I decided I wanted to get back to the trailhead by 8:30. I'd have preferred sooner, to get an earlier (and thus, cooler) start to a day that starts with a long uphill, but that's a reasonable compromise since I'm starting an hour away from the trailhead. An 8:30 start meant leaving at 7:30.
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Our shuttle driver up to the trailhead showed up about 15 minutes early, before we were ready, so we wound up rushing a bit to get everything we weren't taking on today's slackpack stowed in the motel's storage room. We wouldn't realize it until later, but this resulted in us forgetting Beast's towel in the room.
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Since the plan this morning was to meet Beast in Buena Vista tomorrow, I really only need to get halfway there today, so that indicated Punchbowl Shelter, about 9 miles ahead. A short day like that wouldn't normally warrant leaving early, but it was going to be hot today, and with a long uphill, I did want to leave before it got too warm out.
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After talking with Beast last night and this morning, I took my time getting going this morning, since the plan was to meet him at the parking area for the James River Footbridge, the longest foot-use-only bridge on the AT. We also changed our plan for getting into Buena Vista; we'd be taking an extra day to get into town in order to meet up with Beast's parents on Saturday. This means two short days, rather than one long one, but my left foot has been bothering me, so I'm ok with a less ambitious schedule since that'll go easier on my foot.
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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.
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