Friday was a terrible trio of uphills. Really slow going; we did our 15 miles at just less than 2 mph.
Early on, there was some minor trail magic: a group from the Carolina Mountain Club, out doing maintenance on the trail (as they do every Friday, every week of the year), were giving out bags of mixed nuts. One of them was even 93 years old!
The first uphill of the day led to Max Patch (formerly Mack's Patch, whose summit was cleared for cattle, and is now maintained as a bald). The top of the mountain, treeless, makes for great stargazing (or sunrise watching), and is also accessible via a nearby parking lot. It is also very windy. I stopped there for an unreasonably long time to check email and post Wednesday's update via the clear line of sight to yesterday's UFO comms tower. This was a rare opportunity to see a clear marker of progress along the trail.
Spring is definitely starting up. There was more green ground-cover today than previously. It's a welcome change from the largely brown ground surrounding the trail.
On the downhill from Max Patch, I rolled my left ankle again (and wow, did it hurt this time). That slowed my pace somewhat considerably, as I went the rest of the day trying not to use that ankle more than necessary.
This slowness caused me to miss some awesome trail magic at Lemon Gap, the start of the day's second steep uphill. Fortunately, Beast had gotten there in time and convinced them to give him food for me, which included a salad, a giant honey bun, a chocolate bar, and a large orange. It was all delicious.
Due to my slow, deliberate pace, Beast was actually worried when I took so long to show up. Fortunately, I was not (seriously) injured, so while I ate my lunch, he went on ahead, and we met up again five miles later, at the peak of the third and last of today's uphills.
All three of them sucked. Individually, it was nothing we hadn't done before, but the three of them together just tired both of us out. So, given our reduced pace due to injury (Beast also rolled an ankle) and trail magic, we decided to cut our day 1.3 miles short, and stopped at a campsite prior to Garenflo Gap. (We were both really tired once we reached the water source just short of the campsite, and were each somewhat relieved that both of us were tired.)
The campsite is cozy, just barely accommodating our two tents. There's a several cascade waterfall nearby, and it's trickle of water provides a constant, soft background. One end of the tentsite has a great view off a cliff to the waterfall, and to the hills beyond. It's the sort of thing that can't really be captured in pictures, you'd just have to be here.
Thanks to the orange, I ate dinner backwards, and more efficiently: rather than ramen first (fast), and then Mac and Cheese second (slow), I was able to cook the Mac and Cheese while I ate the orange, and then used cooking the ramen as an opportunity to "clean" the cookpot of the leftover cheese. It worked well, saving cleaning water and a not inconsiderable effort in cleaning the pot (as well as adding a cheesy flavor to the ramen, also enhanced by some bacon bits from Beast).
Tired from the long day, we turned in early.
I saw two chipmunks today; finally, non-avian wildlife.
Also, near the campsite, on the AT, is a creepy looking tree that appears to be demanding hugs. Internet connectivity is preventing uploading a picture, unfortunately.
Tomorrow: Hot Springs, and an unexpected visit from Beast's parents. (Apparently, his dad wants to visit the trailfest festival in town.)