I have been waking up when the birds start singing. Lately, that has been at around 6:00 a.m or a little earlier. I love waking up to birdsong. They always seem happy to greet the new day.
I usually sit up and bend over my legs to stretch them, then I grab my hiking clothes which I have laid across my backpack at my feet. I put them into my sleeping bag liner to warm them up, and then when they are warm, I get dressed in the semi-darkness.
After I am dressed for the day, I start shoving things into my backpack. After that, it’s time for coffee and oatmeal. Most mornings, I sit cross-legged inside the door of my tent, leaning out at a safe distance to heat my water. Then I sit at the door of my tent listening to the birds sing and watching the woods start to come alive as the sun slowly rises. I do so love mornings!
I saw a few more wild ponies as I started hiking that day. I heard them before I actually saw them. They were happily munching their green grass, seemingly oblivious to me.
I had not gone far when I saw some paw prints in the mud. They were much larger than dog prints. I think they could be bear prints.
I had heard rumors that a bear got some hanging food bags at the shelter before Grayson Highlands Park. On my way there, I met a girl who owned one of those bags who corroborated the story.
Later, I met a trail maintainer who asked me if I had seen any bear activity. I told him about the story I had heard about the stolen food bags, and by his reaction, I could tell he wasn’t sure whether to believe it.
He told me that he had trail magic in the back of his truck, and to help myself when I reached the parking lot. It was soda and oranges, with a place to dump trash, and chairs to sit in the shade while I enjoyed it. I can’t tell you how much this means to Hikers. Thank you, Grunt!
I have felt an advantage this time, in that there are fewer ‘unknowns’ this time. I can really see how this alleviates stress. I know what many places look like and what to expect.
On this day, I worried about what to do. There was a campground listed that was over 1/2 mile from the trail and you had to pay to stay there. I wrestled all day about whether to spend the money, and I worried about what it would be like and whether it would be worth the walk. (Thru hikers hate to walk miles off-trail that don’t count!)
I finally made the decision to stay there. The shower was calling me. It has been really hot and humid. If you can imagine what it feels like to mow a large lawn and do yard work all day in Houston, and then not be able to take a shower, that comes pretty close to what it feels like to hike the trail with a 25-30 pound backpack all day. This is quite a daily workout! My body and my clothes have been wet with sweat at the end of the day.
It was a good decision! The campsites were large, shaded and beautiful. There was a creek running right beside my campsite.
The showers were comfortably warm, but on this hot day in May, The water was plenty hot. The showers and restroom were clean, and the grounds neatly manicured.
I sat by the creek and soaked my feet. I ate my supper at the picnic table and then opened the rain fly doors and read my Kindle in my tent, as the breeze gently flowed through it. A good decision, indeed! It was a relaxing afternoon after a hot 14 mile day.