Stealth Campsite to Abingdon Gap Shelter – 26.4 miles
My longest day on the trail yet, but I didn’t feel as tired at the end as I did yesterday. There were no big ups or downs, so it was smooth sailing all day. Not that my feet don’t hurt right now. Started off with a great sunrise and headed off around 7:20 am. I stopped at spring 2 miles on to get water and found Braden and Rachael eating breakfast. They made it the 24 miles to Abingdon Gap Shelter also! I passed by S’mores fairly early in the morning. He was moving pretty slow, but I didn’t think anything of it until a different thru-hiker told me he was feeling sick the night before. I hope he makes it to Damascus okay. I’ve been within a few days of a thru-hiker named “Tall Man” for a while now. Today was the first time we’ve been writing in shelter registers on the same day. Him always ahead of me. I thought I might meet him at this shelter, but there were only 2 section hikers here and a boy scout troop. Maybe in Damascus.
I woke up to a beautiful sunrise. It was nice to wake up in a spot without other hikers around for once. This was one of only a few nights on the AT that I spent the night alone. I quickly did my morning business and got moving. There were a lot of miles to cover today but thankfully after the first few miles, it was relatively flat. 2 miles in, I run into Rachael and Braden eating their breakfast. The water source is just a small trickling stream so I was there for a little while waiting for my bottle to fill up. While there, R and B told me that a bear came walking by their tent last night likely because of the water source. Thankfully the bear ignored their tent, got its water, and went on its way. Hiking on, I checked the trail register at the Vandeventer Shelter and saw the name Tall Boy. I’d been just a few days behind this hiker for weeks. It showed that he spent the night at that shelter last night so I was getting closer. If I didn’t finally catch him tonight I thought maybe I would at least in Damascus the next day. That’s a popular town for thru hikers to spend time in. I wouldn’t make it there for trail days in May so this was my chance to explore the town.
I ran into S’mores. He usually hiked faster than me but I actually passed him. I didn’t think it was unusual at the time until another hiker later on in the day said that he was feeling sick. I didn’t see him again until Damascus so I know that he made it alright to town. Around lunch time, I was feeling more hungry than usual. Today was the first day that I really felt my hiker hunger. Instead of my usual tortilla with salmon or tuna, I opted to cook a ramen bomb and then finished my nutella while I read through the log book at another shelter. My hunger satisfied, I kept hiking.
There was a short half a mile section today that went through a grass field that was handicap accessible called Cross Mountain Accessible Trail. It wasn’t paved but the dirt trail was flat without rocks or roots in the way and it was very wide. It was nice to briefly walk on a trail that wasn’t going to trip you if you weren’t looking down at the ground.
I felt mostly okay hiking today despite the large amount of miles. It wasn’t until the last few before the shelter that my feet really started hurting. But I made it and there was even space for me in the shelter! I ended up setting up my tent later on though because there were mosquitoes out and a boy scout troop that was very loud. They were all very nice but they did not follow hiker midnight like thru hikers do. In the middle of eating my dinner – 2nd ramen bomb of the day – Rachael and Braden came hiking into camp! I wasn’t sure if they were going to make it but I was happy to see that they did.
All of us knowing that I would most likely be up and moving before R and B were awake, we planned on meeting up for lunch in Damascus the next day. It was 10 miles to get into town so to take advantage of a nero day, all three of us wanted to get up a little bit early to have ample time in town.