably have a little too much fun making this a competitive thing but it breaks up the monotony of miles. It was Mud that set a blistering fast pace ahead of me but I might have been egging him on just a little. I joked that he was the Padawan in training, I of course being the Jedi master. Use the force to catch them, Luke. Of course we did, then amused ourselves by trying to outpace each other. Neither of us were successful. I’d like to think that I could walk away from anyone if I wanted to but there are a few I know I can’t outpace.
Given our silly games, we got to our destination pretty early. This was a good thing, since the hostel turned out to be one of the best I’ve visited. It was a great place just to hang out in the late afternoon, with a beautiful outdoor patio centered around a creek. They’d fashioned a cool waterfall, fountain, and fire pit area. The bunkhouse was well designed and had everything a hiker could want. I splurged on a bunk, figuring it would be a cold night tenting by the creek (good call, it was very cold). Being in the vicinity of all the other hikers paid off. A group of 3 guys received a full resupply box for their buddy, who had unfortunately abandoned his hike early. They had a ton of extra food as a result. Who do you think got most of it? The scrawniest- looking couple of thru-hikers that happened to have arrived first…us. I scored on 7 dehydrated meals, nuts, candy, and trail mix. I didn’t need to buy any resupply items because of this treasure trove.
The staff at the hostel also hooked us up. Two ladies, Trail Mix and Tic Tac, saw to it that we got our own bunkroom, unclaimed leftovers from the fridge (including a beer), and first dibs on the surplus resupply. Being the only 2 thru-hikers at the time, they made us feel like celebrities. More thrus arrived just before dark, after pulling a 32 mile slack-pack from Boots Off. They were some of the crew from the shelter 2 nights before: Yak, Old Army, and Discount. They found a full bunkhouse but were able to still find space…Yak rented a treehouse. Good thing we’d arrived early.
An onsite food truck offered an impressive array of options. I got fish and chips and a braughtworst. I almost couldn’t eat it all. We also opted to have what had been described as the Best Breakfast on the trail. Some hikers I’d met all the way back in Virginia had told me about it. I wanted to save room for the next morning but knew no matter how much I ate this night, I’d still be hungry. I played with a 19 year old cat, Old May, and sat by the fire outside for awhile, chatting with some section hikers. I went to bed a little too late, as usual, but only after spending some quality time foam rolling on the bunkhouse floor while Mud schooled me on all the popular memes I’d been missing out on for the past decade. At 22, the kid’s a walking encyclopedia of pop culture knowledge. It makes me feel old. But I’ve got an excuse not to be up to date: I’ve been away, out here hiking for years.