Since I didn’t sleep I got myself up before sunrise but didn’t leave right away. My knee was swollen and stiff like I had it wrapped in a compression sleeve. I wondered if I had torn my ACL; I knew that you could still operate on a torn ACL, plenty of my football teammates finished out the season on torn ACLs.
I wasn’t going to let it bother me; I was still feeding off my the high I felt while running with the Holy Spirit, so I wasn’t about to call it quits over an knee injury. The only way I was coming off the trail was dead or from Katahdin. So I took some Aleve and worked my knee back and forth till it became mobile.
Geronimo came out of the shelter as I was about to step off. I was sure that just he and I and the Ridge Runner were the only people in that camp without a hangover. All I had had was the pull of Jägermeister, and he didn’t drink too much.
The camp looked sickly. Where there had been a large fire now was just wet smoldering char. Whisky bottles were scattered along the wet covering of leaves. The smell of puke was faint but in the air. When I went to fill my water bottle I saw where someone had puked near the stream. To near the stream for me and decided to make due the water I already had and fill up at the next source.
“Hey Geronimo. I wouldn’t get water hear!” I advised as I saw him grab an empty Smart Water bottle.
“Why is that?”
“Somebody hurled near the source.” I explained and he nodded.
“Where are you going to today?” I asked.
“I think Rock Gap Shelter how about you?”
“Guess I’ll see you there.”
“Yeah or before. my knees a little busted you’ll probably catch me but if not have a good hike.”
The trail that day was smooth, and I found myself enjoying NC more than my time in GA. There was a cool breeze like Fall and a piercing sun. The trail would alternate open and close, letting me experience the pleasant mood lifting sun and the tunnels of rhododendron.
The Rhododendron had not bloomed; some were fully green like the small patches in GA but most looked dormant. There would be much more rhododendron the further I would go into NC and by the end it would start to bloom.
I reached Standing Indian Shelter early. A group of a three men were leaving the shelter as I passed. I slowed down on the climb due to my knee and this group would leap frog with me to the summit and we would share glimpses of our personality.
It was a grandfather, a dad, and an 18 year old son. They planned to make a once a year tradition of section hiking 30 to 50 miles to stay in touch. There packs were full but speed was not their goal. This day they planned to make it to Long Branch Shelter, so that the next they ended their hike in Franklin NC.
“You doing your Thu-Hike alone?” The grandfather asked.
“Yeah, just kinda transitioning out school to work.”
“That’s a good plan.” The father said.
“You got a good office job waiting once you get done with this trail?” The grandfather asked.
“No I got a maintenance job in MT.” This startled the group.
“Yeah I guess I’ll have to take a thru-hike once I’m done with college I’m going to be in programing and won’t get outdoors much after I graduate. Like you will be.” The son said.
“Yeah well you can always change your major. I changed my like 6 or 8 times before dropping out.” I replied laughing lightly at myself.
I split off from the group when we reached the side trail to the summit of Standing Indian. I stayed at the summit to air out my wet gear from the day before, and get some sun. I napped for a small time. Not fully awake and not fully asleep. I could see my thoughts forming into dreams on my closed eye lids but could still hear the breeze move through foliage and Chipmunks scurrying in under brush off to the side of the bare rock I was on.
Here Geronimo caught up to me:
“Hey Joseph don’t take it too easy.”
“It’s a good spot to that.” I said while pushing myself upright.
We sat at the summit for a half an hour and ate lunch. I took more Aleve because my knee began to swell again and then we headed off.
On the steep parts of the descent I slowed and Geronimo went on ahead. Going down I had to make sure my hurt knee landed locked out because of the pain from engaging the knee was too great. On uphill and what little flat ground there was I would catch Geronimo. My legs were a lot longer than his.
It was probably around three when Geronimo and I reached the hand and foot scramble going up to Albert Mountain fire tower. I folded up my trekking poles to climb and it was a pleasant change from hiking.
At the top there was cell service that I would use to call and check in with my parents. But first me and Geronimo enjoyed the 360 view. He continued on and I made my call.
In my call I told my mother about going through the storm just not my internal experience of going through it or nearly catching Hyperthermia. I let it slip that I had hurt my knee and this lead to my mother demanding that I take a full zero once I make the NOC, and this also got me a privet room to stay in. Gratefully I accepted.
I caught up to Geronimo at Long Branch Shelter and we debated on stopping there for the night.
“This is a newer shelter.” Geronimo said.
“Yeah and its filling up its going to be busy tonight.”
“Right about that.”
“Do you remember what Rock Gap shelter is like?”
“It’s pretty run down, and there were lots of mice. The waters decent but not like this.”
“It’s just 3.5 miles I don’t have to descend in the morning. I say we go I don’t mind the mice.”
“Yeah me neither they’re my shelter friends. Let’s go.”
We got to Rock Gap Shelter with day light. I under cooked a red beans and rice and it was still delouses. The privy there was falling down but still usable. We were the only ones there and it stayed that way.
The mice were a bigger problem than I thought they would be. I didn’t hang my food bag but slept with it by my head and shooed away the same mouse throughout the night. Thankfully I did not sleep, (not really) or I would have awoken to my food being pillaged.
I wish I could say that from here on out my time on the AT was as God honoring as this day was. As I would continue on the trail I would not be near as polite or welcoming as I was that day. Day 6 was a relaxing gift from God and I basked in it and was grateful for it. I believe I did honor him in that days’ efforts. And it payed off in good clean fun and companionships that only following the Lord provides.
No regrets and nothing lacking.