Monday, April 29th

I woke up slowly to the steady lap of he stream behind me, running along mossy banks and smooth stones. I slept quite well, dreaming once again that I was back home. This seems to happen just about every night. I am taking a break in Charlottesville, seeing my friends for the first time in months. Sometimes they show no appreciation at my return, leaving me feeling like a returning Vietnam Vet. Sometimes I get a grand welcome, all of my friends happening to be assembled at my favourite Charlottesville hangout. And sometimes I've been there for a while, feeling guilty for not hiking. Perhaps this is an omen not to spend long when I visit home in a few weeks. Or maybe they're just dreams, born of homesick frustrations of a lonely 17-year-old.

I had Quaker Grits for breakfast ("With Real Butter Flavor!") and was thoroughly disappointed. That mushy, salty mess was nothing like the mana that I'd had at B&Ds. I couldn't believe that I'd planned on having grits all the way to Fontana Dam. Yech.

Tom, Dave and I started hiking around 10:00. I was extremely sore, having forgotten to restock on Ibuprofen back in Franklin. I found that my legs would feel better after some easy warm-up hiking. We ascended from Swinging Lick Gap to Siler Bald Shelter, where we took a long break. Out front of Siler Bald Shelter was a large, open, grassy field. These are not often encountered in the Appalachians. We took out my hacky-sack and played some baseball.

As Spring is finally here (?), I've begun to have a strong desire to play a little baseball. This is unusual, since I've never played much basebal. Regardless, I found this little game of hack-ball to fill a perfect spot within me that had been vacuous.

The Brothers soon arrived, with Blaze Blind, High Tech, the Purple Pirate, Buckeye 70 and even more close behind. I should take this chance to describe Buckeye 70 to you. He is a spry 70-year- old man, with a nearly literal twinkle in his eye and fast to relate a story. He's got a joke for every situation, full of life, aglow with grins. In any case, lots of people began to pile into this little shelter. Florida Dave and Botany Boy convinced me to leave, and so we marched out after lunch. We'd like to stay ahead of the wave.

We completed the long descent into Wayah (WAR-yuh) Gap, the big climb over USFS 69 and onto Wayah Bald by late afternoon. We encountered a Southbound thru-hiker there, a fellow by the name of 6 Iron. He was named quite aptly, as he was, in fact, carrying a 6 iron. When he started, back on Katahdin, he thwacked a golf ball off of the top. He'll do the same on the top of Springer. He'd started back in June, but took a few months off during the worst of the cold weather. He'd just started again in early April, carrying his golf club and a 25-pound pack. I should mention that this conversation took place at the Wayah Observation Tower. It is a large stone structure that looks as if it has escaped from its castle. There is a truly amazing view in all directions. I got one of my first views of the distant Smokies, spotting the Little Tennessee River, as well as some rapidly approaching thunderheads. Because of the slanted light, as it was late afternoon, the mountains took on a true depth, casting shadows down their own eroded slopes. They looked formed of wire frames, draped with fertilised felt, settled with time.

We decided that we needed to hurry before dark and rain overcame us, and so we said goodbye and moved on. We established the goal of Cold Spring Shelter, as tents are no fun to pack up in a rainstorm in the morning. A mile and a half later, in Licklog Gap, the rain began to push through the leaves and splatter on our bare skin. I put on my rainsuit, opting to wear nothing underneath, on account of the body heat generated by hiking.

The next 3 1/2 miles were just lovely. Thunder, wind, and sideways rain were constant, preventing breaks or map checks. The trail more strongly resembled a stream than the AT, dampening our feet as we squished northward. The darkness necessitated a flashlight, so I strapped on my headlamp and directed it straight down at my feet. You don't look up much in weather like that. The last half mile to the shelter was the worst, a slow and muddy uphill. We were all concerning about missing the blue blaze trail to the shelter in the wet darkness. This turned out not be a problem, as Dave nearly walked into the back of Cold Spring Shelter. It rested quite literally on the Appalachian Trail.

chesterIn Cold Spring we found Crazy Trail, Pondering Pilgrim and his dog. The pup greeted us with bared fangs and loud barks, leaving us dripping in the rain. Pilgrim called it off, and we set about changing and eating quietly, letting the others sleep. I found that I was quite wet. Not from rain, as I'd anticipated, but from my own sweat. It seems that Gore-Tex does an excellent job of keeping rain out, but it just doesn't seem to wick sweat as well as it is supposed to. I also noticed that the back of my Mountain Hardwear jacket had ripped in a few places. I imagine that it is the result of mice looking for some bedding, but I will have a wet butt no matter how it happened.

I had mac and cheese for dinner, but it was way too nasty to clean out my dish. I found that the dog did a nice job of this. I knew I'd find a use for him. We went to sleep soon after, lulled by the thrumming of hundreds upon thousands of gallons of water on the roof.

Song Stuck in my Head Today: Michelle Shocked, "Come A Long Way"
Miles Today: 14.5

"The storm starts
When the drops start dropping.
When the drops stop dropping
Then the storm starts stopping."
-Theodore Guisel

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