Our spirits were high as we tackled Courthouse Bald. We left Bly Gap and almost immediately started our uphill climb. I personally have found Day 2 of any of our hikes to be the hardest because my muscles are completely worn out from Day 1 and I typically get no sleep on the first night out. While I found that I wasn't afraid, what did happen to me this time was that once I got all settled into my sleeping bag, I was racked with the most intense, biggest shivers I've ever experienced. You could feel these shivers starting down in your toes and they traveled up the body. Now, the temps outside my tent were in the mid-50's and the wind was blowing at a hefty rate but I had my 45 degree Big Agnes Bag AND my silk bag liner so my shivers weren't coming from being cold. In fact, I didn't feel cold. I finally covered my head completely with my liner and bag, which seemed to calm these tremendous shivers a bit. But I digress....
The trail stretched out before us, testing our fortitude in every way possible....but we were up for the challenge, tired legs and all!
Ready for a break, we took and early lunch stop at some random spot along the trail that looked inviting. During our break, we met up with a young man doing a solitary hike. He stopped to ask us about a spring that was listed in the guide book, wondering if we'd passed it. When we asked him how far he was going and where he was stopping that night, all he said was, "I don't know."
|Muskrat Creek Shelter|
One really nice thing about this shelter is that it's located right off the trail itself. The area was great and water appeared to be plentiful. Scott took care of making our trail log entry. While doing so isn't a requirement, the main purpose of this log is for use by rangers should they have to search for you while you're out on the trail. It's also suggested that you leave an itinerary with someone back at home in case of an emergency.
Hiking in the summer months, the tree canopy and ground foliage is heavy so views are often few and far between but when the trees do open up, what you stumble upon will usually take your breath away and remind you of just why you're out there, doing this in the first place...
There is typically nothing "easy" about the terrain you'll encounter along any part of the A.T. but sometimes the trail is nicer to you than at other times. Not since our climb of Blood Mountain had we encounter the amount of rocks we had to navigated going over Yellow Mountain into Deep Gap, NC. On top of that, it was like the climb that never ended, decorated with straight-ups and many switchbacks. There were many times while traversing this particular mountain that my thoughts drifted towards, "Why the heck am I out here doing this to myself?!" I have to say that I faced numerous personal and physical challenges on this section hike that I've never had to deal with before, and it was really taking its toll on me. I was exhausted and my legs were weak. At one point earlier in the day while climbing Courthouse Bald, I'd attempted to step up a big rock step and my legs gave out. If my brother hadn't had hold of my hand, I would have fallen backwards. My endurance level seemed lower than ever before but out of sheer determination, I made my miles each day. I often fell a considerable distance behind my brother and sister, which only served to make me feel bad because they had to stop and wait for me to catch up. Still, I knew that I was giving it my absolute all and was doing the best I truly could do. If I was ever grateful for those $20 knee braces, it was on the descent of this formidable mountain. Rocks...rocks...and more rocks....add to the mixture water and mud...and did I say rocks? By the time we reached Deep Gap, NC and stopped for a break, the balls of my feet were barking! I actually considered calling our shuttle service to come pick us up...even though it was only Day 2. This was something I'd never had cross my mind on previous hikes, but my body was beaten down and my moral was low. As I sat on that log, consuming some kind of ultra-nasty blueberry power bar thing, I heard this voice coming from my heart....it told me that I COULD continue on and that if I ended my journey at that point, I'd regret missing the lessons that lie ahead for me.
I found it within myself to "suck it up and drive on" as my drill sergeants use to say. This is where I made my first mistake however, What I should have done is take time to tend to the hotspot I felt forming on my left heel. Eager to get to camp, I just gathered my stuff and set off again without doing so. We didn't have far to go and we were all very ready to call it a day! Our initial destination that evening was the Standing Indian Shelter but we knew there was a campsite located just before it so we decided to check it out when we came to it. One look at the site with the water right there was all it took. This one was a no-brainer. It's widely known that, while the shelter areas do have water sources nearby, it's usually a very steep, sometimes long climb that you REALLY don't feel like making after do it all day long. So, when we saw this campsite with its creek right there, we were on it like flies on...well, you know. It was the most beautiful, peaceful place to spend the night I think I've found in all my section hikes. Having the water right there was such an added plus!
I have to say that we were all three looking forward to climbing into our tents that evening. It didn't take long for those body-racking shivers to take over once again but in spite of it all, laying there, listening to that babbling creek right outside of my tent, how accomplished I felt was all I could think about. It was simply an amazing end to a very tough day. I know that at some point I finally fell asleep because I woke myself up snoring. I'm not a back sleeper but on those 22" sleeping pads, there's not much choice. When all was said and done, I felt quite the sense of accomplishment having not given into my weakness and called it quits. I would have been so very sorry if I'd done that....the peacefulness we experienced at our campsite that night left me knowing that. Tomorrow we faced climbing to the summit of Standing Indian Mountain. In my heart, I was ready. Bring it on!