AT Day 034: Thursday May 11, 2023

Mile 510.5 + 20 miles /32 km

Total Distance Hiked: 530.5 miles /854 km

Old Orchard Shelter – State Route 603 – Comers Creek Falls – Dicky Gap – Racoon Branch Wilderness – Slab Mountain Road – Pugh Mountain Road – Camp

A: 3795 ft /1157 m   D: 4550 ft/ 1388 m

I woke early this morning, and while having coffee in the silence of the early dawn I reflected on yesterday. It was a tough day on the body but such a visually rich and rewarding day. And with such fantastic weather I almost wish for a sliding door moment – to go back and do it all again. So many beautiful memories will remain. 

The wind which sprung up last night died away though the night and the morning was perfectly still and silent. We were breaking camp as the bird melody started and accompanied us out from camp. 

The day dawned to brilliant blue skies and it quickly warmed up as we wound our way up and down on long ascents and descent. Nothing too steep just long gentle grades. The glory of the day was all above us. Warm weather, endless blue skies and that amazing light green foliage of new seasons growth. 

We hiked most of the morning with a hiker we’ve flip-flopped with for about a week.  He and his two hiking buddies stayed at the shelter last night.  His trail name is Singsong and his trail buddies (Vamp and Golden Calves) were someway behind.  (We later learnt that Golden Calves was not feeling well and got off trail to attend Urgent Care in Marion.)

A morning  of interesting conversation which was just as well, because the trailside offered little of interest. Hiking felt easy, the trail was soft and conversation flowed. 

Singsong lived in Las Vegas working in elementary school education. The Pandemic encourage a re-evaluation of his life. He sold up everything and has been living a nomadic life for the past 17 months, spending the past 6 months in Thailand.  Coming back home only to hike the AT. Such a brave decision to sell everything, quit work and travel. He was an interesting and an interested conversationalist. According to his assessment his mums cinnamon scrolls are better then the Stehikin Bakery. Ohh….that set off  dreamy taste test. 

We stopped for lunch at around midday after climbing out from Dicky Gap. It was nice to stop and take our shoes off. It has been one of the warmest days we’ve had on trail so far. 

After lunch the trail for quite gnarly. The ascents  were much steeper and the trail was so much more rockier underfoot.  I was pleased I had new shoes. My feet were feeling a bit tenderized as the afternoon wore on. Hammer felt fine and was keen to push his shoes till the halfway point.  All day we had one brief glimpse of the distant valley otherwise we were enclosed in the green tunnel. Late afternoon we stopped for water at a gushing stream. While we were there three hikers passed us. They had just started on their through hike in Damascus and were taking it easy while getting their trail legs. We passed them about an hour later when they stopped to cool off at a creek.

We stopped early for the day at the last campsite before entering the Mt Rodgers Recreation Area which only allows stays in the shelter – no tenting is allowed. Tomorrow we only have 3 miles before we reach a road that will take us into the town of Marion for re-supply. We can’t quite decide if we’ll stay overnight or just resupply and head back out in the afternoon. The town is about 6 miles off the trail.  

Seat with a view
The only distant view we had all all day
The first new trail sign