This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
Our hitch into Augusta told us he gave a solo woman a ride out to the trailhead just before we showed up. We are confused: there are so few woman on trail that I tend to follow them closely and I haven’t seen another female hiker since Leadore. In Augusta, we learn the hiker is Glimmer, and I suddenly want to catch her so badly. She’ll have an 8 hour head start on us though- hard miles to make up even in a 140 mile section.
Thatch chats up a guy at breakfast and we’ve soon scored a ride back to the trail. We’re at the parking lot by 1, but I feel awful. I throw out my z lite and lie down. Wild Land heads out while Thatch and I linger. I use the outhouse and then follow him, as it starts to rain. There are day hikers everywhere, at least by CDT standards. My stomach gurgles ominously, and I worry I’ll embarrass myself in front of them. I stop a few times and chug some pepto. Thatch catches me taking a break, but we don’t find Wild Land anywhere. Tour Guide comes past sobo, giving me a massive hug, but with the bad news that Wild Land is half an hour ahead. It’s getting dark. We push on, but fall a mile short of where he is. I’m up early in the morning, as always, and head up towards the pass before the Chinese wall. Turning a switchback, I look back and see Wild Land behind me. Huh. Guess I passed him in the morning. We walk along the wall, stopping for photo breaks. In the afternoon, we cross spotted bear pass and the trail becomes rougher. Rocks, slippy on the river crossings and overgrown, I hurt my toe on something. Every time I bend it is agony and I start to wonder if I’ve broken it. Finally, I have a hiker hobble. It’s a little better in the morning, as I climb aptly named Switchback pass. I crest the pass and see smoke. Great. It’s on the other side of the valley though, no big deal, right? Wild Land confirms and then we’re running down the valley, following rivers. By afternoon, we’ve circled the ridge the fire was on and can see it blowing up. A column of smoke rises, dark and billowing. I see more trail closures coming and I’m so glad we’ve skated through. We pass more fires- I stop counting after three. All are distant enough that I’m not scared, but trying to figure out if the trail is open becomes a hassle. Still, we are running for town, trying to catch Glimmer on this last stretch. Bear prints soon appear, on top of the prints of the hikers in front. I chatter pointlessly, bear noise necessary. Wild Land and I reach the highway before Thatch. There’s an overpriced restaurant a half mile down the road and we decide to wait for him there. I stuff my face with pasta, appetite finally back, but Thatch doesn’t show. The two of us camp by the highway, and following the recent trend, I’m out of camp before Wild Land is even stirring. I find Thatch just inside the park. “Excuse me sir, do you have a permit?” I wake him up with my best ranger impression. Then I’m flying down the trail in the morning sunshine. By 11, I’m sick of talking to myself, so I blast my music out my speaker and sing along. I immediately see day hikers for the first time in a long time, but I have no shame. And right behind them is Glimmer! She is slackpacking South and warns me of bears up ahead, though I won’t see any. We’ll meet up in town. Finally, another woman hiker!