By Karen L Amundson, May 21 2017 08:46PM
Day 16 (15.2 miles, 2,000 verticals feet)
When I was packing up I noticed a bit of AT humor in the shelter that I had missed the night before (pic 1).
For the third day in a row, I had to put on wet socks due to the rain & cold weather. Several of the hikers wanted to make a hard push today, so we would have more time on our town day tomorrow. I was on the trail by 7:45am since I didn't have to take my tent down. I knew today was going to be a hard day when the short climb out of camp hurt.
My legs were definitely NOT fresh. Mercifully the first 6 miles were not too bad. Unfortunately, while descending a slanted rock with muddy shoes I slipped. I put my trekking pole out to help catch me & CRACK I snapped my right pole.
I carried it in my hand until the next break, where Young Giraffe helped me hold the pole while I applied duct tape. It worked most of the day ok, but I couldn't put much pressure on it. I descended down to a road crossing, where a trail angle had left apples & water. I partook in both.
After crossing the road, I was told by another hiker we had to climb Jacob's Ladder. This was the most evil, steep 900' climb I have ever done. I was properly hydrated with food in the belly. I leaned into the hill breathing out with every right foot, & in with the left. Even. With small slow steps, I was right at my anaerobic threshold. Every once in a while, there were a half dozen stairs requiring me to lift my feet higher.
Every time they made me go anaerobic, & I had to stop to catch my breath. This went on for a solid hour with no flat sections, no switchbacks & not even a small section of more modest grade. It was basically like some hour uphill race, except I was only moving 2-3' per second! Upon getting to the top I threw my pack down to enjoy a Snickers bar & water, while pondering how I was going to hike another 3.5 hours.
After 10 minutes, I willed myself back to my feet, & started putting one foot in front of the other. After all, that is what this trail is all about, it just walking... right? Mercifully the grade the rest of the way was more modest. I ran across another hiker whom heard there was trail magic at the road crossing 1 mile before camp. As promised I took a picture of the two women with their dogs Yankee (the golden doodle, pun intended) & Dex (the Great Dane), whom at 175 pounds outweighed more than half the hikers that were there when I was stopped.
I arrived at Cable Gap Shelter around 3:30 totally spent. My feet took a beating on the uneven terrain in wet socks. There were some hot spots, but no blisters. Tomorrow will be an easy 7-mile day into Fontana Dam (the entrance to Smokey Mtn National Park), & I will be taking a zero day on Monday to give my feet & legs a rest.
I am now headed to sleep with a nice babbling spring not 10' from my head. Very peaceful...