Miles Hiked: 15.9
Miles Left: 1768.3
Ending Location: Dennis Cove Road, Kincora Hiking Hostel
Well my plans for an early start were dashed when we were hit by a thunderstorm in the morning. Yes I want to get into town but staying dry in my sleeping bag has its own pluses. Sheltering in place was much less appealing to Owl. His tent fly had drained onto his ground cloth leaving him sitting in a bathtub. So while I slept in he was packing his stuff and getting ready to hit the trail. The rain finally stopped around 9:30 and since splitting up to hike our own pace worked so well the previous day Owl left camp and went on to have a much more exciting day than me, (more on that later), while I slowly got my act together.
Yesterday things had been warming up and that trend continued with it hitting the 80’s today. Normally that’d be great news but unfortunately most of my gear is still set up for cold weather. I plan on changing over some of it in Damascus and then getting rid of the last of my cold weather gear in Blacksburg, but for now I’m sweating. The hiking today alternated between two extremes. I’d hit an overgrown part that was hot and humid and seriously start questioning why I was out here. About 30 minutes later I’d find myself in a pine forest with wind and be loving life. The heat really complicated things as I was soaked the entire day which I knew in an abstract way was going to happen but I wasn’t quite prepared for the reality of it. I’ve also had to completely abandon the idea of carrying all my water for the day as before I was drinking around three liters and now I’m up to around six. Luckily water was abundant along the trail but in a piece of bad timing my water filter picked now to give up the ghost. It was a Sweetwater pump filter and it had been having serious issues since I tried to filter muddy water in freezing temperatures a couple of days ago, (wait, was that only a couple days ago!?). The core carbon part of it appeared intact but it acted as if it was clogged all the time. That morning I had left it by the waterfall to grab my brush to clean it out, (again), and ended up knocking my platypus bottle cap into the river, (it was gone instantly), so I wasn’t happy with it to start out. As the day wore on and I kept struggling with it I realized this wasn’t sustainable situation and sat down to troubleshoot the problem. It turns out the filter itself was ok but the pre-filter that you dip into the river was broken. I tried scrubbing it and blowing in it but the pre-filter still remained clogged. At that point I got the brilliant idea of putting it on the output tube to back flush it but I got lazy and dipped the now non-filtered draw tube into the river. I reasoned if it clogged up the main filter I could just brush it out. My mistake was I had forgotten about the gasket that it used to suck the water up into the main filter. Basically some grit got in there rendering unable to create pressure. Since the whole gasket part is enclosed in unserviceable plastic tube my nice water filter instantly became a piece of junk. Luckily I still have water purification tabs so I wasn’t in a bad spot, (once again yay for being prepared), but I’ll chalk this up as a learning experience. Truth be told, the whole troubleshooting process was a lot of fun as it was a bit of intellectual stimulation I’ve been missing on the trail.
Side Note: The next day when I had access to a sink I totally fixed my filter. It was a neat little project. That being said I’m still going to get a new one in Damascus since the main pump part is about three years old and I no longer fully trust it at this point.
So that was my day until I hit Moreland gap shelter around 4pm. It was directly on the trail so I checked the log book looking for an entry from Owl telling me where he wanted to meet up in town. Only there was no entry written by Owl. That made me worry. He wouldn’t have skipped this shelter and I couldn’t imagine him not writing down some joke to encourage me on. I haven’t had cell signal for the last couple of days but one of the other hikers let me borrow their phone, (they had Verizon like Owl), and I tried to call him but it went to voicemail.
I waited around a bit but one guy came up behind me who was slack packing and said he hadn’t seen Owl either, so I then decided to get to town and hopefully find him at one of the hostels. As the day went on I finally obtained one bar of signal and started getting random text messages from Owl warning me about mud, dogs and to meet him at the Kincora shelter. Relieved he wasn’t dead in a ditch I headed the rest of the way into town.
On arriving at Kincora, Owl greeted me at the front, I sat my pack down on the porch, and one of guys named Lumpy presented me with a bowl of warm peach cobbler slathered in ice cream. I about cried. After polishing off the pie plus the follow on bonus scoop of ice cream I was then handed a bowl of home cooked pasta and sausage. As I was scarfing that down Owl told me his story.
Owl had been hiking alone when two dogs appeared on the trail. They looked like tan German Shepherds so these weren’t small dogs either. At first they appeared friendly and approached Owl but when they got within a couple of feet they turned aggressive, growling and barking. Owl tried to back away but they kept following him. After a couple of minutes one of them lunged at him and Owl smacked it with his hiking pole. That was a good move since they then stayed a pole’s length away but they continued to harass him. Owl found himself backing down a side trail for about a quarter mile in this state until the dogs decided to find easier prey and left him alone. Owl wisely decided not to try to make it back to the AT since the dogs had headed that way, and instead continued to follow the forest road until it met up with a paved road. It was at this point he met up with two other hikers, Steady and Trident, who were making a town run to buy food. Steady was a triple crowner who lived in the area and was driving people around in her pickup truck so Owl jumped in the bed and away they went.
Yet another side note: For everyone reading this journal who warned me about bears, right now they are one of the least scary things on the trail, ranked behind feral dogs, wild pigs, and drunk locals. Owl was very lucky to get out of that unscathed.
The rest of the night at Kincora was an experience. The hostel is run by Bob Peoples who is one of the most well known trail maintainers. The hostel itself is donation based, (suggested donation is five dollars), because that is just something Bob Peoples does. To give you an idea of the type of respect he gets, hikers make Bob Peoples jokes instead of Chuck Norris jokes. We stayed up fairly late sitting on that porch just listening to some of the more experienced hikers swap stories. Part of the incentive to stay on the porch might also have been that the main bunk room was full so we got the overflow shed instead. It was pretty damp and sketchy but what do you expect for five bucks? In short, it was a very good experience and I recommend for anyone hiking the AT to stay there one night. If you plan on zeroing though you should then move on to the Black Bear resort instead.