Pine Swamp Branch Shelter to Laurel Creek Shelter
Miles Hiked: 18.5
AT Milage: 674.8
Last night it down-poured all night long. I was so glad to have a spot in the shelter. I slept next to Flamingo and both of us couldn’t sleep so we stayed up talking. This was one of my favorite shelters because it had a fireplace in the middle and a tiny bit of room to walk around inside. It fit 6 people, 2 people on the bottom on each side and one above. I left the shelter before anyone else just before 8AM. Because I was kind of trapped where I was sleeping, I wasn’t going to get up early. I barely slept at all last night.
It was still raining when I left the shelter and it didn’t stop raining all day. I think it’s going to rain for a week straight. Less than one mile from camp I ran into a hiker who I did not want to be around. I will refer to him as “X” for the rest of this blog post. Long story short, he is 51 year old man who doesn’t treat women very well and has a lot of money. He’s nice but really rubs me the wrong way with the way he talks about women and millennials, and flaunts his money. Hiker X typically hikes pretty slow but somehow has been averaging almost the same milage as me since he started. I haven’t seen him in a while but ran into him in town when I was taking a zero and he was slackpacking the day before. I passed X and said “hi” but he wanted to hike with me despite that I hinted I obviously would love to be alone. To try and get away from him I picked up my pace big time. I was almost running uphills and I was sprinting downhills. Despite my recklessly fast hiking, this 51 year old man was chasing me down the hills. I was so frustrated. How could I not hike faster than a 51 year old man despite how hard I was trying! Eventually we climbed a really steep hill so I had to slow down a lot. He asked me to take a 30 second break with him but I told him I needed to keep moving. He still caught up to me! I couldn’t believe it. I needed water really bad but I didn’t want to stop hiking to get it. I told him about a good spring ahead and let him pass me. He stopped to get water when I was still behind him. I walked past his pack on the side of the trail and the water which was a steep downhill so I decided to just be dehydrated. About this time Flamingo caught up to me.
Flamingo let me know what shelter to aim for tonight and I let him know that X was bothering me. Flamingo said he had to try really hard to catch up to me today and I explained that I was literally running away from X. At this point we hit about a 3 mile stretch of trail that was a rock field. AKA my worst nightmare on the trail. Hiking through boulders when it is wet is even worse. I had to slow way down, but I was still panicking about trying to get away from X. I was super tired from running, hungry, and thirsty. On top of all this the rain wasn’t stopping! At the end of the rock field part I stoped to eat some food because I was getting very hangry. As I was putting on my pack Cocoa came down the trail with X right behind her. X has been driving her crazy too. She is super nice to people and was basically forced to hike with this person one day because of it. I decided to put myself between her and X and keep up with her pace. She cranked up the speed to 4mph. I had to run to keep up with her. This entire time the old man was chasing us. He was right on our heels. I felt like an animal being hunted as prey. I thought I was going to lose it. I couldn’t stand the fact that another hiker could make me feel that way when I was just trying to get through a crappy day on the trail. We were all very concerned about getting a spot in a shelter because of the rain. Hiker X told me he was trying to keep up so he could get a spot too. It was so bizarre how fast he was hiking to keep up with us when his normal pace is pretty slow.
Eventually the three of us all stopped at a shelter that was empty. Cocoa started cooking her lunch and claimed a spot to sleep but didn’t want X to know. This shelter was 6 miles before our intended shelter but she was just done hiking in the rain and dealing with X for the day. I was debating on wether to stay or not as well. I knew Flamingo would be waiting at the next shelter for us. I also knew that X was probably waiting for me to leave so he could hike with me. When he went to go get more water I made a run for it. I ran a mile downhill to the road hoping he was getting held up by the other hikers talking at the last shelter. Then I had to climb a super steep uphill for two miles that felt like it was never ending. My back was hurting so bad but I knew the next shelter and Flamingo were close so I kept pushing through without stopping. At the top of the hill I hiked slow for a bit before I started running again. Running with a 30 pound pack on your back in the rain on a rugged and rocky trail isn’t easy. My body was hurting so bad. I even got sores/ bruises on my hands from holding my trekking poles so hard! I kept having to slam my palms into them to keep me from falling on my face while I was running. I got to the shelter at 3:30 and I was so happy to see Flamingo all set up in an empty shelter. I told him what was going on and set up my stuff waiting to see if X was going to show up or if he stayed behind with Cocoa. He showed up about an hour later and set up his stuff on the other side of the shelter. More hikers showed up and it really wasn’t that bad. I just hope he doesn’t try to hike with us tomorrow!
One thing that X said to me that really bothered me today was that if the shelter was full when he got there, he would try to pay someone to give up their spot. I told him I wouldn’t give up my spot for money, then he said he would offer them more money and that “the poor kids” will probably take it. I was so angry about this. That is not how shelters on the Appalachian Trail are supposed to work at all. They are all free to use and whoever gets there first gets a spot until it is full. There is not saving spots, bribing, or paying money for a spot. It is really hard to earn a spot on a rainy day and if you get there first you deserve it! On top of that, this trail is probably the last place you will find people who care about how much money themselves or anyone else has. I don’t think this man understands that money can’t buy you friends. Maybe that has worked for him in the past but it’s not about to work on this trail.
Anyways I’m just so happy I have a spot right now because it is still raining outside. My body feels incredibly exhausted from running today. I took zero pictures because I was hiking too fast to stop and I don’t like to use my phone in the rain. Hoping that I won’t have to deal with running away again tomorrow and that I have an easier day of hiking.