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June 12, 1983 Sunday (1680.6 mtg) From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal

Broke camp this morning and headed off figuring on camping again tonight after about 18.4 miles. Sometimes the spacing of the shelters does not give much of a choice as to where to stay. It is either a short day, or an extremely long day, or camp. The distance to the next shelter was just over 14.6 miles. For the typical hiker, that would have been a good average day. But for me, a man with a mission to get to Katahdin before it snowed, it was not far enough to go for this day. Especially after coming off of a short day the day before. We took a break after about six miles, and then began to pass through a pasture that seemed like private property. We eventually passed within a few yards of a rural residence and began a long switchback up the side of Beech Mountain. Nearing the top the forest became more of an overgrown field and finally a bald-like area with a large rock outcrop known as Buzzard Rock that provided great views to the south and west. In the Whitetop mountain area just beyond Buzzard Rock, I remembered having gotten a little mixed up when making my way through this section in '81. We paid special attention this time and still got a little mixed up as the trail turned off of a gravel road and entered a wooded area. The marking could have been more pronounced. Took lunch at Deep Gap Shelter after 14.6 miles. Met many hikers today. Several were at the shelter and seemed to be staying. We were getting close to Grayson Highlands State Park and Mt. Rogers Recreation Area and began encountering weekend use of these areas. Pushed on after lunch expecting to camp in about six or seven miles. I located and photographed a scenic spot just before rhododendron Gap that I had been impressed with the last time I was through the area. Looking back now, it is still very nice, but I guess it just reminds me of a Hotel art scene now with its picturesque open country bisected by a rustic old fence row descending down the hillside. From there we continued to Rhododendron Gap. A little less than two miles later we crossed the rail fence into what is known as Grayson Highlands State Park, a nice open area where one can occasionally catch views of the wild horses that inhabit the area. The trail took us over open balds, some with a few trees, and a lot of exposed rocks. It was a beautiful area. A few miles after that we crossed Quebec Branch, where we had intended to make camp, but decided that this was not the place to camp. This meant today would be a big mile day. The next shelter was Old Orchard Shelter. The time was already six o'clock, and we had 6.6 miles to go! We must have been clipping off three miles per hour to make the shelter at 8 pm. Just before arriving, I was beginning to wonder if we would even make it there before dark. We hurriedly whipped up a batch of Mac and Cheese, and butterscotch pudding for supper and immediately went to bed. Later a couple other hikers arrived at the shelter by flashlight, but decided to camp farther down the way rather than fully wake everyone up. Twenty-seven point six miles for the day! A new record for us!

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983

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