One of the coolest things about a northbound thru hike is that you get to walk through spring for weeks on end as it is happening right before your eyes. These sweet little wildflowers showed up for the first time today and it made me stop and look around for a bit. The trees are budding and a butterfly joined me for my lunch spot along the trail.
Today was tough. It was hard to leave Bryan and Chuck at Davenport Gap and I was not sure I was doing the right thing by getting back on the trail. Right before I got out of the car I got an email from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) now asking thru hikers to leave the trail for a few weeks because of the virus and then come back. I’ve spent a lot of time of the past few days reading the CDC and WHO advice and I just don’t share the ATC’s opinion on what is best for me and others that I come in contact with. I am isolating myself from others, practicing increased hygiene habits and not using shuttles, hostels or trail shelters. In fact, I believe the ATC’s advice may be counterproductive if hikers leave the trail, expose themselves to the virus and then return and spread it to others on the trail and small towns. They may be right but I am going to stay out here for now and continue to monitor things.
When we got to the start, we saw Mallwalker and his hiking buddy that I met a few days ago. His buddy was having bad knee pain so Bryan drove him to the nearest hostel so he could take a few days of rest. I asked Bryan later on the phone if the hostel was open and he said it was but that it looked liked everyone was just sitting around getting high. I didn’t see that in the CDC protocol but I’ll take a closer look😬
I hiked 18 miles today and it was pretty challenging but it was all worth it when I got up to Max Patch. This is a bald on top of the biggest climb of the day and it was packed with locals from Asheville and Hot Springs out having picnics and playing with their dogs. I’m sure everyone is going stir crazy in town and it really lifted my spirits to see everyone enjoying themselves in the beautiful weather. I parted with Mallwalker at Max Patch and headed into the Roaring Fork Shelter and set up my tent. I’ve got the place to myself tonight so I had a leisurely dinner and enjoyed the quiet.
I am going to push another longish 19 mile day tomorrow to get to Hot Springs and spend some time with my running coach Randy Ashley. I’ve been working with him on my marathon running for the past 6 years and he is great. It will be great to connect with Randy and see what is happening in Hot Springs.