This tree is so big the trail crew cut a step in it instead of cutting through it.  To give an idea of how massive the tree is, that trekking pole is 45 inches tall. 

This tree is so big the trail crew cut a step in it instead of cutting through it.  To give an idea of how massive the tree is, that trekking pole is 45 inches tall. 

Miles Today: 18.8

Mile Marker: 458.8 Abingdon Gap Shelter

This morning I woke up and finally put the sewing kit I bought nearly a month ago to use.  (Yes, my shirt still has a hole in it.)  Last night as I was getting toward the end of my day I came upon a downed tree across the trail.  This is pretty common, and one of the things the amazing volunteers come out to clear throughout the year.  Sometimes you can crawl over or under them.  Usually though a side trail is formed as everyone goes around the obstacle.  Side trails destroy vegetation and invite erosion, so they should be avoided when possible.  The tree I encountered already had a side trail, but I felt I could limbo my way under.  I was wrong.  I got down into a pushup position and was wiggling my way under when I heard a solid rip.  The outside of my pack has a mesh pocket where I store things that I'm okay with getting wet when it rains or need to dry when the sun is out.  These pockets are notorious for getting destroyed on a thru hike, so I've been very careful setting down my pack.  Then I go and rip a five inch hole in it because I decide splaying out and working under a log was somehow the better choice than walking twenty feet off trail and around it.  So I spent the first fifteen minutes of the morning addressing that before it got worse.

About an hour into my hike this morning it started to sprinkle.  The weather has been warmer, so I welcomed the cooling drizzle and forged on.  Then the drizzle turned to rain.  At that point I was already drenched and there was no point stopping to put on the rain jacket.  After a couple hours of the rain getting worse and worse, I started to wonder if I was going to be able to find a dry spot for lunch.  Then I rounded the corner and saw a white RV parked at the US-19 intersection.  My first instinct was “It would be incredible if that was Kathy.”  I get closer and see the RV is not a mirage, and in fact has the awning extended so there is a dry spot.  I knew it had to be Kathy.

Kathy is the sweetest person I have met on the trail.  Last night Fedora said every time he made eye contact with Kathy she would offer him something else.  We all agreed that was the perfect way to describe it.  She ended up staying till 3:30 P.M. yesterday, after starting about 9:00 A.M.  She even forgot to eat herself.  She basically gave away every bit of food in the RV before she left.  Her husband 8 Track told her it's okay to leave, but she insisted she couldn't leave when there were hungry hikers.  Trying to feed hikers until they are full is like trying to drain the ocean.  You can make a very concerted effort, but it isn't going to happen. We're all always in this perpetual state of low grade hunger.  Remember the massive breakfast I had three days ago at 8:00 A.M. I thought was going to make my stomach explode?  I was snacking while walking again by 9:30 A.M.

Today she dropped 8 Track off to slack pack 21 miles into Damascus. She said she was about to leave “But it started to rain, and I knew I had to stay.”  She absolutely didn't have to stay, but I'm incredibly glad she did.  She invited me into the RV and made me a grilled cheese, a baked sweet potato, a baked regular potato, and two beef soft tacos.  She also gave me a Sprite, a bag of chips, and a piece of cake. And she offered to slack pack me (drive my gear ahead while I hike with just snacks and water) the 21 miles to Damascus.  I had already done 7.3 miles at this point, but I strongly considered it.  Ultimately I decided I wouldn't get in until 8:00 P.M. and that would be a waste of a night in town.  That and I wasn't entirely sure how I would feel after a 28+ mile day.

I finally left the comfort of the RV after hanging out just over an hour.  There were still around 10 hikers hanging out getting Kathy's world class Trail Magic when Ieft.  The rest of the day was cloudy, but for the most part it didn't rain.  Rain is in the forecast tonight, so I'll likely have a wet tent to contend with in the morning.  My hope is I can get moving early enough and fast enough in the morning to make the 10 miles into Damascus by lunch.