I slept awful in the Springer Mountain shelter. There weren’t mice or anything (that I heard) – but it was the warmest night we spent on the trail, and I kept waking up. I unzipped my bag halfway on both sides – then I got too cold. Back and forth, all night long.
We had decided to get up before sunrise, to get an early start on the longest hike of the trip (8.8 miles from Springer Mountain; 9 miles from the shelter). Of course the blisters did not heal themselves overnight, but I didn’t feel too bad. We were up early enough to cook breakfast before the sun came up, and we ate during sunrise. Put my boots on and started walking.
One small complication was that we didn’t have a map or guide of any kind to this section of the trail. We were just walking. We walked through the recently burned-out section of the trail. It was crazy to be walking through an area that was on fire just days before (The Black Gap shelter was totally fine, by the way, contrary to the report of the hiker from Day 2). I thought a lot about how this forest was now changed forever – and wouldn’t look anything like what it used to for another 20 years. (Hopefully the same will be true of me after my thru hike!).
We walked past the Hike Inn trail, and saw a sign indicating we had five miles left. My feet started hurting (as expected) so I started doing the ZagShuffle(tm). We reached the boundary of the state park about 4.5 hours from when we started – the sign said average hiking time was 6 hours so I was feeling pretty good about myself. But man, the last mile through the state park facilities was a killer! When I saw the sign I thought I didn’t have far to go – but there was still more than a mile of hiking on pavement (and a few hundred stairs down to the falls) left.
I hobbled the entire last mile. I was so glad to get the truck and take my boots off! My feet had blistered again – blisters on top of blisters – and I did minor surgery on my feet again before delicately changing clothes by the side of the road and settling in for the 4 hour ride home.
P.S. A bottle of Fat Tire beer has never tasted so good!