Following his bout with dehydration yesterday, Beast was not feeling well today, so I hiked solo today. Beast will skip up to where I am tomorrow afternoon, at a convenient parking area adjacent to the James River Footbridge.
Not to look the gift horse in the mouth, but I think Beast and I must be the most spoiled thru-hikers on the trail the past week. This is certainly not how I expected my thru-hike to go, but, I'm certainly not complaining, especially since the likelihood of a repeat of the last week in terms of hospitality is highly unlikely as we move further away from easy access to relatives.
Cynthia made us eggs and bacon for breakfast again, before Philip drove us back out to the trail. I was a little slower getting everything packed up than I would have liked, so it's entirely my fault we didn't get to the trailhead until a little after 9 am. (I had wanted to start around 8:30, at the latest.)
Almost immediately, my plans for the day were thrown out of kilter. At the trailhead, the sign warning of bear activity and the closure of the Thunder Hill Shelter also included an unexpected additional warning of problem bear activity at the Harrison Ground Spring campsites, with camping there highly discouraged. This being the intended destination of a "short" (17 miles) day, this forces either a really short day to a shelter (9 miles), or a long 21 mile day to Marble Spring. Really not the sort of thing I'm looking for with a late start.
But, since there really wasn't anything else to do but hike, I got started. It was sunny and warm out, so I took my time, especially since the day starts out with two long uphills.
Happily, a number of people throughout the day note Beast's absence and ask about him. Unhappily, I have to tell them why he's not here.
There was really not much in the way of scenery today. I managed to get a good picture of a butterfly, and the most interesting part of the trail was "The Guillotine", a boulder wedged between two rocks above the trail.
Between there and the closed Thunder Hill shelter, the trail crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway again, where I met Carmen and Leslie, two grad students (one in Richmond, the other in Minnesota), who had been driving around trying to find the AT. Carmen knew some section-hikers, but had never met anyone doing a thru-hike. They were kind enough to offer me some water, which I happily accepted, and it's probably why I managed to not run out of water later today.
Overall today, the trail was rather unfriendly. A good portion of the hike, especially the uphills, were exposed to the sun, so it was hotter than it otherwise should have been. Also, for some reason, there were millipedes everywhere. I've never seen so many millipedes on the trail before.
I finally made it to the Marble Spring campsite close to 7, surprised I still had water left. This really didn't give me much time to do chores — get water, set up the tent, find a tree and hang a bear line, make dinner, and hang my food bags. I wasn't done and in my tent ready to go to sleep until after both sunset and hiker midnight.
While hanging my food bags, my headlamp illuminated numerous tiny gems, sparkling on the ground. It didn't take long to realize that the "gems" were spider eyes, all watching me.
Once in my tent, I quickly went to sleep, exhausted after a long (and hot) hike.