16.8 miles (whoa)
Longest day yet and boy do I feel it! Got up pretty early and started hiking. A beautiful (but rocky) climb up to Firescald Knob – the views contained 360 degrees of beauty. I got completely lost on the summit to Big Butt Mountain. The trail came down a rock jumble and you could either continue going down, or go back up to the ridgeline over rocks. I started going up the rocks, but it was pretty strenuous and I didn’t see any white blazes. (On rock jumbles there will often be blazes on the rocks to show you the way). Turned around and I saw a blaze on a tree – so thought I must have just missed it before and the trail was headed downhill. Well….the blaze I saw was meant for Southbound hikers to mark the trail. I went about 30 yards down the mountain before thinking, “this is more bushwacking than I expected”. So turned around, climbed back up the summit to where I *knew* the trail was, and tried again. Still no luck. As I was getting ready to head back up the rockpile, two more hikers came by. So I just followed them. 🙂 Sure enough, about 20 feet up the rock jumble you could see a white blaze.
I was pretty freaked out. Despite my name (zag – because I sometimes go the wrong way) – I haven’t been lost in a very long time. (Like, since the 2nd day before I knew that double blazes meant…a change is coming! Pay attention!). So I listened to Leonard Cohen to calm my nerves.
Walked down a long fire road and made ok time. Stopped for a snack at Jerry’s Cabin Shelter (in the vicinity of the shelter, not actually IN the shelter like some hikers).
The trail was very scenic and it felt great to take my time and just enjoy the day. There were some sections through pastures, others through balds, others right next to stream cascades. I knew there was a thunderstorm supposed to hit tonight, but I figured I had plenty of time to get to the campsite before it hit.
Then by the time I started up the mountain, the storm clouds were moving in fast. I could feel the change in the air – more humid, a little colder – and knew I had to get a move on to the campsite. Since the campsite didn’t have water, I loaded up with 3L more water…call me zag the camel for the second day in a row.
I was so afraid that the storm was going to start while I was on the ridgeline, but there was nothing to do but walk as fast as I can. I texted OWL to see where she was – she couldn’t find the flats (there is no “welcome to Big Flats” sign on the trail), so she was hiking on to find where others were camped. Finally I found them, 0.2 miles from Rice Gap. Put up the tent in a hurry – the rain started about 15 minutes after I got set up.
Had tofu curry for dinner. The curry was delicious but the tofu did not rehydrate well. Another lesson learned.