I woke up a bit earlier today, about 6am, and I’m very excited. I remember instantly that we’re at a really cool campsite and decide to sneak out quietly and make a cup of coffee. This morning alone time, just like at home, is so beneficial to me. In my eagerness to enjoy this time, I don’t realize how cold it is. I check the thermometer and it says 47 degrees. It feels much colder than that! I throw on my puffy and fire up the stove. This hot coffee hits differently next to a beautiful waterfall. The peacefulness is indescribable. I notice that my left knee hurts. And it’s swollen. Dang it. This thing. Sigh. It doesn’t matter. I don’t care. There’s no way I’m stopping. Thank God I have a high tolerance for pain because this is gonna hurt today. We have roughly 21.3 miles left to complete this thru hike and I will complete it. No factor.
As I sit here and write for a few hours, I lose track of time. It’s about 8:15am and I need to wake the girls. They get up easily and we begin camp chores. We talk about the day ahead of us and have a preview on FarOut. It doesn’t look too challenging.
We get started and find the first few miles quite easy. We’re cooking at about 3mph. Smooth sailing. We’re in our groove. Small PUD’s here and there, but surprisingly, mostly flat. So many bridges and streams to cross! It’s beautiful. We meet another hiker and her sweet dog. We talk for a few minutes, pet the sweet little 4-legger, and bid farewell and happy trails to each other. We absolutely love meeting dogs on the trail.
We continue trekking, with a few more steeper PUD’s, but nothing too serious. The trail changes from lush, green and full of water sources, to brown and pretty dry. That’s ok. We’ve kinda mastered the art of water intake on this trail. We camel up at water sources and try to carry as little as possible, especially uphill. We’re noticing that the temperature is increasing pretty steadily.
We have a few road crossings and a gravel road walk. It’s a bit of a change of scenery. Baby Bear keeps looking for trail magic at these trailheads and road crossings. We’ve been watching hikers on the AT for several years now and trail magic seems to be such a fun and integral part of that trail. The AT is much more supported than this trail. I can see how trail magic would really brighten your spirit…especially if it’s a tougher day or section of trail. I secretly hope for it too, but mostly so I could see her get a sweet surprise. But, we do not happen upon any.
We pass a fellow thru hiker, also from Florida. We remark at how hot it’s getting and joke about feeling like we’re back at home.
As the temperature rises, so does our climb. Dang this feels hard. It’s so hot. I feel my energy being zapped away. I stop to look at what we’re doing on FarOut. I clearly missed this beast. Wait. Is THIS Sassafras Mountain?! Good Lord Almighty. It is. We have a 4 MILE CLIMB and will ascend over 1,700 feet. AND, it’s 85 degrees. We’re only .1 up with 3.9 to go. Our last 4 miles of the 11 mile day is pretty rough. How do I know it’s rough? Other than the fact that I prayed the entire time up, asking God for supernatural strength, and I felt every step, Baby Bear has asked for a break….kinda….for the first time ever (like ever in all of our hiking history). She quietly mentions she has stomach cramps.
That’s what I perceive as a break request. Mama Bear jumps into action. We immediately take a break. A long 30 minute packs off, shoes off break (our breaks are usually 10-15 minutes, tops). It was an unplanned break half way up this beast, but safety is always my number one priority. If you guys knew how ridiculously tough this kid is, you’d understand why I took this so seriously when she hinted about having a stomach cramp. After a nice rest, hydration with electrolytes, and a snack, we’re off again. Baby Bear is once again leading the pack. Moon Pie and I are trying to keep up…again. Hahaha!
Our plan is to camp at Big Rock Campsite. We’re closing in on it. We can see it. We choose to approach with caution. Why? Well, because in FarOut, there’s a note that last year, a hiker came to this campsite, a bit after dark, to find a bear. There’s a rock outcropping at this particular site that makes for a perfect bear den. We’re arriving well before dark, but still…no one wants to disturb a bear. They may have found that den to be juuuust right. In which case, we will move on and find another bearless site.
It turns out that we have the whole site to ourselves. We, indeed, don’t have to share it with a bear or a human. We get our tent and beds set up for the last time. We were quite desperate to get here about an hour ago as we climbed up this mountain, but the extra bit of adrenaline we experienced in making sure our campsite was bear-free, and the realization that this is the last time we will set up camp has set in bittersweetly. It has given us some energy to really enjoy our last night at camp. We make dinner, the girls explore the surrounding area, and I sit back and relax, relishing watching my girls have fun. Gratitude has become the ever present feeling in my heart.
Eventually we make it to bed and drift off to a restful night’s sleep. We’re excited about summiting tomorrow, the hotel we’ll take our first shower in 6 days, the huge list of food we plan to consume, and a snuggly bed. It’s a bittersweet feeling that we only have one more day on trail and our adventure will come to an end.
Story by Karen Delos Santos.
Read more :
- 7 days 6 nights camping trip at Table Rock State Park part 1 – From Florida to Table Rock State Park
- 7 days 6 nights camping trip at Table Rock State Park Day 1 – Oconee State Park to Crack in the Rock Campsite
- 7 days 6 nights camping trip at Table Rock State Park Day 2 – A Crack in the Rock campsite to an unnamed campsite
- 7 days 6 nights camping trip at Table Rock State Park Day 3 – To Whitewater campsite
- 7 days 6 nights camping trip at Table Rock State Park Day 5 – Bear Gap Campsite to Dawkins Flat Campsite