The plan for the third day was to summit Springer Mountain, and camp at the shelter there. It’s a moderately easy hike of 7.6 miles…moderately easy if you don’t have crazy blisters on your feet, that is. I woke up to blister on both heels and both balls of my feet, plus a few small ones on the toes. I felt a few hot spots on my feet the previous day, but didn’t want to stop and lose any momentum that I had. That was an awful decision. I had a hard time getting moleskin to stick to the blisters, and my duct tape was really un-sticky. After forcing myself to eat the rest of last night’s dinner for breakfast…I packed up and we headed out. I was feeling pretty good about my pack weight when I saw a guy carrying a pack that weight at least 100lbs – including a full size thermos and other heavy camping luxuries. There’s a saying I heard that says – the less your pack weighs, the more you like hiking. The more your pack weighs, the more you like camping. This dude definitely had a luxurious camping set up, but he was NOT having a good hike.
I hobbled along for 2.6 miles before getting to the Long Creek Falls area and deciding I *had* to do something about my feet. L. had waited patiently for me at Long Creek before taking off again. I found a log to sit on, dropped my pack, and looked at my feet. They were horrendous looking. Even though I had drained the blisters just a few hours earlier they were all puffed up again. I decided to try a method I had read about – where you sterilize a needle (fire) and thread (alcohol) and puncture all the way through the blister, then tie off the thread, which will then wick all the fluid out of the blister as you walk. (L. was not enthused about this idea when I told her about it earlier – but she wasn’t there to stop me). I couldn’t stand the thought of putting my boots back on, so I decided to hike in my crocs. They were surprisingly comfortable and while I wasn’t setting any speed records I was trucking along. I figured when L. saw the shape of my feet she might offer to hike the Approach Trail tomorrow by herself, and drive the truck to pick me up at the forest service road, but I made up my mind that I was going to hike the entire thing, even if she offered. What sort of a precedent would it set if I didn’t finish the practice hike?
I got slightly off-trail before the Stover Creek Shelter – went straight when I should have taken a sharp left – but figured it out pretty quick and got to the Stover Creek Shelter around 1:30pm. On the post announcing the shelter was a note from L. that said:
I plan to go as far as I can. If you don’t catch me tonight I’ll pick you up at FSR42 tomorrow (the one ~1 mile north of springer). See you then.
I was so mad! I knew I was going to make it to Springer – I had 4 hours before sundown and 2.3 miles to go. What did that mean, anyway “I plan to go as far as I can”. Was she going to stealth camp in the burned out part of the approach trail – the part where we didn’t have a map and couldn’t tell where the water sources were? That sounded like an awful idea. And why was she changing the plan all of a sudden? We had planned to stop at Springer for the night, so it wasn’t like we were running behind or absolutely needed to get to the truck ASAP. Oooh I was mad. I turned on my phone and texted her “I am going to catch up withj you”. Then turned my phone back off because I didn’t really want to talk with her, I just wanted to hike. The more I hiked the madder I got. If I couldn’t trust her to stick to the plan, then how were we going to hike the entire AT together? She was faster than me – true – but I will be in prime hiking shape soon enough and won’t have a problem keeping up with her long ass legs. Was she just going to leave me?
I decided that it didn’t matter. If she went ahead on her own I was going to hike the AT alone. Lots of people have done it that way and that even though I knew Emily wouldn’t be happy about it, she’d be okay with it eventually. And that I was still going to walk the approach trail back to the state park. If L. wouldn’t wait for me, I’d call someone to come pick me up.
I knew deep down that L. was just trying to help. That she knew how bad off my feet were, and she was probably trying to make it so the day tomorrow wasn’t so long. But my feelings were hurt because she obviously thought I wasn’t cut out for the hike, and that made me mad.
I have to admit, when I got to the Forest Service road I did see if there was anybody around. If there had been, I might have hitched a ride back to the State Park and slept in the back of L.’s truck. Wouldn’t *that* have been a surprise, huh? But I kept on trudging along in my blue crocs, one step at a time.
It’s a 0.9 mile hike from the FS road to the top of Springer, and the trail is full of rocks and roots. About 2:45 I turned on my phone to see if she had texted me back. She texted me “I’m here” with a pic on top of Springer by the plaque. I didn’t know if that meant she was going ahead with her crazy plan or if she was waiting for me on Springer. I kept walking. I got to the turnoff for the shelter and decided to keep going the 0.2 miles to the summit. When I rounded the corner to the top of Springer, and saw L. there, I was overjoyed. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see another person in my life. I caught her! I didn’t have to hike in the dark in the woods!
I think she was pretty happy to see me, too.