I didn’t sleep well again, it’s been three nights of unrested sleep. Baby Face snores so loud he could wake the dead, nnhhhaaaaaahhhhh every breath. I was up early and Snuck out without making a sound. Packed up and hit the trail with Packer Hat and Ducky again, we had 20 miles in our plan for the day all ending with pizza and Partnership Shelter. The two of us Packer Hat and I made quick time over the rocks and smooth terrain, smashing through the morning webs along the trail. I had to put my sunglasses on to keep my eyes clear of webs as we hiked quickly.
We moved so quick that we did the first five miles to Dickey Gap in just under two hours. Tired, full of our early morning energy we took a quick break eating and resting before hitting the next five miles. I lead for a bit, the long uphill slowing me steadily gave way to Packer Hats best terrain. He does so well with the long steady uphill, it is almost impossible for me to keep pace with him. Blowing by me he disappeared over the hills and trees. It wasn’t long before I was alone again hiking, zoning out to the next shelter. Again we made great time getting there, at our current pace we would arrive at Pizza Shelter by 5 if we could keep it up.
Enjoying the downtime we met again other thruhiker and her boyfriend. He was doing a section with her while she slowed her mileage to spend time with him. The four of us chatted for a bit before we left them a the shelter. We had two miles more of downhill before an onslaught of eight uphill. Neither of us were looking forward to it. We flew downhill the first mile in about 15 minutes the next in about 20. At the bottom of our descent we were graced with some old trail magic, left many days ago. Obviously emptied for some time, we looked for anything useful before going up hill. Again Packer Hat took the lead, I wouldn’t see him again for a bit.
The only break from our forever uphill was a small section maybe a half mile long that was completely flat. Here I was able to catch him before being passed again on the next uphill in the woods. Up and up we climbed, to the top of a hill. Each hill we climbed, the trial would turn right leading up to another hill higher, and turn again and again. By my first count there were three rights we had made to hiker hills. I felt as if I was going in circles climbing up and up the relentless hills and false summits. My spirits draining I began to zone out, forcing hiker brain to take over, dragging my poles I walked steady over the rocky trail.
After what seemed forever I came to a clearing with powerlines, tired and mentally exhausted I sat and rested. Counting the miles and time I figured I had upwards of 3 to four miles to go which could take me about two more hours to finish. It was four in the afternoon and I sat for a good twenty minutes before checking my guide to see how far it was. To my surprise I had only 2 miles to go, you’ve got to be kidding me I thouht. Jumping up, getting my pack on I took off down the trail. I had one mile down and one mile up and then it was pizza.
In just a few short moments I was on an old service road for a trail. The wide flat constant grade was a dead giveaway of what it had been once. Ph how wonderful I thought in jubilation. Seeing that I had a good straight away I started to pray, I was tired, hungry, and ready for the day to be over. I asked God for just one thing, for the trail to remain just like this all the way to the shelter. In return I would share with him a slice of pizza that I was coveting so much. Down down the mile went all along staying on the service road. Over streams and trickling brooks the trail remained true to its form. I kept my hopes high but knew it would go back to some rocky narrow nonsense.
Hitting the uphill I was a mile away, still the trial was solid and flat. I got excited as I plunged my poles into the dirt in rhythm with my steps, crushing anyway the terrain underfoot. More machine than man I moved in a perfect rhythm, free of thoughts other than pizza. Pizza was my only thought, the only thing keeping me moving at a hard pace. The sooner I got to the shelter the sooner my belly would be full of that glorious sauce, cheese, vegetables, and meat. Still the trial remained true, had God actually heard me? Every 40 feet of elevation brought me closer and closer to the shelter. All the while following the trail that was once an old service road. Then it happened the trail came around corner and the shelter was in view. It had stayed the entire time, my prayers had been answered, I picked up pace so excitedly that I literally ran into the shelter.
Packer Hat was already there and I immediately shared my story with him. The tow of us laughed as I dropped my gear checking out the shelter. More and more people flowed in and we would feast on many slices of pizza that night. True to my word as God had been for me I saved him a slice, placing it in the fire as an offereing and a commitment to my prayer. Whether or not the trail had been changed, I was a man of my word and shared. 20 miles in under 9 hours we had kept our pace and crushed out the day.