Tuesday, May 17, 2016 7:50 pm
Location: Niday Shelter (685 miles)

By the time we woke up, it had already started drizzling, which set the tone for the day. Beast and I managed to get going on our hike around 8:15.

Early on in the day was a walk through cow pastures. Normally, this would have been a great break from the forest on relatively easy ground, but in this case, it meant a walk through wet overgrown pastures that thoroughly soaked our shoes.

The pastures turned back into forest. Beast passed me while I was taking pictures of a flower garden, and though I managed to catch up with him at our first scheduled break, he had to continue on because if he stopped, he'd get too cold in the rain. It was a somewhat miserable sack break for me, standing around in the rain because it was too wet to sit down, but it helped keep that break short. Originally, we were going to meet at the Sarver Hollow shelter, but with the shelter being almost half a mile off the trail, we decided that was too far of a detour.

Flower Garden
Flower Garden

After a bit more uphill, the trail reached the ridge of the mountain, and continued to follow it for some time. On large rocks, made slippery by the rain. At a thirty degree angle. With brambles bordering in case you got too far up or down the rocks.

Not fun.

To make progress, I had to carefully balance on the slippery rock, taking advantage of cracks between rocks and the growing vegetation and what little soil there was around plants to provide additional support. The only consolation was that it was not actually raining when I was crossing the rocks.

Despite being careful, I still fell twice. The first time wasn't too bad, and a bramble bush helped catch my fall. (Fortunately, I only got pricked once, in my hand.) The second time, I went down a lot harder, and despite mostly catching the fall on my leg, I also hit my head on the rock. (Not too hard, though, but it did leave a little bump above my eyebrow.)

I took a break to let the adrenaline dissipate, and while I was waiting, a few people passed me (not surprising). When I was ready to go, as I was standing up, another hiker appeared, so as best I could, I got off to the side of the trail to let him pass.

And in the process of passing me, he somehow put one of his poles on my foot.

Fortunately, it was his pole with a broken-off tip, and fortunately he wasn't pressing down very hard so it didn't go through my shoe, but there was still someone else's trekking pole on my foot.

He apologized after I pointed it out, but he was far too nonchalant about it, and didn't actually check to make sure I was ok before hiking off, and it was only because I was injured and didn't want to deal with one more thing of little actual consequence that I didn't bit his head off immediately. I did work up a righteous vitriolic anger the rest of the way across the rocks and halfway down the mountain that distracted me from the growing pain in my left leg where it slammed into the rock.

I do know that if it had been a non-broken pole with its pointy metal tip that actually went through my shoe and into my foot, it would not have ended well for that hiker. There would not have been very much to stop his fall had I pushed him off by reflex.

The distraction from the pain in my leg provided by my anger only worked until I got halfway down the mountain, at which point what I planned to say if I encountered the guy again became fixed, and the pain in my leg asserted itself rather strongly, greatly slowing my speed.

After the walk across the rocks, I reached the Eastern Continental Divide, and the trail began a downhill, sometimes steep, to Niday Shelter.

Eastern Continental Divide
Eastern Continental Divide

I finally made it to the Niday Shelter around 2:30 (we had thought closer to 1 or 1:30), and my leg would not let me go further, so today's planned 23 mile day turned into a 12 mile day.

(Un)fortunately, I was in good company. Most everyone else at the shelter had slipped and fallen at least once (some multiple times), though Beast was one of the lucky few to have not fallen.

Foot-poker was at the shelter, and he offered another feeble apology. I was too tired (and in too much pain) to want to make a big thing about it, so I just mumbled something about watching where he puts his poles in the future.

I spent the rest of the day resting by leg, a task made easier by Beast fetching water for the both of us.

The short day required reassessment of our plan to Roanoke. Given my leg, all we can really do tomorrow is see how far we can get with my leg, and bail out at one of the road crossings if it's getting too bad.