I woke refeshed, still angry but not tired. I was so tired from the day before that I took my time getting out of bed. My still wet clothes were cold going on while I packed up in no rush. I wasn’t sure how far I would go for the day, I couldn’t afford to take short days anymore. It would have to be serious from there out, if I wanted to finish at all. My will to hike hard was not there as I tried to catch up with Rubber Ducky and Packer Hat. The trail blended into a sea of rocks, ground and roots. I came to an open field which had a few cows grazing in the morning sun. Standing there looking at the cows I heard a familiar voice from behind. To was one of the guys from the last shelter yelling ahead.
We both hiked out and he was quickly past as the long slow uphill started for me. The rocky steady trail was straight zig-zagging along the hill side as it gained altitude. I soon was coming up behind Rubber Ducky, who was slowly making his way up the steady incline. Trudging away, each step slow and meticulous, one constant motion. Grabbing the perfect time to take a break we stood and chatted for a few minutes as other hikers passed us. Hiking past Ducky I slowly made my way through the woods and out onto a sparsely covered bald called White Top. Looking up I could see rock formations at the top that would probably provide some good views looking back. Just then I noticed a large cloud poised at the top of the mountain I had just left. Snapping a quick picture I continued my ascent to White Top.
Reaching the rocky formation I took my pack off, drenched in sweat I decided this place would be a good place to dry my socks and shirt. Placing them on the rocks, letting the wind whisk away the moisture, I sat down and relaxed. Relaxing, I could see a lone hiker making his way tirelessly up the mountain side. He looked so small compared to the terrain, just a blimp of color against the sea of greens and blues. Eventually he would pass me while I sat and ate some snacks. Looking down the mountain I could see ducky making his way to me, coming out of the trees and into the open. Waiting still he joined me for a few while the cool wind chilled and cooled us off.
It always seems that it’s uphill to Katadhin, up and over the two of us walked, dwarfed by the size of the balds we were crossing. Moving, making our way across the grassy terrain we slipped back into the woods to climb Mt Rogers. We walked and talked about the trail, as the neverending switchbacks filled with rocks and roots fell underfoot. We joked about changing the trail, making the switchbacks go up and down the mountain instead of side to side, adding a state like Ohio or Delaware, or our favorite putting random turns in just to gain 20 actual feet on the mountain. We laughed a bit, the diehard completionists would have a field day trying to finish.
It seemed to us that if there wasn’t rocks, it was roots, and not roots but more rocks, and if not one of those, it was both. We were grateful the trail wasn’t steep as we made our way up the mountain. Ducky had been telling me of this secret field, this overgrown trail that had been taken by accident. Leading to an open field atop the mountains filled with ponies. We searched for this long lost trail at every turn of our switchbacks. Growing weary we thought it must be tomorrow as we stumbled upon it. Rushing down the short trail we emerged in the open, the light blinding us as our eyes adjusted. Alas there were no ponies this day, it was still beautiful never the less.
Heading back in disappointed but not down trodden we continued our ankle breaking hike. The rocks and roots were relentless, never giving a moment of piece. The woods seemed to last forever, our hopes never diminishing. That is one of the best qualities about Rubber Ducky, he is always on the positive side of life. Hiking with him renews your spirits and makes you feel great. It wasn’t long till we found ourselves coming out of there forrest and into a field. The trail snaking away from the hill side and back up the mountain. I couldn’t help but laugh when I spotted him about a quarter of a mile back on the trail but just 40 feet from where I stood. Yelling at him I told him to just walk straight over, he wouldn’t because of the possibility of snakes and continued on.
Climbing the remainder of the rocks I finally reached Thomas Knob shelter. The fog had started to roll in so there would be no views for the night. Eating big dinner that Kim had sent was delicious and filling. My tired bones called for sleep as I set up in the top section of the shelter. The steep slant would prevent me from getting a good night’s rest for the most part. I did get some rest though and was ready to go first thing in the morning.