Woke up around 7 a.m. to hear Kat shuffling about getting water going. It was cold enough to have wanted a fire, but no point in making one just for breakfast. Kat, being the great hiking buddy that he is, put enough water on for both of us to have coffee – but it didn’t take long sitting on a cold rock for me to get impatient with that pellet stove and fire up the pocket rocket. Etiquette is one thing, cold is another. (Though, I should be careful about that. . . he may not be so thoughtful next time.)
For breakfast, I tried a couple of new trail fare items. I mixed in a packet of Carnation Instant Breakfast with my Via coffee for what I hoped would be a more sustained boost of morning energy. (Next time, I’ll remember the powdered milk.) I also wolfed down a Little Debbie Swiss Roll – something that, like the McRib, is a weakness of mine that I won’t indulge off trail. Hopped up on sugar and caffeine, we packed up and hit the trail.
The last time we hit this trail, it was a meandering exploration with no real goal in mind. We didn’t really plan this one out, either, but over the next few miles Kat would break his usually stoic silence to ask questions like, “So. . . what’s the plan?” or “Hmm. . . do you think we’ll have time to make it all the way?” I brushed them off with vague replies about taking it one mile at a time. Couldn’t be sure if he was concerned with my overall health or if he was just testing the waters for what would be our most brutal case of self-inflicted stupid to date.
My sugar rush lasted only a few miles when I sat down at the boulder around mile 8.6 and wolfed down a Cliff bar. Kat again commented on my fluctuating energy level in what, from retrospect, was clearly an assessment of my ability to keep up.
[Let me step aside here and talk some about my close friend and partner-in-crime. I can’t keep up with him. Not only am I comparatively a stump, but the guy has hiked trails and miles I’ll never see. It ain’t a contest, I think he was seriously concerned. Not only would my wife be put out if I died out on the trail, but he’d have to deal with Bear Bait alone. That’s enough to strike fear into the strongest heart.]
Energized, we moved along without exploring much. Climbed up to Dockerys Gap and found the sign above. I do appreciate the work the OHT Volunteers have done to keep the trail clean. By comparison, the Butterfield just a few miles up the road is a municipal dump. Still, that sign isn’t very welcoming and didn’t seem to make much of an impression on whoever left that jug behind. If you’re going to leave a snarky sign, at least have someone proofread it before you laminate it and staple it to the trail. We intended to grab that jug on the way back down, but walked past it in the dark later that night and didn’t remember it until we were almost home. I feel bad about that, but then again the most trash we found on the trail was there in the picture.
Stopped for lunch at Hurricane Creek about 11:30.
This was our crossroads. We could have just hung out here, wasted away the afternoon. I tend to do all my talking in the first couple miles of the trail. Kat don’t talk much at all – even when he does manage to edge a word into my rambling monologue. So if we stopped now, we’d have nothing to do but stare at each other for the next six hours and that just isn’t much fun. The last time we camped here, we talked big talk about how easy it would be to just stash the packs behind a tree and hustle-butt up to White Rock.
“Man, seven miles ain’t nothing.”
“Yeah, but then we’ll have to do seven back to camp.”
Doesn’t matter who said what. I think we both tried to back out at least once, and at least once tried to keep the other one from backing out. Plan was to hike as far as we could by 3:00 p.m. and then turn around no matter where we were. That would get us back to Hurricane Creek by around darkfall.
Of course, that assumed we’d make the same time going up the mountain as we would coming down. Kat brought a day-pack that we stuffed with our food sacks, a bottle of PolarPure, and his water bottle. I carried a quart and my camera case. Wore the hunter’s orange cap (complete with text in case I came across any color blind hunters) and hid the packs behind the tree.
And you just thought the stupid was all used up at Frog Bayou . . .
(Next: There and back again)
Never had any doubts about you making it, the question was if we would get you back in time for Thanksgiving dinner. We made it with minutes to spare.
30 minutes exactly.