Sunday, May 12th

I'm not really sure what time I woke up at this morning, as I did it so many times. It was so bloody cold out that I didn't want to let as much as my nose out of my sleeping bag. Sleet, hail, rain and snow fell in cycles from the sky, leaving wet chunks of ice littering the front of the shelter. This was not a good morning for hiking. I announced that I wasn't getting my butt out of my bag until I saw some sun, which Jayhiker, Wooden Nickel and High Tech agreed was a good idea that they'd subscribe to as well. It got above freezing by 10:00 or so, which we knew from the chunks of ice melting off of the trees. Icicles the width of my finger clattered and shattered in the leaves, probably lethal to a bare-headed hiker. I got out of my sleeping bag by 11:30, when the temperature got into the mid-40s and the sun started to shine.

I had a Power Breakfast of oatmeal with everything but the kitchen sink in it to fuel my day's trip. It had stopped raining, so I wore a fleece for warmth without rain gear. I found that I could remove that in an hour or so. It got up into the low 60s by early afternoon, a chilly breeze discouraging long breaks.

I met a Texan couple, Barbara and John, in the Newfound Gap parking lot, where I was taking a lunch break. I told them all about hiking the trail and what fun it is, and Barbara made me a sandwich and gave me some fruit. We spent a while talking after that. They were an awfully nice couple. We parted ways after half an hour, and I wandered through the crowded parking lot, juggling as I went. Barbara hurried up to me and tucked a folded-up $10 bill into my hand, insisting that I take it so she wouldn't be worried about me. She told me to get myself a good meal somewhere. So much trail magic in so little time!

I took the slow easy uphill to the shelter from there, passing a large number of day hikers in the process. I got to Icewater Spring Shelter in the late afternoon, getting there early enough to hang up some socks to air out in the sun. I found a couple of section hikers there, along with the Nickel brothers, High Tech, Snail No More, George the Painter (a Southbounder that I didn't get to know very well), and a thru-hiker whose name I didn't get. Nice fellow - he handed out fudge to everybody. There's not much in this world that makes me happier than a piece of chocolate fudge with walnuts.

Well, two pieces of chocolate fudge with walnuts...

The two dayhikers lit a fire in the shelter fireplace (shelter fireplaces, I should mention, are found almost exclusively in the Smokies), warming the evening a bit. I had Annie's Shells and Cheese for dinner again and answered some more e-mail, figuring that I could send it out in the next town. It seemed it would be another mighty cold night, so I wrapped up and zipped up just after dark.

The night's events got pretty bizarre from there. We all managed to piece things together from what we'd seen through fuzzy eyes and half-open lids in the darkness. Around 1:00 AM two teenagers came into camp. One carried an immense boombox, the other a Marlboro backpack. The attempted to light a fire outside, but satisfied themselves with simply getting stoned. Before long, they tried to get into the shelter. For bear protection, we had used the supplied chain to fasten shut the gate from the inside. This is not hard to remove for a human, but it's a horse of a different colour for a trashed human. None of us were awake enough or willing enough to undo the fence for them, so they rattled it for a bit. They stopped, and a few minutes later we heard a clattering from up on the roof. One of them had climbed up on top. Before long we saw a pair of feet poke out of the fireplace - he'd come down the chimney. Santa opened the gate for the other guy, and they got up on the top bunk to go to sleep, sans sleeping bags in the freezing shelter. Morons. Needless to say, they didn't sleep too well. They left around dawn, boombox and backpack in tow. Yeesh.

Song Today: Danny Elfman, Nightmare Before Christmas' "This is Halloween"
Miles Today: 7.5

"Getting from one place to another quickly does not add time to our lives."

- Anonymous
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