Mile 428.4—Sekrit location [14.8 miles]
Monday, April 23
Oh, all right. I’m at another damned hostel. Boots Off Hostel, which has a Jerry Garcia meets ZZ Top kind of vibe (and I’m too lazy to check to see if I spelled those right).
I ran up against a decision point today. The factors were: (1) There’s a bear problem in this area (somebody had a food bag stolen just yesterday—a hostel employee, not a hiker). (2) Just north of here there’s a five-mile no-camping zone. (3) The big group
from the shelter last night never passed me, which means they could roll up late somewhere, and pounce.
I could have camped 4 miles back at a big camping spot. BUT… that would mean I’d have to do three back-to-back 15s to get to Damascus Thursday night. And my mileage has been fluctating. And also, I’d bet that the big group is heading there.
I could have managed 16 today, but not 19 (ie, hiking past the closure)—and frankly, I want a few more miles than that between me and the bear problem, which seems to be confined to Watauga Lake. (The shelter is closed because of the bears, and rumor has it it’s going to be closed permanently.)
So there was this hostel. Twenty-five bucks or whatever (plus a run to McDonald’s and Subway, and I got BOTH). It’s an OK place. There’s a big group of thru-hikers, all older. I don’t know them. One of them probably knew my dad; they worked in the same division of the state government at the same time. Which is pretty interesting, because I’ve been thinking about my dad really hard lately. Really hard. The hikers here seem to have started around March 6.
The bunk room is pristine, unlike that last dump. And it’s not full, and there are privacy curtains. I didn’t even bother with the shower (the shower’s some weird bit of carpentry, and I’m a little intimidated by it).
I’m going to try to be out of here by 5:30, back on trail by 6 AM. Damascus is 42 miles away. I’d like to get the bulk of that done on Tuesday and Wednesday so I can get into town by noon on Thursday. I have a LOT to do in Damascus—-including getting new shoes and spraying all my stuff with permethrin (for ticks; I’m spraying every time I get new shoes).
Hiking today was good, but slow. I haven’t slept well for days. Last night there was some kind of crazy loud owl singoff, like American Idol but with screeching and hooting. It was fantastic, but man; those owls have some pipes on them. For hours.
Laurel Falls was beautiful. I have a blister. So it goes.
Did I mention that there was this mysterious yellow ball in the sky all day?