04-03-2018. Day 28. Jerry Cabin Shelter to Hogback Ridge Shelter. 15.5 miles. (316.9 + 8.8 = 325.7 Miles)

I owe it all to one of those really big oranges. I don’t mean one of those itty bitty oranges. It was one of the big uns like we grew up with before someone invented itty bitty ones. It was cold and I didn’t feel like cooking so I downed a dirt bar and decided to finally eat the big orange. It had actually been a problem. I couldn’t carry it. I tried my front pants pocket but it looked like I had a badly swollen ………um…well badly swollen. It wouldn’t fit in my back pocket. When I put it in my backpack I forgot about it. So on this morning I carried it and tried to peel it while climbing. It forced me to tuck my poles under my left arm as I peeled, walked, and sucked up the sticky juice before I became one sticky mess. Suddenly I realized that I was climbing the significant hill without sticks and moving without fatigue. And so it was …. the sticks became a need only when facing extreme ups or downs. And I was hiking stronger. And all because of an orange.

The Hike Across Bald Gap

The hike across Bald Gap went well. I was once again hiking alone. I came upon Close Call who was texting his home in Virginia. We spoke a moment. He was concerned because he lives within seven miles of the trail in Virginia. The concern? If he gets off the trail will he get back on? I’ve heard several numbers …. 90% don’t make it. Or 75% don’t make it. In Hot Springs the numbers being told were that by Hot Springs 50% of hikers had quit. Of the rest 50% would make it. That would be 75% quitting. Close Call had a valid worry.

Close Call of Virginia

I made it to the climb that would bring me to the summit of Big Butt. My new Orange Walk worked like a charm. ( I once went on a medical mission trip to Orange Walk, Belize). I climbed to the summit and sat for a moment. Close Call passed me and made some comment about the need to see views. He didn’t climb the side trail.

The View From The Peak of Big Butt

It was a peaceful moment up there. I was not only attempting to keep up with Spoons and Sunshine I was also going to meet Joe Gavalda who was hiking South to meet me. I had been looking forward to this. His plan was to hike with me for three days.

Looking Back from Whence I Came

The mileage is slowly building. When I look behind me I can barely believe the ranges of mountains that I have managed to hike. They spread out like a chain of blue silhouettes against the sky.

Spice from Minnesota

About one thirty I got to Flint Mountain Shelter. Many I knew were there. Just before I arrived I was passed by a young lady who literally flew passed. She was at the shelter. I pulled out a packet of Spam and she proudly told me that she lives only a couple of miles from where they make it in Minnesota. I remember my mother serving us that. It came in a metal can with a key that you had to turn back the metal. You then would shake the daylights out of it until the blob of meat would fall out. On a mission trip to Nicaragua on the Cocoa River we once once met with several nuns of the Catholic Church who were still working with the people in spite of the fact that the Communist Sandinistas had murdered the priest and a nun. They served us their finest food available…. a can of Spam. We loved it.

Spice is hiking 20 to 22 miles a day and started on the 18th of March a full 11 days after me. She says that she is bored. She’s outhiking friendships.

Fincastle of Everywhere

I guess that I don’t have to tell you that there is a wide collection of characters out here. I had not seen this fellow before and I haven’t seen him since. Listening to him left me thinking, “what did he say?”

. Tortoise of Kentucky

I’ve met Tortoise twice now. He and his wife are section hiking the AT . Last week I found him hiking Southbound closer to Hot Springs. He said that he was hiking with his wife. She is known as the Hare. He wears a Vietnam campaign hat so he caught my attention. This time I had actually met his wife about a mile before him walking with a dog. I think he has the personality of the family.

The Miracle of Trail Magic

I was really thirsty. I mean for the taste of something other than water. I was about six miles short of my goal. As I approached the highway there it was….a case of Cheerwine on the side of the trail. I made my move competing against no one for the possession of one of the valuable cans. I won…. it was mine. I immediately sat next to the trail and in a moment was joined by Huck and Ray who shared my joy. We sat together along the trail sharing our excitement of Cheerwine. They are excited about the trail and running into them on the trail is always positive. We parted and crossed the road.

The Steps Toward Hog Ridge Shelter

Joe and I had been texting. He had a valve stem on his tire break so he was late. The weather was going to be cold with thunder storms. It was going to be a wicked night. I arrived at 6:45 and met with Joe. Tent up and supper made I managed to get to sleep before the storm hit. In listening to the others it was a good thing that happened. Tomorrow I would have a fellow hiker…. for awhile not solo. For once WE would be able to hike on

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