Kevin had quit and I was mad as hell. I had 16 miles to do and I had left at 2 pm, it was going to be a very long day in the heat. The long steep uphill in the late afternoon was draining already and I still had miles to go. I spent the first part of the climb cursing him and generally just being mad. I can’t believe he quit, with no real rhyme or reason. I powered up the hills, my anger fuelling and pushing me up the steep terrain. We had started this together and he was done just like that. I stewed on this for hours before thinking of friends and home.
My friends from the Balloon Shop floated in. I wondered how they were doing and what they thought of what I was doing. Telling them that I would be going away for a short while was hard for me to do. I wasn’t sure how they would take it or what they would think. With everything that has been on thier plate recently with hospital visits and treatments, I just wanted to enjoy thier company when I visited before coming here. I gave them half of Roland’s ashes to place on their mantle. They had cared for him during my recent change of home and loved him deeply. I felt this was a great way to honor him and them, he would always have a home with them as he did in life. I hoped they were doing well.
By now I caught up with Gadabout and T-bird and we started joking about Hot Springs. We have to go back, was the line of the evening. Climbing to the fire tower we were greeted by a magnificent view of the area. We hung out there with a few other hikers, Nate, Dapper Dan, Shaggy, before heading to tower the shelter for dinner. On our way, we came up with a ruse to play out to our friends, of why we had to go back. Making it seem like we were brainwashed and or convinced to return to the vortex as the locals called it. This went on for over an hour, we have to go back, we have to go back. If Gadabout would say it I would whisper it, we have to go back. If I said it, he would do the same thing. It drove T-bird crazy, to the point she no longer wanted to hike with us. We on the other hand couldn’t stop saying it or stop laughing, we have to go back.
T-bird had gotten a headache on the way up to the shelter. When we finally arrived, ready to put our plan into effect, she was too excited to see our friends to contain herself. No go, the plan was shot, we too were excited to see them. The long evening was tiring and we still had a few miles left to go. We would have to night hike out to our camp spot. Eating dinner, relaxing for a few minutes, we decided on a location for our camp. Just a few miles away, we decided on Allen Gap, right off the highway..
Donning our headlamps we started out. The girls upfront, then the guys, Pebbles and Theseus in the rear, we hiked out like a family of elephants, each one of us in tow behind the other. Up and down the rocky rooted hills we went, our headlamps lighting the terrain. We joked, laughed, and talked, passing the time as best as we could. The night was clear enough to see stars, the trees on the other hand were to thick to allow any such view though. On and on we walked down the mountain to our gap. Coming to a main road, dropping our packs, we looked for water. Score, we found a fast running stream, that was at least 20 ft wide. This fresh water felt so refreshing compared to some of the other sources we have had. Each of us took just. A few moments to tent up an sleep. Our long day provided a quick sleep, minus the occasion trucker blowing by us.