Bear Bait

Tuesday, June 7th
Pickle Branch shelter (AT Mile 695.1, this section 20.0)

Today was a bit of a roller coaster, and it wasn't until late in the day realized what it was.

Rough night trying to get to sleep. The sounds of the forest, the guy walking through came authoritatively saying "we're definitely in bear country", adopting to a clothing bag for pillow. Finally definitely fell asleep around 3 and woke up at 6. Packed and on the trail at 7, heading to a shelter 10 miles away.

Hit a pretty hard hill right away, 2,500 feet in net elevation. On incline, walk a bit, rest, and repeat. At first summit there's a bench, meet Willow again and she joins me on it for a snack. Two high schoolers join, as does a hiker ("Commish") at last nights shelter. We gradually separate, with Willow staying behind to enjoy the peace.

Next stop is a memorial to Audie Murphy. He died near here in 1971 in a plane crash. There's a stone monument, a handful of American flags, dog tags, military patches, coins (?), and stacks of stones. High schoolers arrive before me, don't know who he was, but take pictures anyway.

This means five more miles to go.  Took about four hours for the first five, and four for the next. I feel totally out of steam, and begin to understand that I'm dehydrated. And probably not eating enough. Next stream load up with two liters and drink during the next mile, and stop for more food.

Make it to shelter and am faced with a 15 mile day tomorrow over a very pointy mountain to get to the next shelter. Shelters here are spread farther apart then in Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. Wondering whether to stay here, hydrate and eat, or attempt 15 miles in a stretch given the challenges of 10.

I'm the only one at this shelter for the longest time. Most, now seasoned thrus have pushed on to a hostel six miles further. Bears have been active a few shelters beyond this one.
Start a fire mostly to create smoke to warn off bears, but other hikers begin to arrive, led by "Bear Bait" who got her trail name because a bear poked her hammock with its nose on her first day on trail.


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