After a good second day of hiking, where I was lucky to find water at a place to camp, I woke up early last Sunday (August 31). I again has slept fitfully on my airless air mattress. Every time I tried sleeping on my side, it felt as if my hip were being slowly crushed. I spent the night alternating between long periods of wakefulness - listening to the deafening sounds of katydids and cicadas, along with the calling of barred owls once again - and short periods of sleep. In the wee hours of Sunday morning, a couple of screech owls joined the chorus. That was very cool, because I have heard this owl only a few times before.
I estimated that I would have about a 6-7 mile hike, and I knew that I had at least 2,000 feet of elevation gain ahead of me, so I resolved an early start. I skipped a hot breakfast and ate a power bar and some dried fruit (and a mug of hot tea with honey, of course), got everything packed up, and was on the trail by 8:00 AM. That's late for long distance hikers, but an early trail start for me. I'd filtered three liters of water the night before, knowing it would be a warm and humid day.
Here is my track out for the day, marked in orange and starting where the blue track (day 2) ended, and ending back at the car where the orange star is. My trails for the hike of just over six miles as it turned out were: Beecher Ridge, Matthew's Arm, Tuscarora - Overall Run, and Appalachian Trails.
Here is the day three elevation profile. You can see that I regained all of the elevation that I lost the prior two days (especially day 1). I gained a net of 2,310 feet, climbing a total of 2,763 feet while descending 453 feet. In the warm and humid weather, sweat poured off of me during the hike up, and my shirt was so wet that I literally wrung liquid from it at one point.
I just took my time on the long, uphill walk, practicing the "rest step" that a guy in Alaska taught me. You basically hesitate a split second with each step. When I walk around town, I can maintain a fast and steady pace of a 14 to 16 minute mile. Going uphill with a pack, not so much. In fact, on my walk out last Sunday, my pace - including some rest breaks - was about 1.3 miles an hour!
It was another pretty walk in the woods, but once again, without a single view. The trail was lovely, though. I even saw a tiny hint of autumn.
You can see that the woods were often fairly open, without a lot of the understory that many wildlife species prefer. My only wildlife sightings that day were a grey squirrel and a quick glimpse of a pileated woodpecker as it flew through the forest.
I saw more people by far on the third day of hiking than on the prior two. It was the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, and especially once I got closer to Matthew's Arm Campground, there were lots of people out hiking. Many of them were hiking down to Overall Run Falls, the highest waterfall in the park at 93 feet. Once I joined the Tuscarora - Overall Run Trail, I could have turned south and reached the falls with about a half mile descent. But at that point, I was ready to get back to the car and civilization, so I will save the falls for another trip. The trail is fairly steep though there, climbing about 500 feet or so every mile, and I ran into some people who turned back. Others seemed seriously unprepared - no packs or maps. I showed a few groups my map and explained how to get to the falls - they were going the wrong way, realized it, and had turned around. I ran into one such group twice.
I liked this tiny purple mushroom growing under the lip of a rock in the footpath.
About 50 hours after I had started out on the Appalachian Trail on Friday, I reached this storied footpath once again, and headed back to the car. I'll pass by this stretch again later this fall when I hike the length of the AT in Shenandoah. Hopefully, it will be cooler during that walk. And hopefully, I will get the leak in my air mattress located and fixed by then!
It was good to reach my car and get my sopping wet clothes changed. A while later, I was heading south on the Skyline Drive, and enjoying a frosty blackberry milkshake at the Matthew's Arm Wayside. Yummy! It was an exclamation point on a very fun hike!
Read about my first day of this trip here.
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