Double Springs Shelter to Vandeventer Shelter
The birds started tweeting with the first hints of light. Birdsong would be my alarm clock over the next month. Sometimes, I would wake up in darkness due to sleeping poorly on the hard wood floor of the shelter with only a thin foam pad under me, and wish my feathered friends would commence singing up the sun so I could get on with the day.
My food bag survived the night, so I fixed Apple Cinnamon Crunch Oatmeal for breakfast with extra strawberries thrown in from yesterday. Eddie, on the other hand, ate three teaspoons of instant coffee (no water) for breakfast. I asked him if that might be just a little on the bitter side and he admitted as much, but hey, it really got him going. Before I finished packing up, Eddie zipped off to the North. I hit the trail a few minutes later in light rain. The temperature was pleasantly cool and the rain quit before long.
The trail descended at first and then rose gradually to Iron Mountain Shelter where I stopped for lunch after seven miles. A couple of thru-hikers, Eats-A-Lot and SNP, were resting there. I parked myself next to SNP at the picnic table and cooked Spanish Rice with Beef and Tomatoes which I spooned over slices of cheddar cheese in a tortilla wrap. Eats-A-Lot reclined behind me on the floor of the shelter and amused me with talk about forming a utopian village somewhere. The poor kid was afflicted with shelter-shaking flatulence which echoed off the three walls of the shelter and drifted out the open side to the picnic table where I attempted to enjoy my otherwise perfect lunch. I suggested he change his name to Farts-A-Lot. SNP, a very nice girl, wasn’t fazed by the disturbance coming out of the shelter and she barely looked up from the pages of her guide book. She was calculating the distance to an All You Can Eat restaurant in Damascus, Virginia.
I wished them well and pointed my nose towards Vandeventer Shelter, seven miles down trail. Towards the end of the day, my legs grew tired and I hoped that the shelter would appear around the next bend. A few days earlier, my legs rested comfortably under a desk where I sat plotting 18-mile days on my computer. Now I wondered if they would carry me to the shelter before dark.
The trail answered with a final descent through blooming Rhododendron and Flame Azaleas that lifted my spirits and carried me to the shelter with enough daylight to chef up some Ham & Cheese Macaroni, a side of sweet corn, and Pineapple Upside Down Cake for dessert. Over the ensuing month, I learned to trust the trail despite my frequent cursing it. I followed along, or was pulled along, sometimes groaning, sometimes singing, and as I followed, the trail faithfully provided what I needed. But it wasn’t always flowers.
The shelter area bustled with boy scouts and their adult leaders. The scouts were tenting, so only one man shared the shelter with me. I felt a little sad for the one boy whose father stayed home. The boy assumed that his dad was at home watching television while we were enjoying the view down to Watauga Lake from the rocky outcrop behind the shelter. When the boys quieted down, the faint sound of fishing boat motors rose from the lake. I felt gratitude that my dad and both grandpas took me fishing when I was a boy. Take a boy fishing, catch a man.