Sunday, May 19…..With a cool, drizzly day awaiting, I couldn’t be more anxious to get back to the trail. After spending now what seems more like a month than a week in Daleville/Troutville, I need to hike. In fact, if I don’t get back in the woods soon, I fear I may become addicted to the Big Bang Theory. It’s always interesting how one occupies his time when confined to a motel room for days. As much as I like rooms and the conveniences that come with towns, I’m actually looking forward to a shelter tonight. Anyone who has met me on the trail is probably doubting the remark, but at least for today I state it with sincerity.
The Comfort Inn, where I’ve resided the past two nights, provides about as impressive a breakfast buffet as any establishment that I’ve stayed in thus far. While dining this morning I chatted awhile with thru hikers, Cyclops and Shaman. Also preparing to hike out today, they were loading up on a hearty breakfast before venturing back out into the woods. At the next table were Smurf, Pops, and Cub who live in northern Mississippi. Having finished a section hike yesterday, they planned to drive home today. Interested in my reasons for hiking, the three listened attentively as I shared with them my strategies. Cub said he liked my methods.
After checking out of my room I took a seat in the lobby to kill some time before my shuttle arrived. While waiting I spent about half an hour talking with Kyle and Johnny, two players for the minor league Frederick Keys. Playing in the Carolina League, the Baltimore Orioles affiliate had a weekend series with Salem, a Red Sox farm team. Kyle, who is from Montgomery, asked some specifics about my venture when I told him I was hiking the AT. Johnny noted that I would be out longer than their baseball season.
Right on time, Homer’s son Bennett arrived to shuttle me back to the trail at Jennings Creek. Riding and chatting with the former thru hiker and now Virginia Tech sophomore reinforced my faith in the youth of today. At nineteen Bennett seems mature beyond his age. But then what should one expect of a young man who thru hiked the AT with his parents and eleven year old sister when he was eight. It was an honor being taken back to the trail by Bennett.
So as I stepped foot on the trail for the first tome since Tuesday, the rain commenced. Fortunately it never got harder than a steady sprinkle as I tested my Achilles on an uphill section from the outset. Very slowly I began to re-acclimate myself with the nuances of the trail. All appeared fine at the beginning. After the climb I faced a downhill section of about the same distance. With each step I gained confidence; however, I reminded myself often that I needed to remain patient. And that’s exactly what I did.
When I arrived at the Bryant Ridge Shelter, which is regarded as somewhat of a “penthouse” that sleeps 20, Doodles was there. Only stopping for a break, he headed out toward the next shelter shortly after I arrived. I picked out a good spot to place my mat and sleeping bag and then hung my damp clothes on pegs in hopes that they would dry overnight. Just when I had everything organized, two hikers I had not met, husband and wife Spider and ET walked up. They are on a lengthy section hike which will end in Waynesboro. Already having finished the Pacific Crest Trail in sections, the couple from the San Francisco area are great company. Spider and I talked about the Pacific Coast Highway and Pebble Beach as he readied his space in the shelter.
So I’m finally back in the woods. It was the perfect way to continue the hike. I walked pain free for 3.8 miles over both uphill and downhill terrain. Now I’m in a luxury shelter (as shelters go) on a night when more rain is in the forecast. My fellow shelter mates are congenial and about my age. I have burgers in the food bag for supper and my cozy sleeping bag ready when darkness comes. I’m a very contented hiker at the moment. It feels so good to once again be hiking on the trail I hope to follow all the way to the Maine, the very special Appalachian Trail.