May 12, 1998

5/12/98 The Priest Shelter

22.7 miles (804.8 total)

Last night about 9pm, a lone hiker shows up. It’s dark and we can just barely make him out. "You thru-hiking?" "Yeah" "How far did you go today?" "35 miles". Thus was our introduction to Ben. He was a high school student who got to graduate early so he could thruhike the AT. He said he’d started out like everyone else, carrying 50 lbs. and only walking 8 miles. But he soon adopted the "ultralight" motto. Now he’s down to a day pack with 12 lbs of gear, running shoes and is doing 30+ miles per day at an unbelievable pace of 3-4 mph. He started April 1st and at this rate he’ll finish in early July. Says he has no deadline, just likes to hike. Turns out Ghandi met him last year while hiking the Long Trail. One nice thing about his speed was he could tell us about long lost friends behind us. Sure hope at this pace he has some fun.

This morning it started to rain just as we left the shelter. Ghandi and I stopped off for a little junk food at a store near the trail. Some good ol’boys who were out turkey hunting gave us a ride back to the trail. Then we started another long climb out of the valley. It figures that when I’m rationing film and it’s raining, I’d come across at least four new flowers I hadn’t seen before. One I just had to photograph was a large orchid-like pink flower on a 4 foot tall woody stalk. Beautiful!

Really not a hard climb like yesterday . Sitting here at Cow Camp Gap shelter, eating lunch, as the sun looks like it might come out.

The sun never did make an appearance. Every once in awhile, it would get brighter but we never could see the sky. When I finished my lunch break, I met Ghandi, Veto, Smiley and Billygoat after walking the ½ mile approach trail. Veto said "foolish boy". She had a good idea of doing a 22 today so that would put us in Waynesboro on Thursday. That would make the whole post office/backpack thing easier. So I had a mission! I hauled ass.

A lone hiker ahead in the fog and rain

When following Billygoat, we averaged 2.8 miles/hour. I surged ahead and arrived at the next shelter by 4pm. At the shelter, there was a group of 3 high school kids doing a 3 week AT trip for a high school project. They were really interested in wildlife, especially bears. The other people we met today were the Renaultys from Texas. The cool thing was SAM - Surface-to-Air Missile, who we figure to be about 8 years old, was thru-hiking with them. They were flip flopping to give them more time.

We stored up quick at the shelter and headed out for another 6.9 miles. The terrain was steeper and the weather nastier but we made it by 7:30pm. What surprised me was Billygoat was the second person in. He’d done a 27 mile day. Everyone got here but Smiley - I hope he’s doing OK.