We got up medium early. I was not the first one up today; I was starting to be really tired… of course, it still didn’t register that I was this tired.
I was stuffed up though and I started taking a serious amount of Sudafed trying to clear out my sinuses.
I’m glad I bought a bunch of it before I left (and a side note to the buttmunch who decided to pass the legislation limiting the only sinus medicine that works on me; I hereby curse you to the hell where you can’t breathe unless you take Sudafed incessantly. Rules of three don’t apply here because I am already living it. Feh.) because I was desperate to not let it get into my lungs. Once it got there, I’d be more useless than I already am.
So, I put the roll of toilet paper (sans center cardboard in a ziploc) into my pocket for easy access and got my stuff together in my pack.
Breakfast was put out, but as I’m not typically a breakfast eater, I only had a bit of tea and a few sliced strawberries. I wasn’t terribly hungry.
There were some last minute additions to a bunch of folks’ packs, namely rain covers. We had brought several extra garbage bags (of the forceflex ilk for sturdiness) and mom stayed with that (it suited her theme-she had gotten her pack for $12 at the used gear sale at REI- well, add in a new clip for the closure (about $1.50) and thread for sewing the strap where it was coming loose-so ‘free’ fit right in) and I went over and succumbed to the siren’s song of a pack cover at MRO.
All hail the Osprey XL.
I vote it the best $40 I have spent, but more on that later.
Two vans loaded us up to take us to the trail head at Fox Creek.
Packrat was our driver (he is pictured in the book “A Walk for Sunshine“) and he regaled us with tales from the trail of his own. He’s been a ridegrunner, helped people out from the trail when they were hurt (carried their packs out then went back and carried *them* out), in short a dear man who was entertaining the whole drive up.
We arrived at Fox Creek and while we were there (adjusting packs, adjusting hiking pole lengths, etc) out popped a hiker from the trail.
Hikers and other hikers say hello and talk. Its what you do on the trail, there’s a nice community and an immediate sense of solidarity between people out there. I like it.
He talked about the weather, the fact that his shoes were disintegrating and Packrat offered to take him into town, but he declined the offer and said he’d survive until he saw his dad…the next week. Heh. I hope things went ok for him. I sensed a great deal of duct tape in his future.
We took a ‘before’ shot of the group-12 of them to be exact-one with every camera in the group– and then set off about 12:30p.
At the trailhead at Fox CreekWe started moving uphill immediately. I wasn’t terribly steep, but it is uphill. Combine my snot levels and the fact that even on a good day I am slow on the uphills, I decided to let the speed demons move on ahead and I stayed back with one of the guides playing ‘sweep’ that day. (I’m sort of nostalgic about that term as it was one of the positions I played in field hockey in high school.)
Now, I have an annoying tendency to try to walk the same speed in every situation. Uphill, downhill, level, in bad shoes, etc. My internal marching song is something like a theme song to a 50’s tv show (nothing in particular, and no, I won’t sing it for you) with “Mr. Potato Head. Mr Potato Heeee-aaad.” being the lyrics.
And of course, it kicked my ass.
Lack of oxygen is un-fun.
I started to seriously lag behind the group, and while Almanac was exceedingly kind about the whole situation, I was not pleased with myself.
Our first break was Old Orchard Shelter (elev. 4050′).
You will be pleased to know that on a trail, which by the way is the most un-wheelchair-accessible trail I have ever seen, that the government has seen fit to make the privy there 503c compliant. 3 feet wide, handles for balance and fully wheelchair accessible.
Your tax dollars well spent.
The group stopped for lunch at Pine Mountain… and by the group, I don’t mean me. I was behind at that point. By the time I slogged up there, they were almost done. I wasn’t worried about me eating, I wasn’t hungry-a precursor of things to come, I suppose- but I didn’t want Almanac to give up her lunch/rest time just because she was stuck with me.
Frankly, I’d almost prefer to make breaks very short and slightly more frequent. Long sit downs make me creaky and cold. Not to mention the whole ‘take off your shoes’ thing. I suppose folks who wear GoreTex need to let their feet breathe. But I wear ventilated shoes and smartwool socks to prevent my feet from getting too hot in the first place. (I really expected my feet to be more of a problem actually. I’m ecstatic they weren’t). My other paranoia was my knees. I wore the knee brace on my left knee the first day, it had twinged a few days previously, so I thought I’d head that off at the pass… especially since we were climbing so much.
In fact, I think my broken knees are ‘broken’. My former super power of being a walking barometer has failed me repeatedly over the last week. In WV, I couldn’t feel the impending storms, later on when it was about to pour- I got nothin’.
Not even a tweak. Sigh and yay at the same time. Only took me 20 years of work to get them back into some decent shape.
The day was almost all uphill: Fox Creek to Old Orchard Shelter then to Pine Mountain; save the final stretch to The Scales (our sleeping point that night) and that was rolling trail… and I was lagging behind the group in larger and larger amounts.
I’d try to make up for being slow then lose my breath and have to stop.
I was distinctly unhappy, but definitely determined not to whine about it. I felt like death, I couldn’t breathe (and if I breathed too deeply, then I would start to cough) and I felt guilty as hell that Almanac, who was sweep, had to slow her own pace to match my snail’s pace.
From Pine Mountain, I was able to recoup a bit of the time that I lost on the uphills. It was rolling trail which meant I’d go super slowly on the uphill bits and haul ass on the downhills.
I made it to The Scales not as far behind as I’d been all day, dropped my pack, sat for a minute then helped mom put up the tent.

Part I of the Hollywood shoe saga:Hollywood was having trouble with her hiking boots, apparently I missed the sole falling off of one of her boots during the day’s hike. I donated a crapload of Gorilla tape (this stuff is the best… skip the normal duct tap and get this stuff.) We taped it as best we could and she trounced off with her sole more intact… for a while. I really like Hollywood, she is an exceptionally cool person.

The Scales are a meadow near the Grayson Highlands park. It was named for the times that the cow folk would herd all the loose bovines into the area, weigh them and then sell them off.
Its a VERY nice place to camp. No great inclines, privy (which you come to recognize as one of life’s great luxuries on the trail) and normally you would have water available to filter. We made due with our remaining water in the camelbaks and a gallon from the park keeper for our appetizer, a concoction of chicken soup mix/chicken bouillon/miso soup mix that I came to look forward to each night. There’s wisdom in the saltiness of it to replace all the stuff you lose sweating on the trail (and that was part of the danger for me, if I didn’t eat and just drank water I could suffer from hyponatremia but the appetizer worked its salty magic each night.
Heh heh. That sounds dirty, doesn’t it?
Hi, I am 12.)
Southern Virginia had been experiencing drought conditions and we had to walk about 3/4 of a mile or so down a road to find some running water larger than a mud puddle. It took us about 45 minutes to fill all the camelbaks (and I will be referring to any water system as such by that name, kinda like I call everything that I blow my nose on a ‘kleenex’. All you copyright lawyers can just chill.) and to get the group water bucket full then haul it all the way back up the hill.
Sunset at The ScalesDinner was set up, a culinary masterpiece of the backpacking variety, that I summarily skipped due to the tomato content (oh my ulcer, she no like the tomatoes, but she loved the chicken soup). I put an unmeasured amount of cheesy potato mixings in the dregs of my soup with some more hot water and some mushrooms and had a good meal. It turned out more like potato soup, but that was fine by me as well.
I’m sure some people will look at this week and freak out over my food situation. It was actually a pretty good food set. I wasn’t hungry, but I still ate some, my stomach didn’t hurt due to food (it would due to stress later on in the week) and as far as my stomach went, it was a pretty good week. So drop it.
I slept pretty well that night. We’d been warned that there might be wild ponies wandering around nibbling on tents and generally wreaking pony havoc (and then I thought, “well, hell, mom is going to sit out all night trying to see the ponies, isn’t she?” because mom is a horse freak of the biggest variety.) but no ponies. Well, actually I think we saw one off in the distance up the hill to the west, but it was subject of debate.
I think I scared them away with my snorking. I took more sudafed before I went to bed as well as raiding mom’s Tylenol (mine seems not to have made it into the pack-ye gods. THAT will NEVER EVER happen again.) to quell the shrieking of my muscles… My calves were a tiny bit sore, my quads weren’t bad, my knees were fine… but my hips (the connect-y part between where my hip bone is to the top of my quad – brownie points if you can find it and name it (Eden? Hawk?)… I didn’t after a cursory Googling/Wikipedia-ing) screamed every time I moved and when I sleep in a sleeping bag, I move a lot trying to get comfy.
Despite all that, I slept ok.

The rest of this entry is classified as TMI… read at your own risk…

So, in addition to the cold I was dealing with, the universe decided that this week was a great time to shift my cycle just enough to wonk it up and start my period.
So, in addition to the impending grubbiness that a week on the trail brings (that I expected and planned for) I now could not breathe and had my period without a regular access to toilets. Privies became even more of a luxury at this point.
Low level ecstasy, as Bryson said.

Any of you thinking I’m a pansy can take a flying fuck… I didn’t whine and I kept smiling all week. There was no point making my own private hell a part of everyone else’s problem.

The other thing that I hate about backpacks is purely an aesthetic thing… while I have the best hips in the world for backpacking (Venus of Willendorf hourglass figure), I don’t even feel the pack as it completely rests on my hips. I think that’s why I don’t necessarily mind hiking with a pack and when people say “Its so liberating to hike without a pack…” I’m somewhat nonplussed by the statement.
What I hate is that I have a combination of the shortest torso in the history of the human race and big boobs.
I generally don’t tuck my shirts in because I look like Ed Grimley when I do that… and believe me, it makes business casual a difficult affair. But the backpack hip belt is unforgiving and I looked like a watermelon squeezed in half all week.
This trip was a graduate level lesson in humility.

I avoid pictures of myself like the plague.